Create A Magical Place With Outdoor Electrical Lighting

Types of Solar Lights

Solar path lights. These are small solar lights on stakes, which can be pushed into the ground alongside a walkway to softly illuminate the path at night. They are not as bright as electric path lights, so plan to use more (up to twice as many) to light your path with roughly the same glow as electric.

Where to use solar path lights. Solar path lights are ideal for illuminating walkways far from exterior outlets, and can provide an enchanting glow along winding garden paths.

Ambient and decorative solar lights. Decorative solar lights, including colorful blown glass, decorative lanterns and string lights, are not as bright as solar path lights. However, used in multiples or alongside path lights and spotlights, they can provide a warm ambient glow.

Where to use ambient solar lights. Place a few handblown glass solar lights on stakes in your garden beds for soft landscape lighting. Or hang solar string lights, like the charming mason jar lights shown here, over an outdoor dining table for a welcoming touch at your next gathering.

Solar-powered spotlights. The brightest solar lights available are called task lights or spotlights, and the best ones can provide light that’s roughly equivalent to a 40-watt incandescent bulb. That is still not as bright as a typical outdoor spotlight, so you may want to double or triple up in areas where you want bright, direct light.

Where to use solar spotlights. Motion-sensing solar spotlights can be used near doors and in the driveway. Spotlights can also be placed in the garden, with the beam of light directed at a tree or another landscape feature.

 

Can Solar Lights Charge Without the Sun?

The question often arises weather solar lights can charge without the sun.

The fact is that while cloudy and rainy days certainly block the sun, your solar lights are still receiving a charge. The clouds are diffusing the strength of the sunlight but the panels will still charge on cloudy days.

However, the impact of the lack of sunlight means that you are only getting 1/3 to 1/2 of the charging ability. Therefore your lights will only operate on that fraction of time as well.

Even if you have a few cloudy days in a row, you will see your lights working during that time because of the storage capability of power in your batteries. However, if your solar lights do not receive a full charge for many many days in a row, that can affect the life and efficiency of your battery.

If you live in an area that has prolonged days of poor weather, save your lights by either switching them off or removing them, depending on the situation.

Thankfully situations like rain and cloudy days are a temporary issue. When the sun does come back out for a prolonged period of time, your batteries will charge back up and your solar lights will be working at full capacity within a few days. Just make sure that you remember to turn your lights back on if you had temporarily shut them off.

 

Shedding Light On Solar Powered Lighting: How Long Will They Shine?

Summer is in full swing and people are firing up the grill and cleaning out their pools, commencing another season of BBQs and backyard parties. With all the get-togethers going on and the weather being so nice at night the party shouldn’t have to end with the sunset!

Charging Solar Lights for the First Time

Solar powered lighting has long been an option for home and garden lighting needs.To get the most out of your new solar lightsmust generally be fully charged before they are able to perform at their optimal capabilities. The number of hours of sunlight it takes to charge your solar lighting device will depend on how much direct sunlight they receive. We recommend charging your solar lights for one to two days before their first use. Some may be charged for shorter than that, but it will decrease the length of time they are able to perform. Of course, a few consecutive partly cloudy days or one completely dark day will usually reduce your solar lights to a dim glow after only a few hours.

Full Charge of Solar Powered Lighting

We found that the time range a solar light can operate on a full charge varies by specific product but that the overall range for all kinds of solar lighting was 4 – 12 hours with an overall average of 8.5 hours of illumination on a full charge. This range is rather large, but you can get a better idea of how long your solar garden lights will last if you know what kind of solar lighting application you plan on using.

How Much Time for Specific Kinds of Solar Lighting

Solar path and accent lighting seems to fare better than hanging and lamp post-mounted devices with an average of 9.8 hours of illumination and a range of 7 – 12 hours. Hanging and lamp post solar lights average 7.3 hours of illumination and have a range of 4 – 12 hours. The difference in average is most likely due to placement of the solar panel and not the type of solar light. Solar ground lights may have better placement on average because some mounted devices’ solar panels are shaded by eaves or other objects for part of the day.

 

So how long do solar lights actually last?

Solar lights, like most rechargeable products, eventually run out of power and must be recharged. But how long do solar lights last? Unlike most rechargeable products, solar lights can be exposed to sunlight during the day in order to provide lighting at night.

Sunlight that reaches the solar panels generates electricity that is stored into the solar light batteries, and is used once it is dark outside. The batteries in solar lights typically last for 2 years before they have to be replaced, as they are no longer able to hold enough energy to provide lighting.

 

Rejuvenating solar garden lights — with nail polish!

Solar LED garden lights are everywhere these days, and by ‘everywhere’ I mean ‘in our yard.’  We’ve had some for a few years now, and simply through exposure to the elements, the plastic that covers the solar cells becomes so opaque that only a small amount of light gets to them any more.  With the solar cells deprived of even that meager light that we get in Massachusetts in the winter, the solar cells don’t recharge the battery, the battery doesn’t power the LED, the LED doesn’t light up, and our yard has a serious bling deficiency.  Eleanor and I took our solar garden lights inside to see if we could make them bright again somehow.

My first thought when confronting the frosted-over plastic was to try to ‘polish’ it with a fine-grit sandpaper.  I had 400-grit handy and tried it on one cell, the bottom one in this picture.  The top shows how weathered the cells were to start.

The sanding helped a little.  Then I rinsed the sanded plastic dust off with water in the sink, and while it was wet it looked great, but as it dried it became frosted and opaque again.  Thinking that perhaps we could use a mild plastic solvent to ‘polish’ the rough surface, I dabbed the solar cells with acetone, but again, as soon as it dried, the surface went from clear to cloudy again.  “We need some way to keep it ‘looking wet’ even when it’s dry,” I mused.  Eleanor got a wide-eyed LIGHTBULB! look in her eyes, and grabbed a bottle of clear nail polish!  She applied a few test swatches.

The nail polish made the weathered old solar cells crystal clear again!  I held the lights while Eleanor applied an even coat of nail polish to all the solar cells.  It really didn’t matter whether the cells had been sanded or not, so we didn’t bother.

A few minutes later, the polish was dry, and we planted the lights outside again.  You can see how completely clear the solar cells are.  Our only concern was that the nail polish might block the UV light that provides a good portion of the solar energy to the cells.

We waited for twilight to fall, and when we checked the lights: success!