Lighting for Off the Grid Homes


Photovoltaics solar panels convert just 10% of sunlight's energy into electricity. Ordinary light bulbs convert only 10% of that electricity back into light (the rest becomes heat in the bulb). Because lighting is a major part of power used in solar homes, special high efficiency bulbs that save 75% of the power are well justified.


Compact fluorescent bulbs make far less heat and more light. Using one fourth the power of ordinary bulbs, a 15 watt CF has the brightness of a 60 watt incandescent. It runs 4 times as long on the same power. They give the same soft white light and should last as long as 6 ordinary bulbs. The cost of these lamps is much less than adding extra solar modules to run low cost incandescent bulbs.

Backwoods sells compact fluorescents that have electronic ballasts which are silent, have no flicker, and no PCB oil in contrast to heavier low cost magnetic ballast sold in stores. Only electronic ballasts will start a Trace inverter that is idling in search mode. Dimmer switches work only with fluorescents specified for dimming, and usually need true sine wave power.

  • Ordinary Incandescents

    Ordinary incandescent lights cost less, but are only 10% efficient.

  • Quartz Halogens

    Quartz halogens are longer lasting, brighter incandescents; some have reflectors.

  • Standard Fluorescents

    Standard Fluorescents a lot more light for the power used.

  • Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL)

    Compact fluorescents give best light quality and efficiency.

  • LED (Light Emitting Diode) Lamps

    LED (Light Emitting Diode) lamps are the newest lamp type. They have much longer lifetime, rated 100,000 hours, and ruggedness exceeding all others. Half a watt power use. Light color quality and prices are improving.

Lamps used most can save the most energy. Put efficient bulbs in lamps used 20 minutes or more every day. Lights seldom used save only a little energy, so ordinary low cost bulbs are fine for closets and other rarely used fixtures.

Numerous wall switches to control multiple low-watt lamps close to each work area are better than one big light in the middle of a room. Several small lights give more choice in lighting so can use less power. Lighter room colors, skylights and windows placed for day lighting also reduce energy needed for lighting. Timer switches save energy for outdoor lights, basement & children's rooms.

120 VOLT AC or 12/24 VOLT DC?

120 volt AC compact fluorescents are the best choice overall for a house. They are available in more sizes and shapes. AC wiring is easier and very standard. Even a 300 watt inverter will run lots of 15 watt lights (giving light equal to 60 watts). But DC doesn't require an inverter, so uses slightly less power. A small cabin or RV with 5 or less lights might best use 12 volt DC CF and LED lights. 12 VOLT DC MOTION SENSOR LIGHTS are always on duty to work whether the inverter is running or not, and will not accidentally be left on.


Shop our selection of lighting for living off the grid. Request a Catalog to get ideas and find the right products and solutions for your needs. Feel free to Contact us with questions or ordering assistance.

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