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Solar Light Fixtures

Updated on November 9, 2010

Solar lights, most simply put, are light fixtures that convert sunlight into electricity. The electricity is stored in a rechargeable battery which then powers LEDs or light emitting diodes. These electrical components are not exactly like light bulbs, but they do give off light. You can tell the difference between an incandescent bulb or a halogen bulb and an LED because the light given off by the LED has a slight blue tint to it. There are many ways that home owners use solar lights and many advantages to using them over traditional outdoor lighting options. They come in a wide range of styles and sizes so you should be able to find something that will complement your home nicely.

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Where to Use Solar Lights

Theoretically, you could use solar lighting anywhere you have access to sunlight and might need lighting during hours of darkness. However, there are some areas where they are used most prevalently. The place that I see them the most is along walkways. Solar path lights usually have a spire at one end that sticks into the ground like a stick. The top of the solar path light usually looks something like a lantern. You can space them close enough together so that you can always see the path you are walking on. Alternating them from side to side is a very typical arrangement.

Another popular use of solar lights is in the garden.  People like to have lighting in their gardens or landscaping so that people can enjoy it at night as well as during the day.  However, most garden enthusiasts do not want the lights to be conspicuous.  Therefore, a common tactic is to disguise the lights as something else.  Some people will choose solar lights that look like rocks and use them is the garden outline.  No one would ever know they were different than normal rocks during the day, but at night, they would shed light on your garden space.  Other solar garden lights look like insects or other animal statues.  The insect solar lights usually appear to be in midair at night because they are attached to long metal pole that stick into the ground and suspend the insect lights in midair.  The animal solar light fixtures are usually statues or arrangements of some kind that are art during the day and utilitarian at night.

Still other homeowners use solar lights for their security lighting or flood lighting.  These lights are usually mounted at the roof line over a door or entrance into a dwelling.  Sometimes the gutter system will get in the way, but you can usually work around it quite easily because there are no wires to contend with.  These lights work on a motion sensor and only turn on when someone or something moves close to your home.  Because you want flood lights and security lights to be bright, you often find solar security light fixtures with forty or more LEDs.

Benefits of Solar Lighting

Many people prefer to use solar lights over traditional lighting sources outdoors and for good reason.  The most obvious reason is the fact that solar lights do not cost anything to run where regular incandescent or halogen bulb fixtures do.  Even normal daylight conditions without excessively sunny weather will be enough to power a solar light for eight to ten hours.  Many people think it is extremely wasteful to waste money and part of the local grid’s electricity on lighting areas of our home that are not used because you are asleep.  Solar lights solve that problem.

In addition, there are no cords or switches to turn these lights on or off. Each solar light has a photocell inside that can tell when darkness has fallen. When the photocell is triggered, your lights automatically turn on. No more timers that need to be reset every time the seasons change. Your lights will always turn on at the right time and turn off when they are no longer needed. There are no annoying cords to worry about burying in order to avoid tripping hazards. You do not have to worry about rainwater mixing with electrical cords or outlets. Solar lights are completely safe to use when wet.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of outdoor solar lights is that they have a very low maintenance level and you do not need any special equipment to maintain them, not even work gloves. Unlike normal light fixtures, solar lights have no light bulbs that need to be replaced each time they run out. LEDs cannot be replaced, but they have a lifetime of about twenty five years. That means an LED will not burn out or go bad for the lifetime of your solar light product. The only two ongoing maintenance issues are that you need to occasionally replace the rechargeable batteries and you need to keep the solar collector panels clean. Rechargeable batteries will typically last for about 1,000 charges or 1,000 nights. The solar collector panels need to be clean in order to operate as efficiently as possible. Cleaning them off with a clean towel should be sufficient. It isn’t hard to do the ones that are in your garden or along your walkway because you have easy access. If you notice them dimming more than usual then it is time to give them a cleaning. However, security solar lights or solar flood lights are typically mounted quite high and are difficult to get at. Try to remember to clean these solar panels when you do your twice a year gutter cleaning.

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