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Solar lights for henhouse

 
R Ranson
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I'm looking to price out the cost of a solar power system for lighting the henhouse.

This is my first time working with solar, so I am hoping to learn a lot about it to prepare for one day going off grid.

Here's what I'm hoping for:
  • light the henhouse up to 10 hours a day
  • the lights be on a timer which we adjust every couple of weeks to correspond with the sun (so easily accessible to humans)
  • be affordable
  • be upgradeable - with the idea that it could be added to a larger system at some later date


  • Does something like this already exist? Would it be more affordable to build it myself?

    I'm guessing what I need is a light, a timer, a battery, some solar panels, and some way of making them all talk to each other. Is it possible to make it so if later I build a wind generator, I can add this to the system?

    I know basic electricity for changing light fixtures and wiring switches, &., but am new to solar electrics. I don't even know where to start learning about them. So I started here.

    Do I dream the possible?

     
    John Polk
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    Do I dream the possible?

    Yes. You are describing a system that would need very little power.

    But, this makes me ask the question...why would you want to light up the hen house?
    One of those LED headlamps should be all you need for the occasional trip to the hen house after dusk.

     
    R Ranson
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    Why would I want to light the henhouse? Great question! It's actually not for me, it's for the hens.

    Hens lay eggs depending on daylength (well, actually night length, but whatever). Living this far north, we have very long nights in the winter which means we get no eggs in the winter. If I can light the hen house in the morning, then they will continue to lay eggs during the winter. It's important to light it in the morning and not the evening as they need a gradual end to the day like natural dusk. I know it doesn't seem like the most natural solution, but chickens originate from south-east Asia where they have much more even daylight throughout the year. I think of it a bit like creating a microclimate only with light instead of heat, to mimic their natural rhythms. It is a justification, I know, but if I can do it gently, I hope it will improve the hen's health as well as increase egg production.

    So where do I start looking for solar systems? What am I looking for? Do I start by choosing my lights then go from there?
     
    R Ranson
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    Another thing to note is that fluorescents (and I am assuming compact florescent) bulbs are not good for chickens. I was wondering if LED bulbs would be energy efficient enough for this system.

    Will led lights still flicker if the system is direct current (DC)? Not that anyone else seems to notice how much they flicker, but in North America, the flicker rate is really difficult for me. I guess AC cycles differently in different parts of the world. But that's not important right now. A solar system is DC right? I would have to convert it to AC if I wanted it to be, but I don't, so we're good?
     
    R Ranson
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    Looking at this system, I'm wondering if it could fit our needs?

    Specification:
    [Protection]: IP44
    [Battery]: A 3000mAh 3.7V Lithium Battery
    [LED]: 3x1W white (with a variety of mobile phone charging adapter)
    [Function]: overcharge and over discharge protection,
    [Working time]
    1 pcs LED lights: 15-16 hours
    2 pcs LED lights: 7-8 hours
    3 ocs LED lights: 5-6 hours
    Solar panel cable: 5m / 16.40 ft
    LED light Cable: 3m / 9.84 ft
    Solar panel size: 17.2 * 16cm / 6.77 6.29 * In (L * W)

    [Application]: outdoor recreation, camping, fishing, home mobile lighting, mobile phone charging function, security lighting

    Package List:
    1 * Solar Panel
    1 * Charger
    3 * LED
    3 * cable with E27 socket
    4 * Adapter for Mobile Phone


    It comes with a battery, a control thingy with plug and play style set up. The lights are usb plugs, which is something I'm familiar with and therefore it's comforting to me. But does it fit my needs?

    Can I wire in a timer? Do I have to wire a different one in per light?

    When it says it goes (with all three lights) for 5 to 6 hours, is that on a full charge? And if so, will it get fully charged in my winter?


    Another option is we have a tractor battery that works well. Maybe we could build a system around that?
     
    James Smartt
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    Location: Ford, WA
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    I think something like this...

    https://www.amazon.com/uxcell-Digital-Power-Programmable-Switch/dp/B008999RYY

    combined with something like this...

    https://www.solarledkits.com/5-watt-led-solar-street-light

    would put you pretty close to what you want.
     
    James Smartt
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    Didn't see this before I posted my post, this may work for you as well, the timer I mentioned is set-up for 12 volts, since this is a 3.7 volt system, it will not be appropriate for this. In this instance if you found a timer it would have to go between the unit and the light itself, if you went with more than 1 light you would likely need a timer for each light.

    R Ranson wrote:Looking at this system, I'm wondering if it could fit our needs?

