How to Turn on Solar Lights

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Most solar lights have a sensor that allows them to turn on automatically at night, so if your lights aren't turning on and they're new, placement may be a concern. Place the lights where their solar panels get plenty of sunlight each day. The lights should also not be near another powerful light such as a floodlight, as other nearby lighting may cause the solar lights to stay off at night.

New Lights

If new solar lights won't illuminate when you think they should, there's usually a simple fix.

  • Check the light housing for an on/off switch. This is usually located on the back of the light housing or the bottom of a solar pathway light. Many solar lights do not have a power switch, but some do, so it is worth checking.
  • Look for a plastic tab protruding from the area that houses batteries -- typically beneath the bulb. Pull the tab out so the batteries complete the electrical connection that illuminates the bulb. In some cases, you may have to remove a plastic cover that surrounds the bulb area to access the pull tab. The solar-light packaging or instruction sheet typically mentions the tab and where to find it on your lights.
  • Charge the solar panel for a while. If the lights have been stored in a box for some time, they may simply need to be charged. Place the panel in direct sunlight for an hour or so, then cover the solar panel with your hand to see if the light illuminates.

Lights That No Longer Work

If your lights used to work or they are new and do not illuminate even though you've followed the instructions on the package, several other factors may be the problem.

  • Reposition or angle the solar panel so it receives direct sunlight for as many hours per day as possible. If the panel is in the shade for much of the day, it won't charge the light properly. 
  • If the solar panel is built into the light housing, as is the case with many solar landscaping lights, move the lights so they aren't covered by nearby plant leaves or other sources of shade. 
  • Move the solar panels away from nighttime light sources that may keep the lights from turning on. The panel needs to detect that it is dark outside in order for it to turn on the lights.
  • Clean the top of the solar panel if the lights have been outdoors for a while. Dirt may hinder the ability of the panel to collect light so that it can charge the device. If the plastic over the panel looks cloudy, clean it, then apply a coat of clear nail polish. In some cases, the plastic may need to be replaced.
  • If the lights still do not work, take the light housing apart to locate the battery or batteries. Replace the batteries. The lights themselves are usually not designed to be replaced and typically outlast the batteries -- in other words, the problem is probably not the bulb. 
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