The solar energy revolution is in full swing. While most people associate solar energy with large panel systems on homes, there’s a lot more to solar than enormous installations on the roof. Buying small solar-powered lights for the backyard or other outdoor areas makes sense from practical, financial and moral perspectives.
How They Work
Outdoor solar lighting systems are very popular, primarily because they’re simple to use. While individual products can differ, the common approach is to place a small solar panel on each light. During the day, the sun’s rays feed energy to a NiMH battery which is built into a waterproof light case. The battery then powers the device, providing light well into the night since most solar lights retain their charge for 8-10 hours. It is a simple and highly reliable process.
The Arguments for Outdoor Solar Lights
The main reason people choose solar for their outdoor lighting is practical – there are no wires. Most solar outdoor lights are self-contained, unlike traditional and more-complicated methods of lighting a yard or driveway. Need to light a path? Just push solar pathway lights into the dirt next to the path at regular intervals. That’s it. No digging, no wiring, no electricians or contractors. The lights will start charging immediately, and if you install them early enough in the day, you’ll have a well-lit path the same night. And there’s never a safety issue, since there are no power lines which could ever become exposed.
Long Term Costs
The cost of outdoor solar lighting is also very attractive. These lights usually cost less to purchase and operate than their wired cousins, because there is no need for external wiring. That will translate into cost savings on your utility bill. Wired outdoor lighting systems may not be responsible for a huge amount of your monthly electric usage, but they do still use electricity and cost money to run. Solar outdoor lights will save you enough on your utility bill to pay for themselves within four to six months. From that point your bill will be lower for years to come.
Finally, there is the moral aspect of going solar. As the world heats up, the consequences of global warning are becoming clear - with glaciers melting at startling rates and huge "dragon's breath" holes appearing in Siberia. You may not be singlehandedly solving the world’s climate problem by putting solar lights in your backyard. However, every little bit helps. When combined with the practical and financial savings associated with buying solar lighting products, the decision to choose solar over wired becomes a simple one.
There’s an old saying: “There is a correct tool for every task.” Most outdoor solar lights are designed for a specific lighting need, so it’s important to avoid buying pretty-looking solar lighting until you make sure it can satisfy your goal. For example, if you need pathway lighting, you shouldn’t buy individual outdoor solar table-top lights even though might they look great. They just aren’t going to provide enough light for people to safely use the path. If you’re trying to gently accent a specific section of your garden, a powerful security light isn’t really what you’re looking for; you may want a colored spotlight that isn’t as bright. There’s a big choice of solar products online or at any home center, allowing you to buy the right lights for the job.
Once you've settled on a particular “look,” it’s time to consider the type of lighting element that’s inside the device. LED lights are the most popular, and best, choice for most purposes. That’s because they provide six to ten times the illumination of conventional filament elements, making LED outdoor lights the superior choice unless you want to provide a softer “mood” around an outdoor sitting area or spa. When in doubt, go LED.
Outdoor solar lighting is safe, easy to install, requires no maintenance, lowers your utility bill, is good for the environment and usually is less expensive than installing a wired system. For most homeowners, it’s the best way to light a yard, garden, driveway or other outdoor space.