Solar outdoor lights are easy to install and require virtually no maintenance. Most importantly, using them will not increase your electricity bill. Popular home uses for solar outdoor lighting include pathway lighting kits, wall lamps, freestanding street lamps, and security lights.
Solar outdoor lighting systems use solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. Electricity is stored in batteries for night use. Manufacturers typically use nickel-cadmium, sealed lead-acid, and lead-acid batteries.
Solar outdoor lighting systems work well in most areas of the United States. However, it is important to consider geographic and site-specific variables when choosing a product. A solar lighting system will only work well as long as the solar cells receive the manufacturer’s recommended hours of sunlight.
The “night hours” lists for most solar outdoor lighting systems are based on specific sunlight conditions. Solar outdoor lights located in places that receive less sunlight than solar cells need will operate for fewer hours per night than expected. Night run times can also vary depending on how clear the sky is on a given day. Run times in the winter months can vary between 30% and 50%, unless the solar lighting system is specifically sized for winter operation. If the solar cells are shaded by landscape elements (such as trees and buildings), the charge and performance of the battery will also be affected. Also watch out for bird droppings. Insufficient battery charging will not only affect performance, it can also shorten battery life.
Some solar lighting systems are self-contained units; just put the lights in a sunny spot. Others have the lights separated by a panel of solar cells, in which case only the panel should be placed in a sunny location. Unit sizes range from tiny path lights to pole-mounted patio lights to dazzling security lights.
Before purchasing a solar outdoor lighting system, check with the manufacturer to see if replacement bulbs or batteries are available. Some units do not offer replacement options.