Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Battery Operated Lights

by Amy of Bumble Belly Designs

I want to share my most important discovery of 2010.

Two weeks ago, I was able to have electricity at my booth and I plugged in some clip lights to better highlight my encaustics. It was amazing what a difference it made. People could see my work as I had created it in my sunny studio. The colors popped off the wall and the depth and luminosity of the wax was very apparent. The show was a huge success for me and I was hooked.

This past weekend I was at SOWA Holiday at the Cathedral High School Gym in Boston. There are big windows that shed a lot of light during the day, but after the sun goes down my work gets muddied by the overhead lights. I also knew I was facing away from the windows so my work would be back lit from the main daylight source.

After some internet research and running around to different box stores, I asked my husband to help me come up with a battery system. He totally pulled through!

Here are the main components and they are all available at stores like Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot and Amazon.com.

1 . A deep cycle marine battery

It is very important that it is a deep cycle battery. These can take a deep drain and be recharged again and again.

2. A power inverter

The inverter converts the 12volt DC current of the battery to 110 volt AC current, which is what runs out of a household socket. It is important that the wattage on your inverter is more than the total wattage of the lights that you will be running. My first day I ran a 200 watt inverter and had 4 lamps each with a 20watt warm fluorescent bulb in each (these are equivalent to a 75 watt incandescent bulb but draw less power). I like Sylvania's mini style bulbs.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I wasn't paying attention the second morning, coupled with exhaustion, and I connected the inverter to the battery backwards (+ to - instead of + to +, - to -) and I blew the fuse in the inverter. My husband ran in with another one that is a 410 watt and it worked fine and I will probably add lights in the future.

3. A battery charger

This charger was great. It has a digital display that will tell you the percentage of charge left in your battery. It will also trickle charge once you reach 100%, so I plugged it in over night and woke up to a full charge ready to go in the morning.

4. Standard lights and cords
The rest can be your choice. I used clip lamps that I picked up 2 days before the show and connected them using standard extension cords. The inverter has 2 plug sockets so I plugged the lamps together on the cords and them plugged the cords in.

Here is the amazing thing, after 8 hours running the 4 lights my battery was still at a 45% charge. I plan on adding a bit more light and finding arm lights that will aim back at the wall. My clip lights were great but washed the wall from top to bottom and I would like to get the lighting a bit more even in the future.

I plan on trying this system at outdoor shows as well. There is a water tight box for the marine battery as they are meant to be used in boats. I will also plan on having it up off the ground on a wood platform. The battery is heavy so a wood box that can be put on a collapsible dollie would work great. It is very important to respect that this is still an electrical device and can harm you if you are not paying attention or treating it with care.

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