    Specification:
    [Protection]: IP44
    [Battery]: A 3000mAh 3.7V Lithium Battery
    [LED]: 3x1W white (with a variety of mobile phone charging adapter)
    [Function]: overcharge and over discharge protection,
    [Working time]
    1 pcs LED lights: 15-16 hours
    2 pcs LED lights: 7-8 hours
    3 ocs LED lights: 5-6 hours
    Solar panel cable: 5m / 16.40 ft
    LED light Cable: 3m / 9.84 ft
    Solar panel size: 17.2 * 16cm / 6.77 6.29 * In (L * W)

    [Application]: outdoor recreation, camping, fishing, home mobile lighting, mobile phone charging function, security lighting

    Package List:
    1 * Solar Panel
    1 * Charger
    3 * LED
    3 * cable with E27 socket
    4 * Adapter for Mobile Phone


    It comes with a battery, a control thingy with plug and play style set up. The lights are usb plugs, which is something I'm familiar with and therefore it's comforting to me. But does it fit my needs?

    Can I wire in a timer? Do I have to wire a different one in per light?

    When it says it goes (with all three lights) for 5 to 6 hours, is that on a full charge? And if so, will it get fully charged in my winter?


    Another option is we have a tractor battery that works well. Maybe we could build a system around that?


     
    James Smartt
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    Here is another option....

    http://www.reuk.co.uk/buy-REUK-SUPER-POULTRY-LIGHTING-CONTROLLER.htm

    more details on how it works and hooks up here...

    http://www.reuk.co.uk/REUK-Poultry-Lighting-System.htm

    also came across this, warns that the lighting 'color' must be right as well...

    https://www.hort.purdue.edu/tristate_organic/poultry_2007/Light%20Management.pdf

     
    K Revak
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    Location: Southern Alberta
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    Here in sunny southern Alberta my 250W solar panel often only put out 100Wh per day Dec-Feb. What you need to do is figure out how many Wh you need and calculate out from there.
    eg:
    6 hours of 15W lighting --> 90Wh
    Add 25% for overhead and margin --> 112 Wh per day
    --> a 250W panel would give you enough light for a bad extended overcast

    I'd suggest a 100W panel with the 12v tractor battery you have. Keep things on 12V (no inverter), you can pick up a 12v timer on Amazon. Ya just missed Canadian Tire having a 2x40W solar panel/controller on sale for $180.

    Ken




     
    frank li
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    If you want to be able to use this power system later, in another application, you can invest in a good charge controller and module. The morningstar ss-mppt 15 is hard to beat for program-ability of the lighting/load control, definite chicken savvy, the Sunlight tracking plots the next cycle based on the previous few. They are available on alibaba, but are questionable. Get a real one from a good supplier.

    http://www.morningstarcorp.com/products/sunsaver-mppt/

    http://www.morningstarcorp.com/products/suresine/

    The morningstar suresine is a great companion for the charge control, if you require 120vac power. It is the most efficient inverter in stand-by that i know of, but its only available in 12 volt and a max 300w continuous , 600w peak.

    I like the idea of using an appropriate light spectrum, dc powered led and nix the inverter, especially if it is a purpose built/ permanent lighting system.

    The rv lighting conversion led lamps are great for all kinds of lighting with battery voltage, like from 8vdc to 32+vdc, so 12 and 24v systems no problem.

    This and some distribution,

    https://powerwerx.com/blue-sea-5025-6-circuit-fuse-block?gclid=CLbb-sD9vs0CFQmQaQod24MNZA,

    and it can have a pretty good variation of solar panel/battery sizing leeway, for multi project incarnations. Usb power supply for chicken area network?

    The morningstar charge control and inverter network, privately and interface on a laptop or pc. They have a great relay driver for basic automation of heavy loads.
     
    frank li
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    K Revak wrote:Here in sunny southern Alberta my 250W solar panel often only put out 100Wh per day Dec-Feb. What you need to do is figure out how many Wh you need and calculate out from there.
    eg:
    6 hours of 15W lighting --> 90Wh
    Add 25% for overhead and margin --> 112 Wh per day
    --> a 250W panel would give you enough light for a bad extended overcast

    I'd suggest a 100W panel with the 12v tractor battery you have. Keep things on 12V (no inverter), you can pick up a 12v timer on Amazon. Ya just missed Canadian Tire having a 2x40W solar panel/controller on sale for $180.

    Ken






    80w for 180 dollars is painful. Altestore sometimes has good quality 20w to 40w panels for a dollar or slightly less a watt. And usually 100w-200w, for around the same, which is good for sub 280 watt stuff anymore.
     
