You may have recently moved to a new house and decided to add some twinkle to your garden, back yard, lawn or patio. Or maybe it is a place where you have spent all your life and now you’d like to do a few subtle or dramatic changes with outdoor lighting. It could be that you just want to add a bit of creative touch to your apartment balcony where you catch a breath of fresh air after a long day. Your neighbors across the yard have some nice string lights on their balcony and you are starting to think about doing something similar.
Where do you start?
It can be a challenging and at the same time a fun process when looking into creating outdoor lighting for your home, yard or garden. The fun part of the process is that you are in control of creating a unique outdoor environment, inspired by your own imagination. You can create a comforting, welcoming mood with unique and eye-catching outdoor lighting.
However two challenges come to mind – finding a good bargain on the lights themselves, and the cost of hiring a licensed electrician to do the installation.
This is where solar powered outdoor lights step in. Solar lighting has become an increasingly popular alternative to the conventional and costly electric lights that currently illuminate our homes and living spaces.
Solar lights are affordably priced, simple and safe to install yourself (no digging ditches, laying the wire and attaching it to a junction box), and solar lights can be relocated easily, and above all else, you also save on electricity costs.
Solar lights use photovoltaic cells that absorb sunlight during the day and turn it into energy. Rechargeable batteries store the energy, making it available at night when it is needed. LED (light emitting diode) bulbs, which require little power and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, provide the illumination. There is no wiring necessary to connect the lights to each other or to the electric grid.
Until recently, most solar lights emitted only muted light and were not all that reliable. With the latest developments in the solar lighting industry, this has changed and super-bright LEDs have replaced more conventional filament bulbs.
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) create light without producing the waste heat of regular bulbs, are very bright, and yet require a minimal amount of electricity to function. The result is a reliable, long-lasting light source that will typically work for the life of the solar light product.
Other progress in solar lighting technology has been made in the development of more efficient, affordably-priced photovoltaic cells, improved circuitry, and more efficient batteries.
When shopping for solar lights, it’s important to match the light to the function you want it to perform. Consider these three primary categories of solar lights for use in the landscape: decorative accent lights, path lights and spotlights.
Decorative Solar Accent Lights.
Solar accent lights create an enjoyable and inviting glow for your landscape. They are designed to mark a place. Solar accent lights can be used to mark landscape hazards, such as a step or a rock that could be a hazard in the dark. They also can be used as garden features themselves, such as decorative solar figurines.
This type of solar light is not used to intensely illuminate an object or light up a pathway. But they would be a good choice to softly illuminate shrubbery and low hedges. Due to their low light output, accent lights usually stay lit longer than other types of solar lights. A quality accent solar light can run many nights on just a single day of sunlight charge.
Accent solar lights typically use efficient multi-crystalline solar cells that allow them to charge even on a cloudy day or in partially shaded areas.
Some accent lights utilize amber LEDs to create a softer ambience. Some of them can change colors, blink or flicker to simulate candle light.
Compared to the other types of solar lights, accent lights have the lowest light output and are among the most affordably priced.
Path Solar Lights.
Path solar lights are good for lighting paths, walkways, driveway perimeters or other regions around your home and in your landscape. They are often used in multiples to guide the way along a set of stairs or a dark walk.
Path lights usually come with a choice of ground stakes, flange mounts and hanging hooks. This gives the user a wide choice of placing options.
They also have on-off switches, a feature that allows the homeowner to store the electrical charge for a special event and ensure the longest potential run time. Some models may offer options such as high-low power, colored lenses, or timers. Solar path lights are in the mid-range choice in terms of price and light output.
Task Solar Lights (Solar Security Lights, Solar Flood Lights and Solar Spotlights).
These solar lights are the brightest group of solar lights and usually carry the highest price tag. They are designed to direct a bright beam of light on plants, statuary or entryways.
Solar task lights and spotlights are usually designed so they can be mounted in a number of ways and can be adjusted to shine in any direction. Most often, the solar panel can be mounted independently from the light (the two connected by a wire), which allows you to place the panel in a position where it will get the sun, and the light where you need it to shine at night.
What to consider when choosing solar lights for your exterior lighting needs.
Find out whether the battery needs full sunlight to charge. Some lights charge with partial sun and work great under trees or in areas with low sunlight. This type of solar light can also be charged on a cloudy day.
Consider the operating time. Usually solar lights perform year round and even charge the battery to provide operation during long winter nights. Some solar lights shine for several days before needing to recharge.
Check the type of light bulb the solar light uses. LED lights offer the brightest and most efficient light when it comes to efficiency, size, price and energy usage. Some accent solar lights use amber LED lights to create a softer glow.
Compare extra items like timers or an on-off switch to the cost. Colored lenses change the look of the solar lights without compromising the brightness. Some solar lights mount to your house, hang from trees or can be mounted to your patio rail.
Match the lighting to your landscape theme. Decorative solar lights (figurines) can create an interesting theme for a landscape or lawn, or while positioned next to shrubbery trimmed to your taste. Country style solar lanterns will add that special countryside charm to your garden. Hanging Japanese Soji lanterns on your trees or patio will bring an Asian flare to your outdoors. Modern stainless steel solar accent lights complement contemporary landscapes. An ultra bright stainless steel solar light will be a great choice to light up your flag pole.
The possibilities are unlimited!