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The Bright Ideas Blog

Design inspiration and outdoor lighting tips and advice for homeowners

Things to Consider About Solar Landscape Lighting

Recently, I typed "Solar Landscape Lighting" into my search engine to try to learn more about a landscape lighting approach that I've never had much interest in. The search yielded a lot of pretty images of solar path lights displayed in picturesque garden beds and along beautifully paved pathways at night. The various Big Box Store websites and numerous online retailers all present these fixtures in the best possible light. 

I'll admit, after visiting some of these sites and reading what they had to say about solar powered lights, I could begin to see the appeal. For the DIYer, solar lights are great and available at an affordable price point. If there is any confusion on how to place these lights in a yard, many of the sites offer step by step guides. 

HOW THEY WORK

The principle for how they function is pretty simple. There is a solar array on top of the fixture that captures sunlight and converts it into electric power stored in a rechargeable battery. A mini photocell senses when the sun has set and turns on the small LED light inside the fixture. The LED runs off of the rechargeable battery. The whole idea behind solar lights is that you don't have to do any wiring and you don't worry about anything. Solar lights are self-sustaining and maintenance free. 

When a person purchases a solar powered landscape lighting fixture, all that's required after their initial purchase, is that they place the fixture in the ground. After that the lights should be good to go. Right?

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THE TRUTH

After flipping through several search pages, I could only find websites concerned with selling me solar lights. I was more interested in understanding how they work and the way they perform in different outdoor conditions. I changed my search from "Solar Landscape Lighting" to "Solar Landscape Lighting Working Conditions" and was blown away by the results the search yielded. 

Of course, the first couple pages looked just like the other search. As soon as I went a  few pages back, mixed in and spaced apart in the barrage of consumer advertisements, I began to find all the horror stories and problems people have had with their solar lights. 

THE PROBLEMS

The biggest problem was that the fixtures break. When I say break, I don't mean stop working (although that is another problem) I mean snap in half. The plastic stems and ground stakes are prone to breakage. Be it from animals, snow removal, being situated near a high traffic area, these low grade aluminum and composite plastic solar lights are cheaply constructed. In a way it makes sense. Why are solar light fixtures so inexpensive when compared to something like low voltage landscape lighting? The lights simply aren't made of materials built to last. 

The other problem is that the lights will begin to dim over time (not that they really put out much light to begin with). The batteries wear out, the solar arrays can become damaged, and the cheaply built day light sensors can become faulty and run the lights continually day and night. 

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THE SOLUTIONS

Many of the online retailers sell replacement components should they become damaged or stop working correctly,. For example, if the rechargeable battery wears out, you can buy a new one online. This is good news. The fixtures can be fixed. 

For others this is annoying. If all the components are going to need replacing, why not just buy a new one all together? Why can't the lights just come on at night and work like they are supposed to? As soon as component X is fixed, component Y is having a problem.

The fixtures fall apart and will regularly need to be replaced or repaired.

CONCLUSION

If you are looking for something that will initially be a quick, easy, and affordable solution for your outdoor lighting needs, then solar lights might be a good fit for you. 

If you are looking for a lighting solution that will provide lasting enjoyment, then solar lights might not be the best route to take. 

GIVE US A CALL:

 To learn more about how to light your outdoor living space, call us at (801) 440-7647 to schedule a free consultation, or feel free to simply fill out a contact form on our website, www.utahlights.com.

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