Solar-powered lights are the most cost-effective solution for outdoor lighting. Small solar panels are relatively cheap and inexpensive to buy. All you need to do is place them in a sunny spot for them to catch the sun’s rays. Then when dusk comes, the rechargeable batteries power LED lights to illuminate your yard, home, or garden features.
Outdoor solar panel lighting is virtually maintenance-free. However, to get the best out of your solar lights, there are a few essential care tips you need to know. Wiping the solar panel allows it to charge the battery efficiently. This simple care advice is one of the most important ways to ensure your solar lights shine brightly year after year.
Maybe you have solar hanging lanterns, string solar LED lights, or solar-powered motion lights and want to know how to care for them properly. Or, you may be thinking about installing solar-powered outdoor lighting and want the best advice. This article answers the most common questions about caring for outdoor solar-powered lights.
The way solar garden lights work
Solar-powered garden lights have a solar cell panel, rechargeable battery, and LED lights. During the day, the panel absorbs the sun’s energy and charges the battery. When the light fades, the photo resistor activates the battery which powers the LED lighting.
The importance of cleaning the solar panels
It’s vital to keep solar panels clean to maintain their efficiency. The charging capacity of the lighting unit depends on getting plenty of sunlight. So, anything covering the panel—dirt, debris, bird poop—will reduce its ability to charge batteries effectively.
What to use to clean the solar panels
Any type of glass-cleaning liquids is suitable to wipe solar panels clean. You can make a homemade spray by combining a one-quarter cup of vinegar, half a teaspoon of dish soap, and two cups of water in a spray bottle. Spray on the solar panel and use a soft cloth or paper towel to clean grime off the solar cells.
If you don’t want to make your own solar panel cleaning solution, you can buy a commercial glass cleaner. For example, Windex is perfect for cleaning solar panels. If some dirt is difficult to wipe off, spray the Windex on the charging panel and leave it for 15 minutes. Then, wipe with a clean cloth.
The best time of day to clean the panels
The optimal time to clean solar lighting panels is in the morning or evening. The hot sun’s rays can quickly evaporate any cleaning liquid on the panel. This can end up leaving smears, which will affect the charging efficiency.
How often do I need to clean the solar panel?
It’s best to clean solar panels as often as you need to, so they are always clean. Thus, several factors determine how frequently you need to wipe panels clean. Solar panels that are at ground level tend to get dirty very quickly. So, these garden lights need cleaning more often than those mounted on walls or fences.
Do I need to turn the solar panel off?
Generally, most solar-powered outdoor lights have an on/off switch. However, you don’t need to switch solar panels off. They charge up during the day and then switch on automatically at dusk. There is usually enough power in the batteries to shine for up to eight hours. The LED lights automatically switch off when it becomes dawn.
How to clean solar panel on garden lights when the panel is cloudy
It would be best if you cleaned cloudy solar panels with soapy water. After cleaning the panel, use a clean damp cloth to remove soapy residue. Then, thoroughly dry the panel. To protect the panel from clouding up again, spray a thin layer of lacquer or apply clear nail polish on the solar panel. This protective layer restores shine to the solar panel to improve its effectiveness.
Is it safe to use regular batteries in solar powered garden lights?
It is not advisable to put regular batteries in solar lights as they can damage the unit—corrosion is a common issue. Solar panels or outdoor lighting require NiMH or NiCd rechargeable batteries to work efficiently. So, although regular batteries can power garden lights, they will only last for a short time and can cause irreparable damage.
What to do when your garden solar lights stop working
The most common reason why solar lights for gardens stop working is due to battery failure. Over time, rechargeable batteries stop holding a good charge. To test if the batteries are at fault, see if the lights turn on using regular batteries. You may need to cover the panel with your hand to simulate darkness for the lights to come on.
There are several other reasons why solar lights may stop working. Make sure the panel is clean. Also, check that the panel isn’t in the shade for most of the day. Some homeowners don’t realize that growing trees or shrubs may start casting shadows over the panel. Or, the angle of the sun during winter and cloudy days can make it difficult for solar panels to charge efficiently.
If they still don’t work, you may need to contact the manufacturer if they are still under guarantee.
Will solar lights work if the day is cloudy or raining?
Good quality garden solar-powered lights will still work even if the day was cloudy, overcast, or raining. However, they may not shine for very long. So, rather than shining for six to eight hours, they may only last an hour or so. Ideally, solar garden lights need a few hours a day of bright, direct sunlight to recharge batteries fully.
Do solar lights require direct sunlight?
Direct sunlight is ideal to completely charge solar lights and keep them shining for a long time. The sun’s rays shining right on the solar panel means that your LED garden lights will work at their best. However, solar garden lights will still charge on cloudy days, only not as well as on sunny days.
Do garden solar powered Lights become less efficient over time?
In time, the batteries in solar lights may start losing their charge quicker. So, you may notice that, after some time, they stop shining as long as they used to. Also, a government website says that poor battery charging can reduce the life of batteries. The best solution is to replace the batteries with high-quality NiMH rechargeable batteries.
Where to use your solar garden lights
There are multiple ways you can use solar lights in your yard. For example, small LED solar lights on stakes can illuminate paths or driveways. Or, you can install bright garden lights on walls, over doors, or along fences to improve security. Some types of solar landscape lighting can create ambient light, or you could have LED spotlights to highlight features of your garden. Of course, solar LED garden lighting is ideal around holiday times—for example, Christmas solar lights bring some festive joy.
Are solar lights cost-efficient?
Garden solar lights cost nothing to operate. After you buy solar lights, you have no additional costs to illuminate your garden. You get solar power free of charge, and you can enjoy no-cost garden lighting. In the long-term, installing solar lighting around your property can save you a ton of money. And, you soon recoup the initial cost of buying high-quality solar panels when you save on energy bills.