Upon first glance this project might seem a little
unusual, but if you've ever used a porta potty, I
bet you can appreciate the cause - this is especially true for you ladies. Originally inspired at a music festival, my
husband and I have built a solar light for portable toilets. It's called the Firefly. Our goal is to modernize and improve these outdoor restrooms, by making lights a standard feature. Hence, we are illuminating the porta potty!
And for those who don't own a porta potty, which I'm sure most of you don't, there are lots of other cool uses for Firefly lights. Check out some examples below.
How It Began
In 2008, we went to
the music fest, Bonnaroo. Held on
700 acres of farmland, the annual 4-day event is attended by approximately 80,000
people. Everyone camps outdoors in what becomes a mini-city of cars, tents and RVs. The expanse of this operation is really pretty amazing.
While there, a simple question sparked an idea. "Why don't they put lights in porta potties? It would make using them so much better!" What had kind of started as a joke that night, grew into a conversation, and eventually became 2.5 years of research and development.
Building the Firefly
We started out by doing our homework, and researching the industry. The idea seemed logical enough, but why hadn't it been done yet? We took our questions and concept straight to the source. We attended trade shows and interviewed business owners. What we found out was, a large number of companies have tried to incorporate lights, because their customers are requesting them. However, for multiple reasons, it's actually really challenging and companies have had a hard time finding a good solution. Now, we knew we had an interested market.
After researching and analyzing all of the information, we developed a list of desired product features. The Firefly would be a self-contained unit that is:
- Solar powered - without requiring a solar panel be installed on the outside
- Motion & light activated
- Anti-theft & tamper proof
- Highly durable plastic
- Energy efficient - with help of a specially-programmed microprocessor
It wasn't going to be easy, but we knew it was possible. We spent a couple years designing, building, testing, going back to the drawing board, tweaking the design, testing more, and so on. We've even applied for and received a provisional patent on our light. Neither of us had manufactured a product from start-to-finish before, so the whole development process has been quite a learning experience!
Here are the some pictures of the finished product. Check out our video to see more about Firefly's design and demonstrations of its product features. Because Firefly lights are designed to be extremely reliable and durable, they are not cheap to produce. However, our customers will quickly see the benefits of investing in Firefly lights. Porta potty companies can charge higher rental fees for units with lights; and, there will be no more wasting money on batteries or tap lights that die after only a couple uses.
We initially used our own capitol, and a small business loan, to fund the Firefly project. We've been through two rounds of building and testing prototypes. With the design now finalized, Firefly is in the production stage. If fully funded, we'll use the money from our Kickstarter project to produce a batch of lights.
Our Rewards & Uses for Firefly Lights
Aside from being able to purchase one of the first Firefly Solar Lights, we are offering some other great incentives. For example, our friends at Yee-Haw Industries (a nationally renowned design and letter-press house) designed a limited-edition poster for our project. Each is hand-pressed on 14" x 23" chipboard. I've included pictures of the poster and from the production process below. Plus, we also have "Firefly" t-shirts and other items available.
Even if you don't own a porta potty, there are lots of other great ways to use the Firefly. These solar lights are really durable and will last for years! For our backers who buy a light, we will send the adhesive foam ring, but will not attach it. If you decide you do want to use it, the rings are very easy to apply (both sides are peel and stick, see the video). Here are a few examples of other applications for Firefly Solar Lights:
- Use them to line your outdoor walkways and paths (see image below)
- Use them as pool decorations at your next summer soiree
- Take them camping: charge up during the day and then use wherever light is needed at night
- Use them in portable storage units (a.k.a. PODs, which have the same kind of roofs as porta potties)
- Use them when in need of temporary light anywhere: once charged, Firefly will work for days without needing to recharge