    John Polk
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    we have very long nights in the winter which means we get no eggs in the winter

    Chickens are not supposed to lay eggs in the winter.
    In nature, birds hatch eggs in early spring - allowing chicks to mature in moderate weather.
    They use the shortening days as a signal to begin moulting and getting ready for winter.
    Faking them out with artificial lighting is not in their best interest.
    It lures them into a false sense that leaves them vulnerable to the ills of Mother Nature.

    That is a trick for commercial egg producers, who are not interested in hens longevity, nor their overall health.
    It is not what I would consider as a permaculture (sustainable) solution.
     
    R Ranson
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    I can see where you're coming from John.

    First off, flat out, I'm not trying to reproduce commercial conditions. I am looking to give conditions similar to their ancestors would be used to.

    From my point of view, giving the hens light in the winter is giving them an environment that better matches their natural rhythm. The same way permaculturists set up microclimates to grow plants outside their natural areas. Like growing tomatoes in the North, or mulberry trees around here. Hens have other cycles for taking a rest from laying eggs, and so long as I honour those cycles I think the light will help them. Yes, some of those cycles are night length dependent, so that's why I'm not looking for consistent lighting year 'round. Rather extending a winter solstice day, for example, from 5 or 6 hours to about 8, and brightening their coop during regular daylight hours. Since chickens originate in a place where they have more even daylight, I think it's worth experimenting with lighting to see if it can improve my chicken's health.

    We have some trouble in the winter with them losing weight because they haven't enough time in the day to forage. Underweight chickens are susceptible to illness... just as my peach tree needs to be in a sheltered place next to the house to protect it from weather extremes that make it susceptible to illness. Should I transplant my peach tree into the middle of an open field and let it die, or keep it sheltered and healthy?

    Not a 10 on the wheaton eco scale, not even a 3, but I think it can fit in with permaculture, or at least is a path worth investigating. I'll be keeping a close eye on the girls and making sure to keep them healthy.

    It's also one of the reasons why I want to have a system that can be used for other purposes later on. If I discover the hens aren't benefiting from the added light, I can take the system out and use it elsewhere on the farm.
     
    R Ranson
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    Getting back to the system itself.  What volt system is standard in a home solar set up?  Is it still 12 volts?  Since I might want to integrate this into a larger set up later on, I think I should keep it all the same voltage.  Or does that not matter so much?
     
    James Smartt
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    I don't know that there is a 'standard', but higher voltages ( 24 and 48 ) are more popular in full blown solar systems, but it is unlikely that designing this particular piece for higher voltages would be cost efficient. And, it is relatively easy to get 12 volts out of a higher voltage system, so it would still work even if you later decided to install a full blown solar system at a higher voltage.

    R Ranson wrote:Getting back to the system itself.  What volt system is standard in a home solar set up?  Is it still 12 volts?  Since I might want to integrate this into a larger set up later on, I think I should keep it all the same voltage.  Or does that not matter so much?
     
    frank li
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    On the dc side, use of an mppt charge controller or one with selectable battery voltage will give flexability in system architecture. Inverters are usually a set battery voltage, so unless it is a minimal system, i would opt for 24v as battery voltage for all but larger applications. 24v is doable for whole home power, ( i use it) but at some point there are performance and economic reasons to adopt 48v as a battery voltage and mainly it is selected where there is no or low desire to access battery power for dc devices.

    Chose the battery voltage that most suits your loads.

    The morningstar charge control i suggested as a possible for your application, has an automatic battery voltage selection 12v or 24v and can accept more pv watts in 24v = 400+ watts and in 12v 200w pv. Another advantage is wide pv voltage acceptance. 75 max volts or higer acceptance on the pv side allows longer wire runs on smaller wires and side-steps the requirement for expensive $/watt, 12 volt panels. A schneider/zantrex c40 charge control will accept 125 or more volts, if i remember right, at $140 it is not mppt  but has wide pv voltage acceptance and selectable for 12v-24v and 48v, also at 40 amps charge current output, it can be used in small to larger systems and can be used as a diversion control.
     
    thomas rubino
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    Check out this led light on amazon. They do ship from china on the original slow boat BUT.... they are super bright and use very little power, like apx 1 amp at 12 vt... no inverter needed, only a small battery required.  Not  that expensive to setup a lighting system for your chickens.  I use them in my house ,  they work very well. The only thing working better are the led flat panel lighting, however they require 120vt to run , and cost is quite a bit more.

