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Hybrid Solar Lighting: A Complete Guide

Hybrid solar lighting is a sunlight-direct form of lighting that’s energy-efficient, cost-saving, and eco-friendly. Due to these benefits, this technology currently makes a perfect alternative to conventional lighting for homes and commercial buildings.

A hybrid solar lighting system uses natural light that’s transmitted through optic fibers to illuminate interior spaces. No solar panels are used, so the solar energy is not converted into electricity.

This offers great cost benefits and improves the efficiency of the lighting since there’re no conversion losses.

Even though hybrid lighting may seem a relatively new concept, it has actually been around for quite some time. The concept was introduced in the mid-90s but has found life only recently after some design and cost-saving interventions.

Want to learn more about this economically viable and highly-effective lighting solution?

Your search has led you to the right place.

In this article, we’ll discuss what hybrid solar lighting is and give you a full overview of this technology, including the technical details of how it works.

What is a Hybrid Solar Lighting System?

A Hybrid Solar Lighting (HSL) system is a solar lighting solution that leverages fiber optics cables to illuminate light into a room that’s otherwise impossible to illuminate naturally.

HSL systems integrate natural and artificial lighting to provide constant illumination to a room that’s insufficiently lit. The room may be hidden and receives no natural light or is not designed with windows or skylights.

Hybrid solar lighting originated as a concept in the mid-1990s. The idea was pioneered at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but it was only rolled out 5 years later due to funding constraints.

The main push for this lighting concept was to eliminate solar conversion losses when illuminating a space. The concept also suggested a possibility of a method for removing heat losses associated with ultraviolet and infrared radiations.

In 2002, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory unveiled a prototype hybrid solar lighting system that set the pace for even more innovations.

Today, fiber optic hybrid solar lighting has not only eliminated solar conversion losses but provided a cost-effective way to light up rooms with quality natural light.

Solar Fiber Optic Lighting Kit/ Components

ComponentRole
Parabolic mirrorCollects sunlight and concentrates it into a single beam. Usually, this first mirror is a thermo- plastic that’s aluminized to reflect light to the second mirror.
Secondary mirrorTransmits the light beam from the parabolic mirror to the optical fibers. A dielectric coating is used on this mirror to ensure that it only reflects visible light (filters out UV and IR rays).
Fiber optic receiver moduleThis is the last component on the collector dish and the intersection point to the fiber optics. The receiver module filters out any remaining UV and IR rays that may cause damage to the optic fibers.
Collector dishHolds the two mirrors and the fiber optic receiver module. It’s the central entryway of light and the most important component of a hybrid lighting system.
Solar tracking systemIntegrated into the collector dish to track the direction or position of the sun. The solar tracker sends control signals to a motor that in turn moves the entire sunlight collecting structure.
Optic fiber bundleReceive the visible light beam and transmit it to the space that needs illumination.
LuminaryThe solar lighting fixture combines the solar light from the optic fibers and artificial light and distributes it in the room. For proper light dispersion, the solar lighting fixture is usually crafted in a dome shape.
Mounting components (screws, ipes, bracket)Components you use to mount your entire sunlight direct hybrid solar lighting system right from the collector dish to the luminary.
Light meterA digital display that provides data about the available natural solar light and how much additional solar lighting is needed to illuminate the room properly.

How to Install a Hybrid Solar Lighting System?

1. Determine a strategic place to install the collector dish

This will be mainly influenced by the structure of the roof and where the illumination is needed in the room. The best place to install a solar collector dish should be free from other roof components and as close as possible to the target room.

2. Install the collector dish on the rooftop

The actual installation involves basic processes such as screwing since everything comes assembled. However, to ensure that all the components of the collector dish are harmonized, follow the manufacturer’s installation guidelines to the letter.

3. Run the optic fiber cables into the attic

Make a hole and insert the piped cables from the solar collector into the interior of your home.

4. Channel the cable into a strategic place on the ceiling

Depending on how the room is currently lit, you’ll definitely have a perfect spot on the ceiling to fix the fiber optic cable terminal.

5. Make a hole on the ceiling for the mounting bracket

To make a perfect hole on the ceiling, use the mounting bracket box provided in your kit as the guide. If you mark from the outer diameter, leave some allowance and cut to the inside of the marked line so that the bracket fits perfectly.

6. Install the mounting bracket

Fix the bracket in place and tighten the screws on it then pull the wire through its side holes.

7. Install the solar lighting fixture

Slide the dome-shaped lens in place and secure it on the mounting bracket. With this setup, you should have natural light illuminating your space.

Can a hybrid solar lighting system be DIY?

As evident above, the process of installing hybrid solar lighting is not complicated. So, if you can follow all safety regulations related to solar installations and are comfortable working at height, you can definitely do it as a DIY.

For a smooth solar fiber optic lighting DIY installation, ensure you have the basic electrical installation tools such as a drill, cutting pliers, tape measure, etc.

Even so, if you find it challenging to do some tasks such as determining the best place to install the collector dish or the luminary in your room, a qualified solar technician will come in handy.

How does Hybrid Solar Lighting Work?

Solar light hits the first parabolic mirror of the collector dish. The strategic location of the solar lighting collector and the automatic tracking ensure that the first mirror captures optimum sunlight.

The light is converged into a single beam that’s channeled to the secondary mirror. The second mirror’s primary role is to filter out ultraviolet and infrared rays. These radiations are filtered out because they cause overheating that can damage the optic fiber cables.

