Once again, the holidays are upon us. That means it’s time for gathering with your loved ones around the fire: exchanging food, stories, gifts and good will. Before any of that happens, though, it is time to decorate! Have you thought of using solar Christmas lights?
If you are like most of us, you likely have a space in your garage rafters or in the basement where you keep all of your old Christmas lights. Every year, you take them out and sort through the jumbled wires. You plug them in to test for burned out bulbs. Look around for the extension chords, etc. When you are done stringing them up, they look great. They are just a major pain to get them to that point.
I have been talking, over and over, on this site about how solar power technology has grown by leaps and bounds in just the last few years. One of the areas that show off that growth the best is solar lighting. Manufacturers have become very clever with their design and implementation, and that cleverness really shows itself in solar Christmas lights.
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Let’s take a look at what comprises solar string lights:
- The Lights – The traditional holiday lights were a bulb and socket design. Basically, it was a filament bulb that was screwed in or pushed into a light socket, much like the light bulbs in your home. Solar Christmas lights are actually LEDs. They last much longer than incandescent bulbs and stay cooler, so there is much less of a fire risk. Also, LEDs are plastic, so they are less likely to break.
- Light Strings – The lights strings on most solar Christmas lights have between 20-50 lights. Not a big difference from the tradition styles, except that they can be a bit shorter.
- Solar Panels – Instead of ending in an electrical cord, these strings end in a solar panel. Solar panels usually have around four solar cells and a rechargeable battery. There are a few manufacturers making polycrystalline and multicrystalline solar cells. These will charge the batteries to near full, even on a rainy day!
- Rechargeable Batteries – Pretty much every solar light has a rechargeable battery. With this kind of solar lights the battery is usually in the panel assembly. The most common batteries are NiCad and NiMH but a few are actually being made with lithium batteries.
Next come the type and style options. I won’t even go into detail about these because there are way too many. I have personally seen traditional white string lights, multicolored string lights, net lights, solar angels, solar Santa Clauses, solar nativity scenes, solar rope lights and quite a few others that don’t come to mind at the moment.
The benefits, of course, are many more than just the convenience of not having to run extension chords. As with all solar lights, these decorative lights are good for your environment. They use no energy, therefore none of the Earth’s natural resources. Since they use no energy, they are good for your pocketbook (no huge electric bill). They should last you for at least 3 to 5 years without ever having to change a bulb.
There are a few downsides to solar Christmas lights, however. First of all, they do cost a bit more than more traditional lights would. That may be enough to stop some people from trying them, but you will be surprised by how much they will save you on electricity.
Another downside is that the lights are not as bright as their incandescent counterparts. No real way to get around that. I personally like the way they glow, but that is a personal preference. LEDs are way more efficient in the way they produce light out of energy, so whether or not they are bright enough for your taste, depends upon the lights you are used to. Either way, take some time and do some research. Check out your options and shop wisely.