SolLight solar-powered LEDs, the long test


Daylight today was at the minimum, at least in my hemisphere, and I was also fiddling with various holiday lights (which might be related phenomenon). So it seems like a good time to write about these SolLight solar-powered LED fixtures that have been lighting up my life for years. I started testing that LightShip model in early 2007 and when Gizmo came along in the spring of 2009 I stuck it to the hatch in the head, where it’s served well for three seasons. It’s left so that the dim red LED comes on at night and then we often switch to the brighter white when using the facilities…

Admittedly the LightShip wasn’t working when I peeled it off that hatch today — and the suction cups have gotten pretty moldy and stiff — but once I replaced the AA rechargeable battery, damned if it didn’t light right up again. Pretty amazing for a five-year-old $15 light, wouldn’t you agree? Plus I can see from SolLight’s blog entry on how to change that battery that the LightShip has gained more LEDs since 2007 (though the price has also gone up).
The story is similar with the RailLight Mini and Premium models also seen in the top photo. I wrote about the Mini in June 2010 and the Premium soon joined it, so both have been lighting up Gizmo’s upper deck and antenna mast for two seasons. I think that the Premium is just as visible as most anchor lights I see, and I love having lights that not only power themselves, but also turn themselves on. In fact, they’ve inspired at least one local lobster man to stick a Walmart-style solar LED on his cabin top. But I’m not sure how that will work out, as only about half the yard LEDs I’ve tried are still working, while the none of the SolLights have failed. And they have some moxie; I confirmed last week that both SolLights could stay lit through nearly the longest night of the year though charged during nearly the shortest day.
Recently SolLight sent me its most recent product, the SoliCharger-SP, and though at first it reminded me of a late night infomercial — it slices, it dices! — I’ve come to appreciate it. Actually, I’d sort of forgotten it until I was in the shop with a near dead cell phone. Darned if it didn’t put a pretty fair charge into it, and fast. And I’m using an extended battery that’s almost triple the mAh of the standard model! You can even charge the phone and run the speakers at the same time, as illustrated below, though the bass is pretty weak. What I’ve learned altogether is that SolLight does indeed make “solar-powered products that really work.” May your days be bright and your boating nights be lit preferably by solar panels and LEDs.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now excited to have Ben Stein as very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2019 and beyond.

10 Responses

  1. Richard C says:

    Below is a link to a light I thought you might find interesting. Although not solar powered, it is well constructed and the design concept is terrific. I’m going to try one as a light for my dinghy and mount if on top of the outboard.
    Also, I want to wish you and your family a very happy holiday. Without Panbo I wouldn’t know what to ask for at Christmas and would end up with coal in my stocking, (again).
    Rich Cassano

  2. Tom McD says:

    Seems like the hatch manufacturers and boat builders would take these ideas and build them in as features that would be integral to their designs.

  3. Capn. Chuck says:

    Ben, For a few years now we have been using the solar lights from Lowes as supplemental lights while anchored along some of the busier waterways. We find that they will burn almost all night depending on the length of darkness in the winter months. They are by no means as bright as our anchor light but bright enough to attract attention at a good level on the water. We added these as a safety measure while anchoring along the Gulf ICWW several years ago. There are lots of commercial tows that travel all night. The lights have lasted us a few years now without loss of any LEDs, and at the cost we can replace them every few years if necessary. Our anchor light is an LED called the “Owl” which has a photo cell that turns it on at dusk and off at dawn. It is very bright, draws almost no power and the photo cell keeps us from forgetting to turn it on. Hope you and all of your readers have a great Holiday Season. Chuck

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Chuck. The Owl is from Bebi Electronics, in Fiji yet:

  5. walter sidor says:

    ben – did you mean the SoliCharger-SP actually charged your htc incredible?

  6. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Yes it did, Walter.

  7. walter sidor says:

    thanks and have a very merry christmas. ws

  8. Microship says:

    How does the new rail light version hold up in actual use? I bought a pair of the originals and they corroded badly within a year… the clamping screw, the hardware, and the switch. The plastic housing was cracked on one of them, out of the box. They were convenient during that first year, but on my list for this year’s adventure is finding a product that will last in the marine environment.

  9. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Steve, the point I was trying to make is that both those RailLights have been in constant use aboard Gizmo for two long seasons and are still going strong. They show no signs of corrosion, the switches still work fine, and the batteries are still good enough to get through the longest night of the year.
    The mini version did get some water inside the lens, as visible in the photo, but so far it hasn’t affected performance. Both lights have always been installed on upper deck rails or on the boom, so they’ve rarely or never seen salt water…but plenty of the other kind.

  10. Microship says:

    Interesting – must have been some improvements since mine (4 years ago), which is a good thing. Thanks for the data point!

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