Photo/File  Use your lamps to light up a garden pathway.

Photo/File Use your lamps to light up a garden pathway. 

In Summary

Some of the benefits of outdoor solar lighting:

  • Match the light to the function you want it to perform.
  • They can be used to mark landscape hazards.
  • Can be adjusted easily.
  • Are superior to low voltage outdoor lights.
  • Can help you save on electricity costs.

 

Installing outdoor lighting can pose many challenges. In addition to the cost of the lights, it’s usually necessary to get a qualified electrician to do the installation.

Solar-powered lights are becoming an increasingly popular alternative when it comes to outdoor lighting.

They are affordable, easy to install yourself and can be relocated easily. You also save on electricity costs and the good news is that they are readily available locally.

Until recently, most solar lights emitted only a dim light and were not all that reliable.

This has changed, as super-bright LEDs have replaced more conventional filament bulbs.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) create light without generating the waste heat of normal bulbs, so they are very bright, yet require far less electricity to operate.

The result is a dependable, long-term “bulb” that will usually shine for the life of the product.

Other recent advances in solar lighting technology include the development of more efficient photovoltaic cells, improved circuitry and more efficient batteries.

These new solar lights are able to perform throughout the year with little variation in performance.

Illumination

When shopping for solar lights, it’s important to match the light to the function you want it to perform.

There are three primary categories of solar lights for use in the landscape: accent lights, path lights, spotlights and task lights.

Accent lights add a pleasant glow to your landscape. Their relatively low level of illumination is designed to “mark a place,” not illuminate an object or light a pathway.

Due to their low light output, accent lights usually boast longer runtimes than other types of solar lights.

In fact, it is not unusual for a quality accent light to run many nights on just a single day’s charge.

Accent lights typically use efficient multi-crystalline solar cells that allow them to charge even on cloudy days or in partially shaded areas.

Many accent lights utilise amber LEDs to create an even softer ambience than the standard white LEDs.

Some of them also “flicker” to simulate candle light. Amber LEDs use less electricity than their white counterparts, which allows for even longer runtimes.

Accent lights can be used to mark landscape hazards, such as a large rock that could be tripped over at night, or as garden features themselves.

Compared to the other categories of solar lights, accent lights have the lowest light output and are the most affordable.

Solar path lights

As the name implies, path lights are meant to light paths, walkways, driveway perimeters or other small areas around your home and in your landscape.

They are often used in multiples to guide the way along a set of stairs or a dark walk.

Path lights typically come with a choice of ground stakes, flange mounts and hanging hooks, to give the user a wide choice of positioning options. Most are designed to focus their light downward.

Path lights may also have on-off switches, a feature that allows the homeowner to “store” the electrical charge for a special event and ensure the longest possible run time.

Some models may offer options such as high-low power, coloured lenses, or timers. Solar path lights are a mid-range choice in terms of price and light output

Task lights and spot lights

Task lights and spotlights are the brightest class of solar lights and usually carry the highest price tag.

They are designed to cast a bright beam of light on plants or entrances. That said, it is important to realise that a solar task light will not perform like a standard 100-watt outdoor floodlight.

A high-quality solar light with good LEDs can produce a focused beam of light equivalent to a 40-watt incandescent spotlight—an impressive amount of light that’s both clean and free.

Most solar task lights and spotlights are designed so they can be mounted in a number of ways and can be adjusted to shine in any direction.

Often the solar panel can be mounted separately from the light, which allows you to put the panel in a place where it will get the sun, and the light where it’s needed.

Solar task lights and spotlights are generally the most durable class of solar lights.

While nearly all solar lights are weatherproof and UV protected, solar task lights and spotlights are often more ruggedly constructed.

Solid design

Solar lights that use LEDs have another little-known benefit that makes them especially well suited for landscape use.

As temperatures drop, LEDs generate an even brighter light, due to their solid state design.

In this respect, solar lights are superior to low-voltage outdoor lights and compact fluorescent lights, which operate less efficiently in cold conditions.

LEDs also have a lifespan in excess of 100,000 hours compared to 2,000 to 3,000 hours for the average incandescent.

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