From the second mirror, the light beam is fed into the receiver module. Any UV and IR radiations still present in the beam are filtered out here to ensure that only visible light is fed into the optic fibers.

From the receiver module, the light is then fed into fiber optic cable bundles and then joined into one single chord. The cord channels the light into the interior of the room.

The integration of solar light (natural light) with electric light (artificial light) is done at the end of the fiber optics cables. This is done to meet the lighting demands of the room and cancel out the effect of decreasing sunlight intensity.

To determine the amount of light needed to supplement the solar light in order to properly illuminate a space, photosensors are used.

If the solar light intensity decreases say due to cloud cover, the photosensors estimate the amount of electric light that’ll need to be added.

Cost of Hybrid Solar Lighting Systems

An entire HSL setup cost is around $3000-$4000, but prices can go lower than this with some design modifications. For example, a switch to plastic optical fibers can reduce this figure significantly.

With regards to the power rating of the bulbs used, the higher the wattage rating, the more you’ll spend on the lighting system. The average price per watt for hybrid solar lighting systems is $5-$10.

What is the payback period of hybrid solar lighting?

2-5 years depending on location and the average sun intensity/ duration. People in places with plenty of sunshine should embrace fiber optic hybrid solar lighting since this translates to a faster return on investment.

Other factors to consider when buying a hybrid solar lighting system

Diameter of the collector

The larger the size of the optical collector, the more visible light is harnessed. The standard diameter measurement for hybrid solar optical collectors is 48-inch.

The flexibility of the optical fibers

The flexibility of the optical fibers is crucial as it determines the applicability of your hybrid solar lighting system. The more flexible the optical fibers are, the better you can maneuver the light to a strategic location in your building.

Applications of Hybrid Solar Lighting

Solar fiber optic lighting for homes

Do you have a hidden bathroom or bedroom in your room that you want to be illuminated?

Why go for the costly incandescent lighting, while solar hybrid lighting provides natural lighting to the space and performs as well as conventional lighting?

The cost-saving advantages of hybrid solar lighting to a home may seem insignificant, but they can mean a lot in the long run.

Please note, the closer the poorly lit room is to the rooftop, the better the light transmission will be. So, you need to keep this in mind when planning where to install solar fiber optic lighting for your home.

Solar fiber optic lighting for commercial buildings

Hybrid solar lighting is perfect for commercial buildings due to the following reasons:

  • Lighting takes up almost 20% of power usage in commercial buildings, so hybrid lighting can significantly cut on the energy costs incurred
  • Commercial buildings are primarily used during the day when the sun is up and shining
  • Commercial buildings are usually large, so some rooms are entirely hidden and shaded from light
  • It’s cheaper to mount light collectors than install solar panels on commercial buildings

So, if you’ve been wondering what’s the best way to illuminate your commercial building, try out hybrid solar lighting, and you’ll definitely reap the benefits of this technology.

Benefits of Hybrid Solar Lighting

Here are some reasons why you may consider using hybrid solar lighting:

Excellent performance

Compared to conventional windows or skylights, hybrid solar lighting systems perform better in illuminating interior spaces. This is because an HSL system concentrates light then later disperses it to your room in high intensity.

Artificial lighting is super effective that even with cloud cover, you may be surprised to learn that only 5% of artificial light supplementation is needed in your room.

Energy saving

Hybrid solar lighting filters out UV and infrared radiations, thus eliminating heating problems and consequently energy needed for cooling. The same can’t be said for other lighting options, such as incandescent lighting, which warms up a room leading to energy losses during cooling.

Cost-saving

According to solar power consumers, a hybrid solar lighting system can reduce lighting costs by about 60% when properly implemented. Considering that lighting takes up most of the grid’s power, these lighting systems can offset quite an amount from your overall power bills.

Provides reliable constant natural lighting

It feels good to tap into natural light and use it in your poorly lit rooms. With fiber optics, light can be transmitted constantly into your room, provided there’s sunlight. Since artificial lighting can be used to complement natural light, this form of lighting is pretty reliable.

Drawbacks of Hybrid Solar lighting

In a HSL system, light can only travel a short distance

Typically, hybrid solar lighting will be effective around a 50 feet area from where the light collector is installed. In this regard, a room on the ground floor of a multi-story building may not be perfectly illuminated by a hybrid solar lighting system.

Hybrid solar lighting is best suited for rooms closer to the rooftop where the optical collector is installed.

Technical complexity

For a hybrid solar lighting system to be effective, a good deal of technical factors has to be met, making the entire light transmission complex. Some crucial ones include:

  • The collector must track sunlight at the best possible angle if a good amount of light is to be harnessed.
  • There must be optimum light transmission from the first mirror to the second mirror, from the second mirror to the receiver module, and finally to the optic fibers with minimal losses.
  • The light collected must be channeled to the receiver module as a single focused beam.
  • UV and IR must be filtered out of the beam before getting to the optical fibers, otherwise, they’ll be damaged.

Conclusion

Hybrid solar lighting has revolutionized the way we light our spaces. With fiber optics light transmission, sunlight can be used as-is for illumination purposes.

In case you’re looking to change the ambiance of your home or commercial building, hybrid solar lighting is the kind of lighting solution to go for. You’ll enjoy the benefits of natural lighting even in the most hidden rooms and reduce your energy bills significantly.

Since interventions for cost reduction, improving component reliability, and increasing transmission distance is underway, hybrid solar lighting technology can only get better. Make the brilliant decision and invest in hybrid solar lighting today.