Like to add some accent lighting to your back yard or garden but put off by the thought of all the work that goes along with installing new lighting? Even when you’re considering the relatively simple installation of low voltage yard lights, you’re still looking at digging trenches for the wires and making connections between the lights. After all the work you put in getting your lawn and garden looking as good as they do now, it can be pretty hard to rationalize digging it up just to add some lights.
Here’s an idea to consider: solar lights can add indirect light anywhere in your yard or garden without all that trench digging, light connecting, and repairing the damage you’ve just done. As you probably know, solar lights utilize the power of the sun captured through solar collectors to charge batteries that in turn power the light itself, no wires. In addition, solar lights are simple to install - you just place the lights anywhere they will be in direct sunlight and your job is done. All you need to do is wait for the sun to charge the batteries.
If you used solar lights a few years ago, you probably remember them as providing very little light, being unreliable, and on top of that, not staying lit very long. All in all, not a good option for most applications. Well, solar lights have changed a lot over the years. Today’s solar lights are brighter and use a light-emitting diodes (LED) rather than an incandescent light bulb (some even use tiny fluorescent bulbs that are even brighter than LED’s).
LED’s have a life span of up to 100,000 hours as opposed to the much shorter life span of older style incandescent bulbs. Modern nickel cadmium or Lithium ion batteries should only need to be replaced every two years, way less often than the old lead acid batteries that had a very short life.
Power consumption of an LED is minimal when compared to an incandescent bulb (so the batteries (and the light) last longer.
Combine these features with the low cost, ease of installation, and the fact you’re using the sun’s energy rather than the Power Company’s to light your yard, and you’ve got an idea for the 21st century.
Multiple Applications for Solar Lights
One of the great advantages of solar lights is their adaptability. In addition to providing light to mark pathways and accent specific areas in your garden, you can find all kinds of other uses for solar lights.
Want to decorate your yard in colors to match the time of year – how about red and blue for the Fourth of July, or Green on St. Patrick’s Day or red and green around Christmas. It is easy and inexpensive to change your outdoor decorating with different colored solar lights.
Solar lights can be used to light up your house numbers. The pizza delivery guy (or more important fire fighters or paramedics) will easily be able to see your house numbers on a dark night.
Or, you can install solar lights combined with motion detectors up under your eaves to provide security at night. When the sensor detects any notion in your yard, the lights will come on startling the human or animal intruder. (For applications where the light needs to be located in shady area (like up under a roof eave), you can get lights where the solar generator is separate from the light itself, so you install the generator in the light, while the light unit itself can be in the shade).
Taking Care of Your Solar Lights
Maintaining your solar lights couldn’t be easier. Basically all you need to do is clean off the solar collector panel every couple of weeks (or after a big rainfall). If you live in an area where the ground freezes in the winter, you should bring the lights inside (or at least take the batteries out) during the winter.
So What’s the Downside to Solar Yard Lights?
For most of us, there really isn’t much of a downside to solar yard lights – but if you live in an area that doesn’t get much sun, solar lights may not be a great choice. Charging the batteries require the solar panels be in constant sunlight, so if you get long periods of cloudy and overcast weather, the batteries won’t charge fully. Even with LED or fluorescent bulbs, a solar light is not likely to throw enough light for you to read the newspaper, they are more suited to indirect illumination and accent lighting.
Solar lights with their ease of installation and minimal maintenance requirements, combined with their adaptability, functionality, and usefulness really are an economical and environmentally friendly option for many homeowners.