Solar Landscape Lighting
Someone wants to add lighting to his/her front walkway and garden, but
he/she doesn't have an outdoor outlet on the front of his/her house. Do
solar-powered landscape lights or solar landscape lighting really work,
or are they a gimmick? Solar landscape lighting look easy to install,
and the installer wouldn't have to dig under his/her walk to run wires.
Solar landscape lights use a small solar, or photovoltaic (PV), cell to
charge a battery integrated into the light fixture. After being charged all
day by the sun, the battery then provides the electricity to illuminate the
solar landscape lights after nightfall. Because each solar landscape light
has its own battery, there is no need to run wires.
Solar landscape lighting come in a variety of styles from various
manufacturers. Some new decorative models are made of die-cast metal for
durability and styling detail.
While solar landscape lighting is practical for use in the majority of 50
states, it's important to consider where you plan to place the solar
landscape lights and the surrounding geography of your home when selecting
the kind of solar landscape light for your project. The key factor for any
solar landscape lighting application is that the PV panel used to charge the
battery be in a place where it will receive sunlight.
Shading of the PV panel by landscape features or other interference (trees,
buildings, bird droppings, etc.) can have a large impact on battery charging
and consequently the nightly "run-time" of the solar landscape lights. If
your yard has many trees or does not receive a lot of sunlight because of
surrounding buildings, solar landscape lighting may not be right for you.
Most solar landscape lights will run for about eight to 10 hours per night,
based on the amount of sunlight they receive during the day. This means your
solar landscape lights should run all night during the summer, but don't
expect them to do so in the winter. There just isn't enough sunlight here to
charge the batteries enough to get through a 14-hour winter night.
Operating times in the winter months may vary as much as 50 percent,
depending on the number of hours of sunlight during the day. Not receiving
enough light to charge the battery will significantly affect the light's
performance and may reduce battery life.
Many manufacturers integrate the PV cell into the light fixture itself. This
will not work for you if you place the lights in the shade of a large tree
or under a bush. Other models separate the PV module from the lights. This
makes getting maximum sunlight on the PV module easier, but it gets you back
to burying wires.
Early versions of solar landscape lighting offered poor light and limited
run time. The incandescent bulbs used in these fixtures burned out quickly
and did not produce much light. The lead-acid batteries were difficult to
charge and had short life expectancy. Watch out for these features in
lower-priced solar landscape lighting products.
Many solar landscape lights now use LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs
and nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal-hydride batteries. LED's produce brighter
light, use much less electricity, and last significantly longer than the old
incandescent bulbs. The new batteries take and hold a charge much better
than the old lead-acid units. We have the cell phone industry to thank for
Even with these improved bulbs and batteries, do not expect solar landscape
lighting to be as bright as traditional low-voltage lighting.
Before you buy any solar landscape lights, check with the manufacturer or
the store where you buy them on the availability of replacement bulbs and
batteries. It will not do any good to install lighting that you cannot
If you have the right location, solar landscape lighting may be just the
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