How to Use Solar Landscaping Lights

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Solar-powered lights are a terrific way to provide accent lighting in your yard and pathway. They're easy to install, don't require wiring and, as a bonus, are nearly maintenance-free. Solar lights use a small photovoltaic (PV) cell to charge an integral battery during the day. When darkness falls, a light sensor turns on the light, which gets its power from the battery. The only drawback to solar-powered lights is you can't place them just anywhere; they must be located so they are in direct sunshine during the day.

Things You'll Need

  • Solar light kit
  • Knowing where the sun hits in your yard

Using Solar Lights in Your Yard

  • Consider where you want to locate your lights. You must place them in areas of direct sunshine or the battery won't get charged. Placing the lights beneath overhanging shrubbery is not an option.

  • While the lights generally will operate for 8 to 10 hours during the summer (lots of sunshine), they won't operate anywhere near as long in the spring, fall or winter.

  • Note that earlier designs of solar-powered lights used incandescent bulbs and batteries that were slow to charge and didn't produce much light. Modern solar-powered lights are built with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as the light source and easy-to-charge nickel cadmium batteries to power the LED.

  • Determine the style of fixture you want. Solar-powered lights are available in a range of designs, including patio lights (installed along a patio or walkway), hanging lights (mounted on a fence or suspended on wire) and distinctive, unusual decorative lights (pagodas, statues).

  • Decide on the finish you want for your lights. Options include metals such as shiny copper, stainless steel, matte black and porcelain. Choose whatever style you like that fits with your garden's design.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some solar-powered light manufacturers use a PV cell that is separate from the lights. With this design, you can put the lights virtually anywhere you want, as only the PV cell itself must sit in direct sunshine. The downside to this design is that you are now back to burying wires.
  • The solar panels on the lights can get dirty after rain, which affects their ability to generate power. Keeping the panels clean will help them work properly.
  • Even with improvements in batteries and using LEDs rather than incandescent bulbs, solar lights don't provide as much light as electric lights.
  • Check on the availability of replacement batteries for your lights before you buy. Not all solar lights use standard size batteries.

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