For my birthday, a lovely gal I know got me one of these (Goal Zero 24001 Light-A-Life LED Lamp) off my Amazon Wish List. I had been curious to try one of these out since it looked like it had a lot of the things I was looking for in emergency lighting – runs on 12 v., doesn’t use much electricity, uses long-life LEDs, and lent itself to be operated off several different forms of power supply. So, with one in hand, I started playing with it.
The light comes with a connector to plug it into the proprietary batteries the company sells. However, they also send along an adapter to allow you to run it from anything that has the usual ‘cigarette plug’-style outlet. I happened to have an old ConSci portable power pack laying around and hooked it up to that. (And, to go off on a tangent, that ConSci PPP is pre-Y2K and still seems to run just fine for a little battery-in-a-box portable power supply. Very rugged, very durable…so, of course, it appears to be no longer available. No big deal, easy enough to make your own similar device.) The light gives of the usual sterile cold white LED light but it gives enough to light up the bunker enough to get around. A nice touch is that each light has nine feet of cord and a socket to daisy chain more lights. Well, that certainly sounds interesting..let’s explore that.
Turns out that this week the local CostCo is having Goal0 as one of their visiting ‘roadshow’ products…you know, they clear off a section of floor, the sales rep sets up a little kiosk or something and starts shilling his product. So I went up to CostCo and price checked. On sale at CostCo for $26.99…that was about ten bucks off what Amazon had them at. Ok, I picked up three more and brought them home, giving me a total of four. I daisy-chained ‘em all together and strung them across the length of the house. Killed the lights, flipped a switch on the ConSci PPP and -behold- light. Not just light, mind you, but good light. See, you stand in a dark room and stick a flashlight or other small portable light int he corner and the room looks…stark…and downright brutal, like some sort of interrogation chamber. But, two, three or four lights spread around the room actually lights it up so it looks rather homey. I was quite pleased with how these lights worked. I need to get a few more and then need to start doing some battery math. Ideally I’d want a battery that could run five lights for eight hours a day, for several days, without needing to charge the battery. Hmm..actually, let’s see how this would go… each light is 3 watt at 12 v. so it’s .25 amp. Five lights = 5 x .25amp= 1.25 ah. Run those five lights for eight hours a day comes out to 10 ah/day (8 x 1.25). Run those lights for five days would be 50ah. If I didn’t want to discharge my battery below 50% I’d need a 100 amp battery. Or a 200 amp battery if I didn’t want to discharge below 75%. That sound right?
After playing with these lights for the last couple of days I gotta say I’m pretty pleased. The ability to daisy-chain them together is a huge, huge plus. For setting up a small, self-contained, ‘renewable’ emergency lighting system these things look like the way to go. I need to scale up the battery to some sort of low-maintenance, non-venting type, set it up somewhere out of the way, get a decent solar panel to keep it topped off, and I think that’ll do it. As I said, I just need to sit down and figure out a buncha battery math.