The Solar Lights Site gets quite a bit of traffic from people who type questions into Google because they are thinking of buying solar lighting for their home or garden, but just need some information to make sure they are making a strong buying decision. There are also those people who already have a set of lights, but have questions about them. While most of the answers are here on this site, and can be found with a little searching, this site is growing fairly large, so I thought it would be a good idea to put some of them here – all in one place.
So without further ado the official Solar Lights FAQ
Q – Are solar lights any good?
A – I have seen this question everywhere, and the answer is yes and no. A few years ago, when the solar garden lights revolution was just beginning, they were expensive and poorly made. As with any product, they have developed, and most are of good quality. Also, as with any other type of product, there are still companies that put out poor quality lights, but finding lights that have a lot of really good customer reviews is easier now, so staying away from poor quality products is much easier.
Q – Are solar lights more expensive to purchase than low voltage lighting?
A – That used to be the case, but not any more. You already know that they are cheaper to run, because they don’t use up electricity, but they are actually cheaper to buy now too. An easy example would be to take a set of low voltage lights and solar lights from the same manufacturer and compare them head to head.
Q – What kind of maintenance should I be expected to perform on them?
A – Not much, actually. Most types of outdoor solar lights are built so that you do not need to do anything more than wipe off the panels every once in a while. If they use LED bulbs (as most do), the bulbs will typically last for 10,000 to 50,000 hours – depending on the model. As for the batteries, they will also usually last for the lifetime of the fixture. If your batteries do happen to die, they are usually pretty easy to replace.
Q – How long should the lights stay lit at night?
A – This also depends on the model. As a rule of thumb – the brighter the lights, the less time it will stay lit. Let’s take an example from each extreme of the spectrum. Solar security lights are very bright, but are only meant to stay lit for a couple of minutes at a time, when they detect motion in the area. On the other hand, solar accent lights have a faint glow and can easily last all night on even a 75% or so charge. On average, your typical garden path light should last for about 10 hours or so, on a full charge.
Q – Are solar lights as bright as conventional lighting?
A – Typically, no, they are not. Using the logic from the above question, they can be as bright, but they will not stay lit as long. The exception to this rule is when you have lights that have a separate panel and power storage device. If you can convert enough sunlight into energy, and have a place to store that energy, you can (in theory) light a path to the moon.
Q – How do I know how bright the lights are going to be?
A – The easiest way that I have found to make sure you get the right “brightness” out of your lights is to go to a hardware store and check out the flashlight isle. Compare the lumens of different LED flashlights. Now compare that info to the lumen ratings of different light fixtures and picking out the right lights for your landscape should be easy.
Q – Why are my solar lights flickering?
A – This is something that happens from time to time (thankfully not too often). Usually, when this happens, it is due to either a wiring short, or the lighting sensor getting unreliable information. There are a few things that you should check. The first thing to try is cleaning your panels. Often, the sensor that decides whether it is day or night is built into the solar panel. If the panel is dirty the lights might be trying to decide whether it is day or night. Another possibility is that some moisture got its way into the fixture and is playing havoc with the wiring. Bring the light inside, disassemble the fixture, remove the batteries, and try to air it out. Look for any loose wires while you are at it. If neither of these works, you may need to replace the fixture.
Q – How do I decide whether or not solar lights are for me?
A – The biggest consideration is the amount of sunlight you regularly get. If you live in a relatively sunny area, and are looking for an eco-friendly way to light up your property, solar lights are your best bet. At any rate, you will want to check out all of the questions above, and other articles on this site as well. If there are other questions that I did not cover here, please ask them in a comment, or by using the contact form and I will add them to this solar lights FAQ.