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Can You Use Regular Batteries in Solar Lights?

Written by Eddie B. Robinson / Checked by Justin Tucker

can you use regular batteries in solar lights

Have you ever wondered if you can use the ordinary alkaline batteries in your office desk drawer to power your solar lights? After all, these batteries look like the ones in your solar lighting system. Knowing the answer to the question “can you use regular batteries in solar lights” helps you optimize your solar lighting.

In general, you can use regular batteries to power your solar lights, but only temporarily. Read on to learn more.


How Does a Solar Light Work

Before we answer the question bugging your mind, I believe we must understand how solar lights work. These lighting fixtures indeed get their energy from the sun, and it is natural for us to assume they only rely on solar power for operation.

Unfortunately, that is only half the story.

When solar panels collect light energy, tiny complex devices inside the solar array convert the solar energy into electrical energy – direct current, to be precise.

Photovoltaic cells cannot store electrical energy. Hence, they push the electrons through wires and the battery, storing electricity for later use.

Looking at this process, we can say that solar light batteries are the necessary energy storage components for your solar light to function at night. Without these, you cannot operate your solar light, regardless of how efficient the solar array is in collecting light energy.

Can You Use Ordinary Alkaline Batteries to Power Your Solar Lights


In theory, you can use ordinary alkaline batteries to power your solar lights. However, you cannot store electrical energy in them.

Alkaline batteries have a finite charge. For example, a 1.5-volt AA-size alkaline battery can have a maximum of 1800 to 2600 mAh, equivalent to about 3.9 watt-hours. Once it finishes using this stored energy, the battery cannot power your light anymore.

Assuming your solar light consumes 1 watt, an ordinary alkaline battery will only keep your fixture lighted for less than four hours.

There are other reasons why you cannot use an ordinary battery to run your solar light.

Why Should I Not Use Ordinary Batteries in My Solar Lights

Using ordinary alkaline batteries to run your solar lights can lead to battery terminal corrosion in your system.

Rust can block the efficient flow of electrons from the solar arrays to the solar batteries and from the batteries to the solar light bulb. Your solar light might not turn on despite having sufficient solar power.

You may think a bit of corrosion is no match for a homemade solution of water and baking soda. However, you run the risk of introducing water into your solar light’s sensitive electronics, damaging your system beyond repair.

Not using the recommended replacement battery for solar light can also void your warranty. If your solar light does not function as efficiently as before using ordinary batteries, you cannot expect the manufacturer to repair or replace your unit.

Even if the alkaline batteries do not lead to battery terminal corrosion, you cannot expect your system to perform optimally. In most cases, you will get an unstable performance, including sudden power drains and flickering lights.

As such, you should always use the recommended batteries for your solar lights if you want to keep your system running smoothly.

However, there are situations when using ordinary batteries may be your only choice.

When Can You Use Regular Batteries in Solar Lights


One situation where you can use an ordinary battery for your solar lights, albeit temporarily, is when you are looking for the correct battery replacement. While solar light batteries are accessible, it may take some time before you can replace the ones in your system.

The waiting period is longer when ordering online than purchasing batteries from your hardware store. Still, you might have to wait several hours if you happen to replace your batteries at night, unless you have a 24-hour convenience store that sells replacement solar batteries in your area.

Another instance when you need an ordinary battery instead of solar batteries is during solar lighting system repairs. It would be wise to remember that solar panels are not impervious to wear and tear. They might need replacement, particularly if damaged.

While waiting for a replacement solar array or completing the repair, you can use ordinary batteries to run your solar light.

You can also use ordinary batteries if your rechargeable batteries suddenly stop working. Unfortunately, many factors can affect battery life. It would be impossible to monitor your battery’s charge status and health level. It can go out without warning.

Having ordinary batteries can still allow you to use your solar light while waiting for a suitable replacement.

The question now is, what type of batteries for solar lights should you get?

What Kind of Battery Will Work on Solar Lights

Only a rechargeable battery will work with a solar lighting system.

Before we talk about the three battery options, let us discuss several criteria for choosing the correct replacement battery for your solar lights.

  • Runtime: The number of hours the battery can run your system before requiring a recharge.
  • Life Cycle: The number of recharge cycles a battery can endure over its lifetime.
  • Volts: The amount of electrical power the battery contains.
  • Amp-Hour Rating: The amount of electricity the battery supplies in one hour.

Given these parameters, we can now examine your three solar battery options.

1. Nickel-Cadmium

This rechargeable battery has longer life cycles and a lower self-discharge level than Nickel Metal Hydride batteries. The only problem is that they are heavy and are prone to memory effect. An excellent example of this solar light battery type is the Tenergy NiCd 1000mAh 1.2V battery pack.

2. Nickel-Metal Hydride

Nickel-metal Hydride batteries, or simply NiMH, have two to three times the capacity of NiCd batteries. They also address NiCd’s weight issue. Some of the problems with NiMH batteries is that they have fewer life cycles, and are prone to performance drops in cold weather.

A good example of a NiMH battery for solar lights is the Tenergy Solla AA 1000mAh.

3. Lithium Iron Phosphate

Many devices today run on Lithium Ion batteries because they address the deficiencies of both NiCd and NiMH dry cells. Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) is a subtype of Li-ion batteries, offering longer runtimes, faster recharging, greater life cycles, and more power in a compact size.

The ULTRALAST UL18500SL LiFePO4 is a 3.2-volt powerhouse, perfect for super-bright, high-output solar lights.


Can you use regular batteries in solar lights? While you should always use rechargeable solar batteries, there are instances when you can use ordinary alkaline batteries. However, you should always get the correct replacement batteries for your solar lights as quickly as possible.

Using the correct batteries not only ensures your solar lighting system functions optimally. It also safeguards it from future problems, such as performance issues and system failures.

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