Solar-Powered Outdoor Lighting
Solar-powered outdoor lights come in many different styles, and they can be used to light a walkway, brighten a deck, or beautifully illuminate a garden at night. Here's a brief overview of today's technology.
Why go solar? Solar-powered lights can save money on your electrical bill, they're easy to maintain, their carbon footprint is minimal, and they'll stay bright during a power outage.
How bright are they? Solar power has come a long way due to recent advances in technology, and today's solar lights shine 6 to 12 times brighter than the original models. In other words, you won't have any trouble finding something perfect to fit your lighting needs.
How much sun do they need? Solar cells absorb the sun's energy, storing it in rechargeable batteries for nighttime use. Eight hours of sunlight allows most solar lights to last throughout the night, but the charge will vary depending on cloud cover. If your lights are located in a shaded area with no direct sunlight, you can purchase remote solar panels, place them in a sunny area, and run a wire to the lights to power up the batteries.
How long do they last? Solar lights rely on rechargeable batteries and all rechargeable batteries have a lifespan represented by the number of charge cycles. Some last 500 cycles, some over 1,000 cycles. Most devices allow the user to replace the battery and often you can buy a better stronger battery that will have more charge cycles than the original battery.
What styles are there? There are a variety of different styles to suit your particular needs.
One type is what I call the stake light. This style is thin and I use them at my house for lighting up some outdoor steps I have in my hillside. I bought several of these at the dollar store and they lasted about a year before the battery used up all of it's discharge and recharge cycles and gave out.
Another style is similar to the old "Malibu Lights" that were hardwired in. These have more of a presence in your yard and tend to cost a little more than the stake lights.
Another style is the rope light. These are available in a multitude of colors and have many different applications. I use them to light up my walkways and to highlight my fence line. I've used them to decorate trees and I've seen them used to add light to a gazebo or under the eaves of a house.
Do they last all night? Based on my experience, no. The lights I have will last a good 6-8 hours depending on the amount of sunlight and various charging factors. In the summer when it is light until 8 or 9 at night, they'll last me most of the night. In the winter when it is dark by 5pm, they will last me until a little after bedtime. If it is a cloudy or rainy day, even less. As one can expect with solar powered devices, the amount of exposure to sunlight and quality of that exposure will have the biggest impact on the run time of the lights.