So you want to know how to clean solar lights. Maybe you’ve had solar lights for a while and they’re starting to look a little dingy. Maybe you’ve noticed that they aren’t working or charging as well as they used to and you think a good cleaning will bring them back the level of functionality they were at when you got them. In any event, you’ve decided that a good cleaning is in order. But how do you do it without harming the lights?
Read on below to find out how best to clean your solar-powered lights and restore them to their original glory. We’ll also tell you a bit about what might happen if you fail to clean your solar technology.
How NOT to Clean Solar Lights
For the sake of everything solar, do not use harsh cleaning products directly on your solar panel or lights. While you may get lucky and find out that the particular chemical you used didn’t react with or negatively affect your solar equipment, you may very well not be so fortunate.
Instead, use a damp cloth with, if you need it, a little bit of mild dish detergent to clean your photovoltaic equipment. If you’re cleaning your equipment relatively frequently, this should be all that’s necessary to keep the solar lights sparkling clean.
Divide and Conquer
Many people, when first learning how to clean solar lights, wipe off the light cover and leave it at that. While it’s better than nothing, cleaning the light cover won’t do anything for your energy recharge rate or internal connections. This is why its best to focus on three main components during your solar light cleaning: the solar panels, the batteries, and the light cover.
We focus on these components for a few reasons. A solar light is, at its core, a mechanism for capturing, storing, and emitting light energy. By focusing on the light cover, batteries, and solar panel we focus on the three components that accomplish each of these tasks.
By cleaning the solar panel, we ensure that the solar light has access to whatever sunlight is available in the environment. By cleaning the batteries we ensure that the energy is being stored properly. And by cleaning the light cover, we ensure that the light emitted by the bulb can actually be seen by observers.
The Light Cover
This one is the most straightforward. The light cover is supposed to be transparent to let the light shine through. Sometimes it gets dusty, dirty, or grimy, especially if its placed outside. Take a damp cloth and wipe off the dust and grime from your light cover to let the full brilliance of your light shine through.
This one is less obvious. Sometimes the connections between the solar batteries and the device can become dusty or dirty. This impairs the flow of energy between the batteries and the solar light which can cause an impaired recharge rate or even an unreliable connection.
Take that same damp cloth you used to clean the light cover and wipe off the ends of the batteries and the little bits that connect the batteries to the device. Do not use an excessive amount of water (just dampen the cloth a little bit) or any cleaning product. You just want to make sure that the pieces are connecting to each other firmly and cleanly. This should ensure a good connection between the rechargeable batteries and the solar lights. At this point, you may wish to use a solar battery tester to ensure the batteries themselves are still working.
The Solar Panels
Of all of the problems that can affect solar lights, one of the most common is a dirty solar panel. An obstructed solar panel can lead to a loss of efficiency, or even a complete loss of functionality, in the recharging process. Dirt, dust, and even bird droppings can obscure a solar panel’s exposure to bright sunlight, causing a reduction in the uptake of photons by the silicon wafers.
Use a damp cloth to wipe off the solar panels and allow them to access sunlight again. If they were significantly dirty, you’ll notice an immediate improvement in charging efficiency.
The Consequences of Not Cleaning Your Solar Lights
The consequences of failing to clean your solar lights are really two-fold. First, you’ll see an initial and noticeable drop in the efficiency of your lighting system. Because light is not being collected, stored, and emitted efficiently, the light will seem dimmer, will shine less frequently and for less time, and will take longer to charge. The reduction in efficiency will be gradual so you may not notice it immediately.
Eventually, though, the reduction in functionality will become so severe that the solar light will stop working altogether. At some point, the deficiencies become too pronounced for the light to continue functioning at all and the light will stop turning on. (If that happens, click here to learn how to fix solar lights.)
In rare cases, the loss in functionality can be permanent, especially if the area around the batteries and battery connections have become irredeemably dirty or corroded. A solar panel can also become so filthy that it eventually becomes uncleanable. This is common when it has been placed in an area frequented by animals or extreme weather. At that point, the only thing left to be done is to buy a new solar light.
Learning how to clean solar lights can be one of the best investments of time you’ll ever make. Having spent the money to light your home, yard, or garden with these handy devices, you’ll likely want to protect that investment and make sure the solar lights keep working for years to come. The best way to accomplish this is to ensure that you clean the solar lights frequently and whenever they need it. Anytime you notice a drop in efficiency, and hopefully even before you notice such a drop, give the three components mentioned above a quick cleaning. You’ll be glad you did.