Solar (and efficient) Lighting


If used correctly solar day lighting can provide free, high quality lighting, and do it with less heat generation inside the house than conventional electric lighting.


Don't underestimate the value of solar lighting and efficient lighting -- using daylight coupled with efficient electric lights could save a typical home  over $100 a year in electricity and more than one of CO2 emissions.


And, good solar lighted spaces are a joy to work in.


On the page:


Replacing inefficient incandescent lighting with LED or CFL lighting is a great DIY project that is easy to do and can save a lot of money and CO2 emissions.

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Solar Lighting
Tips For Daylighting with Windows -- The Integrated Approach,
Jennifer O'Connor

Very good and free design guide for daylighting.  Includes many techniques and guidelines for effective daylighting, and a quite a few calculation tools and nomograms.

107 pages, 1997
Designing with Lighting

Chris Herman

How to get articles from Home Power ...

Home Power Article, Issue 109

Good article on using natural daylighting  in homes.  Good guidance on how to get natural lighting while avoiding overheating.

IBACOS Light Guide

The guide pdf

The site:


A fairly useful guide for designing and choosing high performance lighting.

The "Room-by-room" and "Specifications of Fixtures" sections have some pretty helpful information on what available and how to design good lighting.

SunCatcher -- Solar Lighting and Ventilation

And a small version:

An interesting new product that provides both solar daylighting and ventilation.

Sunshine From a Tube

Dan Chiras

Mother Earth News
Finding Mother Earth News articles...


Mother Earth News Article, Issue 202

Good overview of using tubular skylights to bring sunlight into a room.




Three of many commercial products that "pipe" sun light down through a reflective tube to provide interior lighting.

LED Solar Day Lights

The lower power version...

The higer power version...


LED Solar Day LightingTwo solar powered LED lighting schemes in which a PV panel directly powers LED lights.

The idea is that most homes have places that are not well lighted during the day, and these lights provide a simple, zero energy way to light the dark areas up.

Soda Pop Bottle Solar Light

YouTube Video...
solar bottle lightThis is a really inexpensive way to bring solar light into a dark room.

The regular polycarbonate pop bottle filled with water and a little bleach to prevent the growth of algae spreads the light around the room for more effective lighting than a simple window would provide.
Light Shelves




The article explains how light shelves work and provides some design information.
Sun, Wind & Light, 2nd Edition

G.Z. Brown and Mark DeKay



An architectural design strategies book with a number of practical day lighting techniques that use direct or reflected sunlight (it also provides many other solar heating and cooling design strategies).   Quantitative design and sizing methods are provided for each day lighting technique.

Pretty easy reading for an architecture book.

Garage/Workshop Sunspace


There is just nothing like natural lighting from large windows -- it totally transforms the space.

This is my very simple and inexpensive way to both light and heat your dark cave of a garage or workshop.  I have used this scheme for more than a year now, and would never be without it again.
Himawari Daylight Collector

Daylight Collector


Device to collect sunlight with a set of Fresnel lens, and direct the collected light to any part of a building.

Photos for many example uses provided.

Heliostats for Lighting Indoor and Outdoor Spaces



Some not very detailed but interesting descriptions of heliostat based lighting systems. 
Build A Simple Solar Powered Outdoor Light, Jeffery Yago, Backwoods Magazine


Backwoods Magazine Article on building a solar PV powered "street light".
Heliostat Lighting

Commercial Products:


Some ideas for home built heliostats from Duane at

A heliostat is a mirror that reflects light onto a fixed target by tracking the sun.  The target can be a window on the north, east, or west side of the house.  The result is great solar daylighting for normally dark rooms.  If the mirror was large enough, some useful heat could be provided as well.
The ultimate in Heliostat Lighting

Mirror gives Italian Village Its Place in the Sun

"ROME (Reuters) - A village in the Italian Alps is finally basking in winter sunlight thanks to a giant mirror installed on a mountain top to reflect the sun's rays into the main square."

They use a heliostat to reflect sun into the town square -- wow!

Elights Link List


Very extensive set of lighting links.
Efficient Lighting
Giving LEDs a try in our house... This is our experiment in going to LED floods for our six track lights in the kitchen.

There is a lot to learn in switching the LEDs, but the end result can be very good.


An Easy/Good DIY LED Can Light Retrofit


All the details on replacing can lights with LEDs...

can light led retrofitThis is the latest step in trying LEDs.   This LED is designed as a retrofit for regular can lights. 

It provides lots of warm light while using only 10.5 watts, and claims a 20 year life.

The installation was easy, and offers the additional opportunity to seal and insulate the can at the same time the LED is installed.

All the details on replacing can lights with LEDs...
Efficient Lighting

EERE on Types of Lighting

This is our families estimated saving in energy and GHG's for going to CFL's:
(A 224% return on investment, and 1 TON of CO2 per year)

It is a just plain no-brainer to use fluorescents and compact fluorescents.  They are far more efficient, last much much longer, and will save you a ton of money and greenhouse gas emissions.  

Most utility companies offer some form of rebate program for buying CFL's -- making it even more of a no-brainer!
Lighting Facts


This is a site run by the DOE that is intended to help you compare LED lights.

The site promotes the use of a standard label that provides key facts like light output, energy efficiency, and  light color.

Only LED lights are covered.

LED Lighting -- a breakthrough for independent living and emergency preparedness
Tim Thorstenson, Backwoods Home Magazine

LEDs Part one...

LEDs Part two...

LEDs Part three...
LED lightThis is a good series of three articles in Backwoods Home Magazine by Tim Thorstenson.  The series covers LED fundamentals in a very understandable way, and then goes on to discuss applications.

These articles are good for people who want to start experimenting with making LED lights from components that are readily available from good suppliers these days.

A Shielded Low Power DIY Garden Lamp...


diy shielded garden lightThis is George Plhak's design for an easy to build and inexpensive LED garden light.

A good feature of this light is that it is shielded to prevent night sky light pollution.

The LED lights are housed in a reclaimed jelly jar, and the shield/reflector is a stainless steel mixing bowl.


LED Holiday Lights

Almost all of the usual places that sell holiday lights now sell the LED lights.  Prices still vary a lot.  We got ours a Costco for about $10 per string.

While LED lights last a long time, they can fail for various reasons -- George explains how to repair broken LED light strings...

LED holiday lights are safer (no heat), last  a very long time, and look great.  They also use much less energy and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The energy saving can be 90% or more.

A typical 100 light LED string uses less than 4 watts!  They have an expected lifetime of 20+ years.  With the LED holiday light prices dropping, the payback period can be as small as a season or two (considering both lower operating cost and longer life).

Energy-Efficient Agricultural Lighting,
Scott Sanford,
UW Extension


Some guidelines to lighting farms or homesteads or your big spread.

Includes recommended lighting levels and control. 

Information and efficiency for quite a few lighting technologies.




Gary Last update September 14, 2011