Important Questions on Solar Outdoor Lights

In the last 20 years, solar lighting technology has come a long way.

Solar lights have “levelled up”  from pretty garden feature to a serious option for outdoor lighting. Modern solar lights are all you really need to illuminate the dark spots in your backyard, outdoor entertaining area and to cook a snag on your barbie.

Solar lights can now emit some serious lumens and that’s great because it’s a lot easier to install a solar light than it is to get an electrician in, to wire power around your backyard. Not to mention, solar lights are environmentally conscious, don’t cost anything to run and they are affordable to purchase.

Convinced yet? You soon will be. In this article, I’ll answer 7 burning questions you have about solar lights.

How Long Should a Solar Light Last?

Solar lights run on batteries. You’ll understand why that’s important soon.
The small but efficient panel on top of the solar light charges the battery during the daytime and then throughout the night, the light will draw its power from the battery.
Do you get it? Because here comes the conceptual leap.
Solar lights basically last forever, what doesn’t is the batteries inside them. Batteries don’t work as well after a number of charge-discharge cycles, and within 3 – 5 years, you’ll likely start to notice the light is dimmer than it once was. I’m sure you already knew all that. What you might not know is that the LED bulbs last for 20+ years, and if they die you can always replace them.  Finally, the solar panel on top will gradually lose its efficiency over the course 15 – 20 years. After 15 years it might only be 80% as efficient as it was when you first bought it.

That’s pretty good! What’s even better is that battery, light and solar technologies are all improving exponentially. So the next time you swap your batteries, in 5 years time, you might get a new battery that can last 10 – 30 years. Remember to dispose of your batteries ethically. We really don’t need those chemicals in a landfill.

Solar LED Batten Lights
Solar LED Light with a Panel

Do solar lights stay lit all night?

It depends. Security solar lights do because they tend to have larger batteries, but the kind of solar lights you’ll get to light up a garden path will typically stay lit for about 8 hours. In winter the nights are 12 hours long, so if you pass out on your outdoor furniture and wake up at 3 am and desperately need a wee, you might have to trust the moonlight to get you back inside.

If light at 3 am is important to you, you can get solar lights with bigger batteries that cost a little more and stay lit for longer.

Like anything that uses electricity, we know how many watts the light draw, and we know how many amps of electricity are stored in the battery, so we can calculate exactly how long the solar light will last with some basic maths.

Will Artificial Lighting Affect My Solar Lights?

Yes, artificial lighting can trick your solar lights into thinking it’s still day time and this can prevent the solar light from turning on.

If you’re putting solar lights in an area that’s bright enough that this is a problem…um, what are you doing?

Another way that artificial lighting can affect your solar lights is they can reduce the lifespan of your light’s battery.

If it’s too light, and that stops the light from switching on and draining the battery overnight, then you’re batteries are holding near 100% charge for longer than they probably should.

Batteries that are continually charged to near 100% or 0% don’t last as long as batteries that keep between 20% – 50% charge.

How Bright Are Solar Lights?

It depends:
The average solar garden light delivers approximately the same amount of light as a 40 watt light bulb. They have a lumen level of between 1 to 30. Don’t get confused by lumens just remember the higher the number the brighter the bulb.

If you’ve antiquated views that solar lights aren’t powerful, it’s time to update your preconceptions. Modern solar security light and floodlights range from 400 Lumens to 5000 Lumens. That’s as bright or brighter as halogen spotlights or CFL tubes.

If for whatever reason you need a brighter light than that There are even bigger lights that are getting popular for commercial and public lighting such as car parks, public parks, bike paths sidewalks and really anywhere that people need to see at night time.

You can continue to add more solar lights until you reach your desired lumens and you don’t mind doing that because additional lights aren’t going to add to your electricity bill.

Will Solar Lights Work on Cloudy and Rainy Days

They will.
The battery might run out at 2:00 am as opposed to 5:00 a.m…but it’s normally not a problem. A surprising amount of solar energy can pierce the cloud cover and solar panels can use direct or indirect sunlight to generate power.

The rain has actually been known to help both the lights and panels operate more efficiently by washing away any dust or dirt that’s built up on top of the panels.

Are solar lights water-resistant or waterproof?

Solar lights are designed and built to be used outdoors.
They aren’t going to be damaged in rain, however, there’s a big difference between water resistance and waterproofing.
Don’t throw your solar lights in the pool and if you’re using them in an area prone to flooding, you may want to pull them out of the ground if say a tropical cyclone is on the way.
I left solar lights in the ground for the Brisbane floods of 2011. My house was the lowest in the street, and we had water halfway up the staircase for days.
I don’t know if it was a fluke, or what, but when the water finally receded they still worked. More recently they survived a hailstorm.

Can Solar Lights be Used as Security Lights?

Yes, solar lights are a fantastic option for security for a number of reasons. You don’t need to remember to turn them on. They’ll flick on automatically at dusk and turn off in the morning, or you can get motion sensor solar lights. Great for security and for unlocking your door at night.

Modern solar lights are bright. As batteries get more efficient, we can build units with more LEDs, and they can stay lit all night without raising your electricity bill or increasing the size of your carbon footprint. They aren’t affected in a power outage or if some swine opens your meter box and cuts your power.
The best thing about using solar lights for security is that they are convenient and affordable. You can get more lights in more places to deter evildoers without paying a fortune for an electrition to wire it all up.