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Solar Lighting Choices

Updated on May 24, 2016
Butterfly, dragonfly and hummingbird outdoor lights
Butterfly, dragonfly and hummingbird outdoor lights | Source

Let there be light

To set the scene and explain why I have been looking at solar lighting, our house is built on a slope, and as a result there are several changes of level in the grounds. The existing outside lighting, mains lighting, is attached to the building but it only reaches so far and leaves several spots in the dark and there are steps in these areas. We need to make sure that we can safely move from place to place whenever we find it necessary.

There are several choices you have to make if you're looking for outdoor lighting, but almost certainly you will find, as we did, that solar powered lighting must be up there at the top of the list.

We cannot hold a torch to light another's path without brightening our own.

— Ben Sweetland
Mini solar LED garden light taking on the colour of the flowers around
Mini solar LED garden light taking on the colour of the flowers around | Source

Why use solar power?

The there are so many benefits of solar lighting such as:

  • The lighting uses free and renewable energy.
  • It is simple to install. In fact there is no installation.
  • There is no need for power cables.
  • There is little or no maintenance needed.
  • The lights are cool to the touch.
  • Solar power can be used while there are mains power cuts and outages.
  • It can be used for temporary lighting and transferred somewhere else later on.
  • It comes in many different shapes and sizes.

In short, it is a cost effective, safe, environmentally sound, and convenient way to provide lighting.

Patio lanterns
Patio lanterns | Source

How to choose your solar lighting

You should probably take the time to think about whether solar powered lighting is the right choice for you, because there may be some other aspects to take into consideration. However there are environmental as well as financial reasons that make solar lighting a very popular choice.

Having come to that decision, you then need to decide what style of light you need and that, of course, is going to be influenced by why you want the lights in the first place. Your choices are, broadly, four:

  1. Accent lighting to illuminate particular features in your garden, or even possibly to highlight a potential hazard.
  2. Pathway lighting, as the name suggests, to light up a route. These lights are generally brighter than accent lights.
  3. Functional lighting is usually security lighting: either motion sensors or floodlighting. These are usually the brightest of all the lights.
  4. Finally, decorative lighting. It's there purely for ornamental effect. This type of lighting isn't fixed and usually it's easy to move it around from place to place, to ring the changes or for different effects, as the mood takes you.

Having made your decision, you need to be sure that the unit will receive enough sunlight to power it adequately. The technology has improved hugely in recent years so you no longer need strong sunlight. However, if the light is to be in a very shady area, you may need a small panel sited in a sunnier spot with a cable running to the light itself. Be aware of how long this cable needs to be.

Some lighting, although solar powered, needs batteries to operate. You will need to keep a supply of the batteries so that they can be replaced as necessary. If that seems a nuisance, make sure your choice takes this into account.

Perfect for me! - Security solar lighting

The kit from Maxa, seen below, provides two light units each with bright LEDs.

  1. The heads can be positioned to give a wide illumination coverage.
  2. It has simple settings:
    -timing (when you want the light to be able to turn on)
    -duration of lighting (after motion is sensed)
    -sensitivity (only people, or people and animals?)
  3. No electrician is needed for installation.
  4. The solar panel is separate from the lights and is adjustable to take full advantage of the sunlight available..

MAXSA Innovations 40218 Motion-Activated Dual Head LED Security Spotlight, White
MAXSA Innovations 40218 Motion-Activated Dual Head LED Security Spotlight, White

This ticks all the boxes for me. It is motion activated, it is bright, there is a solar panel that can be a little distance from the lights and turned towards the sun. The lights themselves (there are two) can be placed to point in different directions. It does seem perfect for me!


Which solar lighting is for you?

A small solar panel on top of a lantern charges a battery and runs a couple of white LEDs for a few hours after sundown
A small solar panel on top of a lantern charges a battery and runs a couple of white LEDs for a few hours after sundown | Source

Which type of solar lighting would you choose?

See results

Solar bottle lights in a Ugandan kitchen

Solar lights are often something decorative, a nice extra but hardly a necessity for many of us. You might take a moment to see how Helen in Uganda ingeniously uses a form of solar power to illuminate an otherwise completely dark kitchen.

What are your views on outdoor lighting?

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    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      sheilamarie78 4 years ago

      Although I like a dark night sky -- gotta see those stars! -- I do enjoy my solar lights for certain areas.

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 4 years ago

      I like the idea of decorative outdoor solar lighting. One day I hope to have a home and convert it to solar energy. Living in will be easy.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      We have a half dozen solar lights that provide accent in our front and back yards. They look pretty. And I'm comfortable having them because 1) they were a gift, and 2) the run for free.

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 5 years ago

      On our holiday this year we saw really neat mushroom outdoor lights, which were solar powered. They were so cute!

    • Spiderlily321 profile image

      Spiderlily321 5 years ago

      I love outdoor lighting. My mom has a few dragonfly solar lights that I really like. Lights look great along a path or in a garden too. Thanks for sharing this.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Beautiful selections - thanks for sharing!

    • SoniaCarew profile image

      SoniaCarew 5 years ago

      Lovely, I like!

    • MermaidDoc profile image

      MermaidDoc 5 years ago

      Solar lighting is a great option for the garden. I love not having to deal with powercords!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Great explanation of the uses for solar lighting as well as the personal testimonial as to what works for you. Thanks for the information and the recommendation!

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 5 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      You've made some excellent points on solar lighting. I love the convenience of these lights.

    • randomthings lm profile image

      randomthings lm 5 years ago

      Nice lens. Good idea to take time to have people reflect on how to choose the correct lighting. Thanks!