On of the main question I am getting from readers is: how to choose outdoor solar lights?When choosing solar powered lights, it is all about application, application, application. This is the biggest consideration when deciding on a particular light. Let’s now consider what goes into a solar light.
First, you have a photovoltaic cell that captures the light. The bigger the cell, the more light it can capture and convert to energy. Size is not everything though. The biggest factor when dealing with solar cells is the efficiency. That is where the biggest advancements in technology are happening.
Next, you need something that stores the energy. Most solar lights use nickel cadmium batteries for energy storage. Next you have the light itself. This is where LED technology comes into play. LED’s are a “cool” light. That means that they can convert the energy that is given to them into almost pure light, rather than the combination of heat and light that older filaments produce. This makes the LED’s much more efficient. They also have a much longer life than older light types.
Keeping all this in mind, you really need to make sure that the solar yard lights you are buying are going to suit your application. Let’s assume that we are not going to go with yesterday’s technology, and we are going to make sure that the lights have high quality photovoltaic cells and LED’s. Let’s look at the three basic types of outdoor solar lights, and how application needs to dictate the lights type.
First is solar accent lights. As the name implies, this type of solar light is meant to add accents to your home landscaping. Since accent lights are fairly dim compared to other types of solar lights, they have a much longer run time. It is not uncommon to get a couple of nights worth of light out of a single day’s charge. Look for accent lights that have multi-crystalline solar cells. They can collect energy even on overcast days. I should also note that the amber LED’s seem to have a longer run time than white. There are also many styles of accent lights that can compliment the surrounding scenery. They also work great as solar patio lights.
Next are solar path lights. These solar lights are brighter than accent lights. They are meant for lighting pathways, driveways, walkways, etc. Solar path lights come in a variety of options for mounting in a way that will work for your project. Just keep in mind that they are really meant to focus the light downward, toward the ground. As they run brighter than accent lights, you can expect shorter run times.
The brightest of the outdoor solar lights are spotlights and solar flood lights . They are used to cast a beam of light toward a particular feature of your home’s landscaping or architecture. As the light is projected away from the fixture toward another object, most people prefer to have them hidden out of sight. This can make them difficult to energize, as “hidden” and “in direct sunlight” is usually a contradiction in terms. For this reason, many solar flood lights have a separate “solar panel” that connects to the light with a wire that can be mounted in an area that gets more light. This allows you a great deal of versatility in locating your spotlights in just the perfect spot for the greatest effect.
Hopefully this will help you understand how to choose outdoor solar lights. You can now buy the right solar powered lights for the right application without some of the costly mistakes that often come about in “do-it-yourself” type projects.
Did you know that there is such a thing as indoor solar lighting? Learn more about these, as well as about solar skylights in our indoor solar lights post