How Does Solar Landscape Lighting Work?
Solar outdoor lights are powered using energy from the sun. They are equipped with small, individual solar panels that absorb sunlight during the day, convert it into energy based on the “photovoltaic” effect, and finally store it in battery cells.
During the night, the best solar lights are automatically turned on based on the fact that the solar panels attached to them no longer detect natural light. Given a decent battery and sufficient exposure, these modules remain powered until dawn. While bright solar outdoor lights could theoretically be built with any type of bulb, the most commonly used are LEDs due to their efficiency in terms of energy consumption.
Each outdoor solar light comes equipped with a rechargeable battery that is usually depleted overnight. At dawn, once the solar panel is able to detect sunlight again, a new charging cycle begins. Overall, nothing is added to your electricity bill. No harm is done to the environment.
Why Use Outdoor Solar Lights in Landscaping?
Landscape lighting is not new. It was practiced using traditional battery- or electricity-powered light sources long before the optimization of solar landscape lights. Why go solar now? Here are a few good reasons to consider.
Solar landscape lights are cost-efficient
You’ll need a decent number of light sources in order to design a fetching façade for your home or set the right mood in your backyard. Put together, all these lights can stack up to a hefty electricity bill. Not so with the best outdoor solar lights. Sure, the initial investment will be a smidge more costly, but this will be paid off in lower electricity bills in the long run. Also consider that the price of solar landscape lighting is not what it used to be ten years ago. Today, most options are ever-more affordable.
Solar outdoor lighting is more versatile
Picture this. You have the perfect layout for lighting your outdoor space. You know just how to draw attention to the right masonry features, which trees to hang the lights in, and which flowerbeds to emphasize. Then you realize that for every light you want to install, you have to dig trenches in order to route electricity cables. Suddenly, once all the wires are in the picture, the plan doesn’t seem as appealing. You’ll encounter no such problems with solar landscape lights. Most are wireless and easily adjusted, while some can even be installed at a certain distance from their solar panels. Place solar landscape lights to your heart’s content and once you’re bored with one design, easily move things around for a new look.
Solar lights are safer
It’s a good idea to keep your property well-lighted during nighttime, not only to deter potential prowlers, but also to avoid trips and falls. With no cables to route throughout the garden, moreover, solar powered outdoor lights are much safer in case of a fire. Unlike traditional light sources, they’ll also work during a power outage, which is even more of a plus.
Outdoor Solar lights are environmentally sound
This is perhaps the main reason why you should switch to solar outdoor lights. Of course, in order to reduce the negative impact your household has on the environment, several other changes are required, but this is a small and facile step in the right direction. Once you become accustomed to solar lighting in the garden, you might even consider a switch for the rest of your home. Put together, more people doing the same thing actually stand a chance to make a significant difference for the future of the planet.
Solar Outdoor Lights: Types and Uses
Taking a peek at the best solar lights currently on the market, you’ll quickly notice that there’s a variety of options to choose from. Similarly to its traditional counterpart, solar landscape lighting can be used towards different effects. If you’re going to decorate your outdoor space on your own, then you’ll likely need to know which lights go where and for what reason.
Outdoor Solar lights for accents
Some of the best rated solar lights can appear to be quite dim when compared to other options, but that’s not necessarily a deficiency. In fact, for purposes such as emphasizing small landscape features like flower beds, accent and garden solar lights are most appropriate. These are not as bright, they are usually placed in the ground at a decent elevation, and they are often designed to be aesthetically pleasing. Most of them use warm light tones, rather than bright white for softer effects. String lights can also be used for similar purposes when beautifying a patio, and some varieties are powered by solar energy.
Solar path lights
Path lights are somewhere in the middle in terms of brightness. You don’t want them to be too strong, but they must be bright enough to illuminate a path for safe crossing. Like garden lights, they, too, are usually installed into the ground. For optimal aesthetic effects, they are distributed no closer than 20 feet apart. You want each light to guide your sight from one point in the path to another, rather than provide continuous illumination.
Solar spotlights and motion-sensors
Solar spotlights are very bright solar lights used to light the main pathway through a front yard, the main door, any windows vulnerable to break-ins, garages, or porches and decks. Their purpose is not so much aesthetic as it is to enhance the security of a property. Used appropriately, they can deter potential prowlers, as well as help the household inhabitants avoid unwanted falls. Motion-sensors are sometimes incorporated in some of the best solar lights so as to add an extra layer of security.
What are Lumens and How Many Is Enough?
Many people are used to measuring light sources in watts, but the preferred unit of measurement for LED lights is lumens. The difference is not a major one. While watts measure the energy necessary to power a bulb, lumens measure the intensity of the light generated by the latter. For an average LED light bulb, 100 lumens is approximately equal to 20 watts.
What kind of output should you look for in landscape lighting, then? To highlight important signs or shrubs (especially if the light source is underneath the shrubbery), you’ll need between 100 and 300 lumens, depending on the height of the sign or the density of the plant’s foliage. For a garden light to achieve its dramatic effect, it needs no more than a few lumens, and should not shine brighter than 50 lumens.
To light your walkway, look for units averaging 100 lumens. For a lamppost, make sure your light source is able to output above of 150 lumens. Finally, if you want to light a flag during nighttime using a solar spotlight placed on the ground, look for upwards of 100 lumens and well into 400 lumens, depending on how high the flag is positioned.
Does Solar Landscape Lighting Still Work on a Cloudy Day?
It’s something of a myth that solar outdoor lights will cease to work during a cloudy day or during winter. This is not the case. A solar panel does not require direct sunlight in order to absorb energy, but rather any sunlight at all, even dispersed through clouds. For this reason, a solar light will continue to turn on at night even if the weather was poor during the day.
This is not to say, however, that the amount of direct sunlight does not influence a solar light. The more a panel is exposed to direct sunlight, the longer the LED will stay on during the night. When clouds are up in the sky and particularly during the winter, when days are shorter and nights are longer, a solar light will work at 30% to 50% of its maximum potential. As such, you might notice that the light is dimmer or that it turns off quicker. This is to be expected.
It’s also a matter of components, however, whether a light is more or less affected by the elements. The best solar lights are built with durable panels, batteries, and LEDs and are less likely to falter due to bad weather. Many are proofed against extreme heat, rain, and snow, which increases their overall efficiency.
What are the Best Solar Lights for Your Outdoor Space?
Committed to solar landscape lighting? We’ve put together a list of solar lighting reviews to help you decide which are the best solar garden lights, spotlights, and pathway lights on the market. To optimize your purchase, however, you’ll have to consider a few factors that have to do uniquely with your outdoor space and lighting needs.
These include your budget, the space you’re looking to decorate, but also the landscaping features you’d like to highlight. Remember that different types of outdoor solar lights fulfill different purposes. To obtain an aesthetically pleasing effect, it might be a good idea to consult a few tips on professional landscape lighting.
Using this information, calculate how many lights will be necessary to cover the entire space and how many of them you’ll actually use for the purpose of clear illumination as opposed to décor. You don’t want to end up purchasing a dim garden light for your flag or a spotlight for a few succulents.
Finally, make sure the light you buy has the appropriate hue for your purposes. Most people are appalled by the white light of an LED because they expect a warm white hue similar to that emitted by incandescent bulbs. Many top rated solar lights come in a number of varieties and hues, however, so long as you know what to look for.