If you are looking for a dramatic way to light some hard to reach places around your landscaping, it would be tough to beat solar spot lights. Now, I am not going to ramble on and on about how wonderful solar lighting is for the environment and it will save you money on your energy bills and all that. There are plenty of articles about that on this site.
What I would like to do in this article is take a look at some of the ways they can effectively be used to enhance the look of your property from a lighting standpoint. I would also like to point out some of the differences between these and other types of solar lights (because there are a few) and look at some things that you are going to need to look out for so that you don’t become disappointed.
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What you need to know about solar spot lights
The first thing that you need to know about the difference between these and other types of solar garden lights is that while other types of garden lights create a glow around an entire area, spot lights are meant to do one thing – cast a focused beam of light on a specific target. That sounds like a spot light, right?
What you need to think about here is that it takes a lot more energy to send a focused beam ten or twenty feet away than it does to cast a glow on a sidewalk. This energy has to come from somewhere. With solar spot lights, it either comes from not being as bright as you might like, or having bigger batteries and solar panels, or having shorter run times.
It is true that solar technology is getting more and more sophisticated, and that solar cells are becoming more efficient, but you are just not going to get 800 lumens for 12-14 hours out of a couple of small NiCad batteries. Before you buy, make sure you know where you are okay with sacrificing and get the appropriate fixture. Higher lumen lights will have a shorter run time, and vise versa.
Every time I think about LED solar spot lights, I think of three things
- How cool flags on government buildings look when they are lit up with spot lights
- How cool my plum tree looks at night
- I really need to get a flag and some more spot lights
So yes, they are great for lighting trees; and they are pretty much the only way to light them, unless you want to wrap them in string lights (and if you do, use solar string lights please, we are staying green here!). They are obviously good for lighting flags too. There are actually a lot of ways to use them that are not often thought of.
Keep in mind that spot lights are a form of indirect lighting. This means that you can put them far away from the intended target and just point them. The closer they are to the target, the brighter the light. The further away they are, the more faint. Try some of these ideas:
- Point them at your front porch from ground level so they light up your front steps.
- Point them at your deck from a high place fairly far away to cast a glow on your whole deck.
- Mount a few on the roof (or patio eve) and point them downward towards a pool or pond.
- Put one at the base of a tree and point it straight up.
- Do the same on a corner of your house.
There are tons of other options that work really well. What I suggest is to start with a couple of lights and experiment. Try them closer and further away. Try lighting from ground level and from above for different effects. Try using multiple lights pointing at the same target from multiple angles. You will find that, although solar spot lights do have their limitations as far as energy requirements, they more than make up for it with their versatility.
Just for the record, I do not really need my spotlights going at 4:30 in the morning, so I go with the brightest ones I can find and accept the fact that they may only run for six to eight hours. If I were using electric lights, I would be turning them off via a timer at midnight or so anyway.