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Tips for Installing Solar Lights

By Katie Sartoris, Lawn Love
Photographs courtesy of Lawn Love

Need a little light in your yard? Consider outdoor solar lights. They’re very much in style, and for good reason. Solar-powered lights are inexpensive, wire-free, and good looking, easy to install and they won’t drive up your electric bill. In this article, we’ll tell you how to install them.

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Photograph, Timo Newton-Syms | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Why Solar Lights Are Popular

Solar lights are popular for a variety of reasons.

First, they’re inexpensive. Depending on where you buy them, a six-pack of solar lights can be as low as $15 a box on Amazon and other retailers.

Then comes the savings on your electric bill. Because solar lights are powered by the sun’s energy, there’s no draw on your energy bill. And even still, because solar power fixtures use LED bulbs, the energy drawn from the battery is minimal.

Solar lights are also super easy to install and simple to maintain, even if you aren’t into DIY landscaping. Because there are no wires, you can put them almost anywhere, as long as they get sun.

Plus, there are many different options when considering solar lights, and they come in all sorts of styles. You’ve got staked solar lights, mounted solar lights, solar string lights, and even submersible solar lights.

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Photograph, Timo Newton-Syms | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Where To Install Solar Lights

Solar lights can be incorporated into your yard in many different ways, but they all need one thing: direct sunlight.

Maybe the most common way solar lights are used is along a walkway, illuminating a path. Experts suggest staggering the spacing between the lights so they brighten different parts of the path. Solar pathway lights should be between 100 and 200 lumens.

Do you have some flowers you’d like to show off after the sun goes down? Or an ornamental tree? Use solar lights as landscape lighting. Consider placing solar lights in or near a flower bed, or illuminating trees or shrubbery in your landscaping. For landscape lights, you should find a solar light that will produce between 50 and 300 lumens.

Submersible solar lights can illuminate the moving water in a water feature. For pond or pool lights, you’ll want something that emits between 200 and 400 lumens.

Solar-powered light fixtures mounted on your home, garage or along steps can help keep areas safe in the dark. These types of lights should give off between 50 and 185 lumens.

Motion sensor spotlights, which should emit between 300 and 700 lumens, can also add an extra layer of security to your property.

And solar string lights can add a cool, romantic touch to your outdoor space.

Before You Install Solar Lights 

So you’ve got your solar lights. Now what? Before you install them, there are a few things you need to do.

With any solar light, you’ll need to charge them first. Because they’re powered by the sun, just find a sunny spot. It usually takes about eight hours for solar lights to get to a full charge. But this may depend on the type of light — be sure to reference the product’s directions.

If you’re using staked solar lights, make sure the ground is soft before you place them. You can soften the earth by watering it.

And don’t forget the batteries. Solar lights are powered by rechargeable batteries. 

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Eli Duke | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Cleaning And Maintaining Solar Lights

It’s really simple to maintain your solar lights. And while the lifespan of these light sources are between two and three years, regular cleaning and maintenance can extend their working life.

Some soapy water and a cloth will clean the solar panels, globes and fixtures right up if they aren’t too dirty. For mud or other stubborn debris, you may need to use a soft-bristled brush.

Another tip: Clean your solar lights early or late in the day, so they’re not too hot to handle.

When you’re cleaning your lights, check the globes and fixtures for damage. You may be able to replace a cracked globe or dented metal component, but you may just have to replace them.

Also, check the batteries for corrosion. If you notice that your lights aren’t functioning properly, you may need to dismantle your lights to access the battery housing. The presence of white dust indicates corrosion, but it’s not always a death sentence. Many times, minor corrosion dust can be removed with a soft-bristled brush. To remove more stubborn corrosion, you may need sandpaper. But if the batteries are too corroded to be cleaned, it’s time to replace the solar lights.

Check the wiring while you’re at it. While wires don’t power your solar lights, there are wires in your solar lights that could be chewed by wildlife or even pets.

Experts also suggest regularly pruning nearby shrubs and trees to ensure the lights have enough sun to do their jobs.

Katie Sartoris is a Florida-based journalist with a decade of experience in the industry. She also teaches exercise classes and hosts a local television show. In her free time, she picks for antiques, enjoys fancy cocktails and works on restoring her midcentury home.

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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