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Using Outdoor Solar Lights at Your Home

Updated on September 20, 2014

In this day and age when we as a population are so concerned about living green lives and conserving energy, it's important to talk about solar lighting. Solar powered lights are really underutilized in our lives today. Occasionally you might see a row of solar lights that are outlining your neighbor's driveway. There are plenty of applications for using solar lights but for some reason people haven't embraced them. Outdoor solar lights can be used in many applications. You are really limited only by your imagination. Let me revise that statement. You are really only limited by your imagination and the products that are on the market. As outdoor solar lighting becomes more popular, we as consumers will have access to many more products that utilize the power of the sun.

What gives with a solar panel?

A solar panel is is more accurately called a photovoltaic module. A photovoltaic module is actually an array of several photovoltaic cells that are wired together. Although "photovoltaic module" is the more accurate way to describe these devices, they are more commonly called "solar panels".

Each photovoltaic cell is capable of capturing energy from the sun and converting it into DC electricity. Each cell is limited in its capacity to convert the sun's rays into electricity and that is why several are wired together. If you need 12 volts of electrical power, the photovoltaic cells are wired together in such a way that this sum of the electricity produced by each cell equals 12 volts.

These photovoltaic cells are usually sandwiched between a piece of glass to protect the front and a backing such as plastic on the back of the panel.

So, simply put a solar panel is a device that when exposed to direct sunlight, it converts the sun's ultraviolet radiation into electricity that we can use any way we see fit.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

How do solar lights store electricity?

Let's say you would like to line your garden with solar lighting.  Solar garden lights happen to be one of the few products that are currently available to the general consumers.  When solar garden lights first came onto the market, they were simply ugly black fixtures with a small solar panel built into the top of the light fixture.   As the world becomes more and more aware of the importance of conserving energy, manufacturers are building solar lights to be much more pleasing to the eye and more efficient.

One might ask, if solar panels convert energy from the sun to the energy that we can use for lighting, how is it that they work at night when the sun is down?  The answer to this question is very simple.  Each solar powered light has a small rechargeable battery pack installed in it.  In between the rechargeable battery pack and the solar panel is a simple circuit call the "charge controller".  This charge controller opens a switch between the solar panel and the batteries to allow the batteries to charge when the solar panel is exposed to sunlight.  When the battery pack is charged, the charge controller closes the switch and no more electricity is allowed into the battery.  The charge controller is a very important aspect of the solar light.  Without it, the battery pack or would become overcharged and destroyed in no time at all. 

At night, when the sun goes down there is a photovoltaic sensor that tells the light to turn on.  In the morning, when the sun comes up, the photovoltaic sensor recognizes the presence of sun, turns the light off and begins the charging process.

Battery technology has been a limiting factor in the effectiveness of solar powered lighting.  As battery technology continues to improve, solar lights will become more and more popular since they will put off more light and last longer.

Solar Driveway Lights

One very popular application of solar lighting are solar driveway light kits.  These solar lights simply press into the ground at the spacing you choose to outline your driveway.  They are very handy.  They don't put out too much light.  Just enough to accent the edge of the driveway so you don't accidentally drive on your grass while bullied into your driveway.

Solar Powered Motion Lights

Motion detection lights are very popular in homes today.  Not only for the purpose of security but for the convenience of being able to get out of your car, walk up to the door, and have the lights turn on automatically for you.  Nowadays, you can purchase solar powered motion detection lights that are very stylish.  As I mentioned before, the choices that consumers have when it comes to purchasing solar powered lights are becoming greater and greater.

Solar Lights Summary

In summary, I would like to say that when choosing lighting for your outdoor living environment, you should consider solar lights.  There are so many styles and varieties to choose from and the assortment increases daily.  I see a day coming when all of our outdoor lights will be powered by the sun.  After all, it doesn't make a lot of sense to be spending money on electricity when we can get solar lighting for free.

Do you have any solar lights installed in your home?

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    • marler13 profile image

      marler13 8 years ago

      Like the post

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      nathan 8 years ago

      Dig It