Although we have discussed just about every type of solar lighting on the planet, one that has been yet to be really looked into here is solar driveway lights. Let’s explore them, shall we?
What are solar driveway lights? As far as solar lighting is concerned, these are a fairly new species. Their design was brought about by advancements in solar technology that enabled a combination of three elements to combine to make a very small, yet very functional design:
More efficient solar panels – These allowed the small solar panels to create more energy out of less light, enabling them to actually collect more usable energy than older panels that were much larger.
Better storage capacity – With the incorporation of NiCad and Lithium batteries to hold the energy given to them by the panels, more energy can be stored in a much smaller battery, and the batteries never need to be replaced or serviced.
Better bulbs – Almost all solar lights now use LEDs. LEDs (light emitting diodes) use energy more efficiently, because unlike incandescent, florescent, halogen, and other forms of bulbs, they transfer a much higher percentage of energy into light, rather than heat. They also have a longer usable life than any other type of bulb.
The combination of these three factors create a light housing that is very compact and efficient, with a wide array of practical applications. Lets explore some of them.
Most of us who have a home have some kind of driveway. Usually at night that driveway is pretty dark. Until fairly recently, anyone wanting to have some form of solar lighting to mark and light their driveway would usually find some standard solar garden lights and stick them in the ground around the its edges. That is still an option, of course, if that happens to work with your layout, but the beauty of it is that you have other options. Most of these options are pretty straight forward.
Surface mounted driveway lights
These are probably the easiest solar driveway lights to install (with the exception of garden lights, of course). The best results with installing these is to take some measurements (say 6”-12” or so) from the edges of your driveway and snap a line on each side with a chalk line. That will give you 2 horizontal lines up the sides that are straight and evenly spaced from the edges. Then plan your layout. Start with one side. Make an “X” at the edge where the driveway meets the sidewalk, then a second mark however close you want the light to be to your garage or house or whatever marks the end of your driveway. Measure out the halfway point and make another mark there. If you need more than these three, you can separate the distance into thirds or whatever. Be careful, though, you don’t want your driveway to look like an airport landing strip!
Next, make the same marks on the other side to match the measurements on the first side. Stand back and look to make sure there were no mistakes and get ready to place your lights. The only thing left is to place the lights on the “X”s that you marked out and secure them. The ones that I bought were secured with epoxy. I just mixed the epoxy, place it on the bottom of the fixture and put it in place. The epoxy was hardened in about 5 minutes.
Flush mounted solar driveway lights
These models have their plusses and minuses. One advantage is that they look really nice. When they are properly installed, they look like they were born to be there. The top of the light is perfectly flush with the concrete (or asphalt) and looks really clean.
Another advantage is that although the surface mounted lights can be driven upon without damaging them, I still get nervous when I do. I can feel the light under my tire when I run over it and if I hit the edge of it, there is that slight popping sound that my tire makes. It just makes me nervous sometimes, although I have yet to have one break on me. You will not be able to feel it when you run over a flush mount. There is no worry about breaking them or anything. You begin to think of them as part of the concrete.
One of the downsides is the installation. You need to either install these into a freshly poured driveway, or you have to grind or drill the concrete a bit to get them recessed, so they will be flushed. That’s not the easiest project for the typical do-it-yourselfer. Most people will want to have them professional installed, which raises the price tag a bit.
Another disadvantage is the way the light is diffused. With a surface mounted light, you point them so that it casts its glow on the ground, pointing towards the center of the driveway. Flush mounted lights have a tendency to emit an overall “glow” surrounding them. This might not be a problem for you (it may even be what you are looking for), but I wanted the light to be directional, which is the main reason I went with the surface mounted ones.
A really cool thing about solar driveway lights is that, even though they are meant to be used for driveways, they have other uses as well. I am actually planning to redo the concrete pad on my back patio this summer. When I do I plan to install some flush mounted driveway lights around the perimeter. I think the glow they emit will be a perfect accent to the solar yard lights I have back there now, as well as my other lights. See, just a little thinking outside the box and viola – instant solar patio lights.
I hope this article was able to answer your questions. If you have more, please feel free to leave a comment below. Remember, we offer a great selection of solar driveway lights (among many other types) in our new solar lights store.