       
    Super Slim 8 inch 18w Warm White Round Recessed Led Ceiling Panel Light Dc12v As Power Supply
    DSCN0881.JPG
    [Thumbnail for DSCN0881.JPG]
     
    frank li
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    Great looking light! $21, not bad. Especially like the dark trim ring against your wood! A common issue i have with these type items is white plastic fixtures...just cheap looking and not suitable for us as we do not have drywall...also just cheap.

    Led light fixtures, serious ones are just becoming available. I have been gutting old metal ones around here where they do not accept edison type led replacements. We gutted our mercury vapor yard light and installed a socket for screw in led lamps. 7.5w, 860 lumens.

    When designing lighting or a power supply for a certain level of lighting we are looking for lumens per watt and proper directivity for the application.

    The example was 1300 lumens and 18w. That is around 72 lumens per watt.

    A comparison is the utilitech lamps i like for general lighting especially in table lamps or where omnidirectional radiance is desired.

    At 860 lumens and consuming 7.5 watts running, it converts power at 112-114 lumens per watt!

    This is half the story. The ceiling puck from amazon has a surface mount led that directs its light downward in a cone without reflectors which reduce efficiency in fixtures along with diffusers.

    In our home all ac power comes from our inverter. It has losses but it can rival dc direct for lighting so long as the details are accounted for and taken advantage of.

    7.5w plus 15% loss is 8.625w or 99-100 lumens per watt. Only inverter output losses are figured here and not storage and retreival losses because we are usually in float charge any way and we do not own a generator, i would need a 20 year scale to be bothered with the difference. Our inverter in all day stand-by consumes more power than our over night lighting.

    Now, if we source a high performance dc powered led lamp or fixture, we can get directivity and 140 lumens per watt and blow inverted (and then re-inverted) lighting outa the wata!

    Availability and budget matters, much of our living system is other peoples scrap and freebies, and leftover job materials, even our off grid power system. The cobblers kids syndrome/excuse, im guilty...i install commissioned works of art for clients with a real budget for off grid and backup but mine is dinky, not ideal nor stylish...it exceeds our requirements for all but long duration shop work with heavy constant loads.

    For chickens: how many of what light (watts is ok) are you planning on using for 10 hours of light? This will affect cost and probably set the design minimum. If you tell me what battery you have, i can approximate the storage capability. I cannot account for wear or age of your existing battery.

    My feeling is that $150-$250 could do all the things you referred to and be usable in larger projects, this includes a new battery (highly advisable unless your tractor battery is found to be suitable, what if you need to use the tractor?

    There are some pretty good charge controllers on alibabba that are in the $10-$45 range that would serve you well for the money. I cant believe the features some of these cheapies have, lcd display with battery and pv meters, load/lighting control timers, mppt, usb output, usb for display on pc or laptop.

    I realize that the morningstar parts i indicated earlier are a little pricey when totaled up and may not fit your criteria. They are arguably the best bang for the buck in terms of long term reliability and functionality though, a good investment.

    A tactic that i use alot in off grid cabins with existing 12v lighting and water pumping is to use a switching power supply step down voltage converter to take the new battery system voltage 24v or 48v and feed the dc distribution system or point of use with constant voltage, conditioned power at 13.8v or 27.6v respectively depending on voltage acceptance of loads and which one is being prioritized. It works wonders for getting rid of dimming and water pumps slowing down with battery voltage. You can also throw a circuit out at 24v or 48v to  travel say 25-50 feet on reasonable sized wire, then convert and distribute or feed an appliance or lighting groups,single or several rooms or points of use. This can be done in reverse, a step up from battery voltage, slightly less efficiency though if i remeber the specs correctly.

    Another consideration about dc lighting. There is a tightly bound micro emf signiature from low current dc wiring and appliances (motors generally excluded from "micro" and "tightly bound") ac wiring will create bad mojo for all livestock including people. Another win on the dc side. That may sound a little "purple" but it is measurable, so actually "brown" even though i said mojo! Just having fun.
     
    thomas rubino
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    Frank; I painted it... like everything else it comes white. But it is a great light & they did/ do? have a 4" that also works great.
     
    Ghislaine de Lessines
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    I was planning on tucking one of those LED garden stake lights under the skylight in my coop.  It got knocked off the stake by the snowplow so it's just been hanging around a garage window so we know it still works just fine.  I'll have to observe if it just goes from bright to dark or it it is more gradual to mimic dusk as it uses up it's power overnight.  I liked the idea of light in the evening to encourage, in my case, guineas to settle into the coop.  I hope it works out because it seems much simpler!
     
