8 Tips for Choosing Solar Powered Outdoor Lights  

by Pool Builders on 08-10-2011 in Articles

If you're in the market for solar power outdoor lights, you'll be pleased to know these fixtures have evolved quite a bit from just a few short years ago. In days gone by, solar outdoor lighting products came in limited shapes, were bulky, and it wasn't easy to find high-quality products. On top of that, they were expensive. Fast forward to today and you'll easily be able to find outdoor solar lights in just about any garden store or grocery store.

Homeowners now have an almost unlimited variety of choices for whatever use they may have planned for them. These energy saving fixtures can now be used for lighting pathways, home security, lining pond and pools, and almost any other landscape lighting design. Not only do these green-energy fixtures save money, but they're also easy to set up and maintain. And they contribute to a cleaner environment.

Here's a brief rundown on the basics:

(1) How do outdoor solar lights work?

To start with, each lighting fixture contains four parts: a solar cell, a Ni-Cad (Nickel Cadmium) battery, a photo-cell sensor, and an LED light.

Solar powered lights work very simply. Each individual lighting unit has a solar panel attached to it. These panels absorb sunlight during the day. The sunlight is converted into energy which is then stored in batteries contained within the lighting units. As dusk arrives, the photo-cell sensor within the outdoor lighting system activates the battery, which in turn activates the LED light.

(2) What are the main benefits of outside solar lights?

Since these outside lights don't require electrical wiring or other power sources, they are simple to install and environmentally friendly. And because they don't run on electricity, they cost nothing to run.

Safety is another main benefit. Because they don't use electricity or power chords, they are the ideal solution for use near swimming pools, ponds and remote areas.

(3) What are the main disadvantages of solar outdoor lights?

The three main disadvantages are (a) lack of control, (b) brightness and (c) limited effectiveness during winter months (particularly in regions of northern latitude).

Great control and flexibility are offered by wired low-voltage landscape lighting systems. Such systems that use a transformer and cables enable the homeowner to connect sensors, switches and timers. Even more, a greater amount of flexibility and control is offered by connecting different parts of the system to separate circuits.

What this means is that you can turn the outdoor landscape lighting on and off when you choose, turn it on and off either automatically or remotely, and program them to switch them on when a person or object is detected.

But, since outdoor solar lights don't need wiring, the advantages above are not accomplished without actually wiring sets of solar lights together. And doing so goes against one of the major advantages of using these lights in the first place.

Secondly, the fact that solar lamps do not shine as brightly as other forms of landscape lights is a disadvantage for some people. But, depending on the purpose for the lighting, the subtler and softer illumination often perfectly suits the job.
Lastly, insufficient sunlight during winter months to fully recharge the unit's batteries can be a serious drawback to some people.

(4) How long do solar-powered yard lights operate on a single charge?
Since outside solar lighting is dependent on direct sunlight, how long the lights will operate on a single charge will depend on how much sunlight they receive during the day. Season, specific location, and daily weather conditions will play all play important factors.

On the whole, you can expect solar lights to last from 8 to 10 hours. During summer months, the batteries within the solar panel will more easily be able to attain a full charge because of the longer, sunnier days.
And, as noted above, during winter months, shorter days with less intense sunlight may prevent a full charge. Also, rainy days and other adverse weather conditions will affect the fixture's ability to attain a full charge.

(5) How long do the bulbs and batteries last?

Outdoor solar lights use LED lights, which have a lifetime of up to 100,000 hours. They are not replaceable.
With proper maintenance, you can expect the NI-Cad rechargeable batteries to last approximately 2 years. In order to maximize your battery's lifespan, periodically perform a €deep charge€. This is done by turning the solar unit off.

(6) Do the batteries need a charger?

Since the sunlight charges the solar fixture's batteries through the solar panel, you do not need a charger.
Keep in mind that prior to first use the batteries will need to be charged properly. This is done by turning the switch to the €off€ position and placing the solar unit in direct sunlight for 3 to 4 days in a row.

(7) How is the brightness of the lights measured?

LED solar lights do not have their brightness measured in watts. Instead, the amount of light produced at the light source is measured in terms of millicandela (mcd). One thousand millicandela is equal to one candela.

(8) How is outdoor solar lighting maintained?

The only thing outdoor solar lights require is a periodically cleaning to keep the solar panel free of dirt, dust, debris, mud and snow. This enables the batteries to properly charge, thus ensuring peak performance.
You may also want to store them away during snowy or rainy seasons. Store them in a dark place and make sure the lights are switched off. When you bring them out to be repositioned outside, simply refer to the set-up instructions in your owner's manual.

Although solar power outdoor lights are designed to withstand both heat and cold, glass models should not be left exposed to unusual amounts of snow or rain. Heavy rain, snow and wind storms can easily damage the fixtures.
If you are concerned about your lights being blown away, you can choose to buy hanging fixtures. Hanging fixtures also are a good choice for lining creeks, ponds and swimming pools.

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