    Byron Gagne
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    I'm in the process of doing this at moment.  I live in the Yukon Canada and our shortest day is 4.5 hrs of light around 6 with twilight.

    Keeping chickens laying in the winter in our climate and providing eggs for food is very economical.  As the eggs at the store have to be trucked over great distances.

    My solution as we're off grid is led tape.   This tape can be cut every 3 LEDs.   I buy it in 16 ft rolls.  Every meter uses 7 watts if my memory serves me correct. 

    I tapped 1 meter to the roof of the coop and wiring a 12 volt timer into the lights.  This will be hooked to a deep cycle battery.   Which can be charged how ever you like.  In my case generator, as we run it during he winter regardless to make up for the solar that we lack.

    Another tip is to paint the inside of your coop white to help brighten and magnify any light.   I installed a window and lined the inside of coop with old garage door panels r 14 then well insulated the joists with pour in foam bringing the walls to r-30 to r-40.   All this material was scrounged up.   We fight -40c here regularly and I think I won't even have to supplement heat to the coop. 

    image.jpg
    [Thumbnail for image.jpg]
    Led taped to roof panel
    image.jpg
    [Thumbnail for image.jpg]
    Window and ledge so they can look outside
     
    R Ranson
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    We got a solar lighting system for the henhouse this winter.  A bit of a supply issues with some of the parts, so it didn't get installed until early Dec. 

    It vastly improved the health of the flock.

    In the past, the hens don't tend to eat enough in winter which leaves them vulnerable to cold weather and illness.  This year, not a single illness and they all survived the cold snap.  They are all healthy, a good weight, laying eggs at a moderate rate (which is right for the breed I have - I don't like the hens that lay 300 eggs in 299 days, then keel over).  Most of all, they are happy.  They aren't fighting or picking on a weakling hen, mostly because there isn't a weakling hen.


    I've been thinking about something said earlier in this thread about it not being 'natural' for the chickens.  Heating a greenhouse, doing earthworks to create microclimates, breeding plants, that kind of thing makes it so we can grow plants outside their natural range.  I haven't yet found a chicken breed that does well in our local winters.  Instead, I'm providing them with something that matches their natural habitat and it seems to be working. 

     
    frank li
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    What did you install? !
     
    Todd Parr
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    frank li wrote:What did you install? !


    I would like to hear about it too.  If you have time to do a step-by-step with pictures it would be fantastic, but if not, any details would be appreciated. 
     
    R Ranson
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    I only know enough about electrical systems to change a light fixture or re-wire a lamp.  Which is basically enough to get myself into trouble.  In the end I delegated the task to another member of the household. 

    He has an old tractor battery which he used, then he hooked up these things:

    10w 12v Ac or Dc Daylight White Led Flood Light Waterproof Outdoor Lights 800lm 80w Halogen Bulb

    5 Watt Solar Battery Trickle Charger

    DC 12V Digital LCD Power Programmable Timer Time Switch Relay 16A Amps

    (note, the prices have gone way up since we got the parts.  I also don't recommend the timer as it took way longer to get here than promised.)

    Next year, I'm thinking to get two more solar panels and a second light as the solar panel is only just keeping up with the demand. 

    This year was more a test to see if the hens respond well to the light.  I was worried that they would just go into egg laying overdrive which is hard on their system.  For me, it's more important that they are healthy and happy, which they seem to be with this new light system. 

    I hope one day, solar systems like this will be more plug and play. I was surprised that they aren't yet.  Green plug goes in green hole, yellow plug goes in yellow hole - most things these days are pretty idot proof.  Hopefully alternate energy systems will get there soon as I'm also keen to create a wind generator for the hen house, but not sure how to hook it up. 
     
    Johan Thorbecke
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    R Ranson wrote:
    I hope one day, solar systems like this will be more plug and play. I was surprised that they aren't yet.  Green plug goes in green hole, yellow plug goes in yellow hole - most things these days are pretty idot proof.  Hopefully alternate energy systems will get there soon as I'm also keen to create a wind generator for the hen house, but not sure how to hook it up. 
    Those do exist but are mostly a fixed kit. Idiotproofness and fully customisable sets are a hard thing to combine.

    How is the wind situation at your plot? The thing with wind is that it really profits of scaling so a small wind turbine is way less efficient than a medium one. You can make your own from the ground up, it is a fun learning process but don't expect miracles. On the other hand if you're only planning to light up a chicken coop even the smallest wind generator will probably be enough.
     
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