The most popular way to illuminate outdoor areas these days is through the use of solar garden lights. Aside from being economical, these lighting solutions are also environmentally friendly because they do not rely on your household’s electrical circuit.
They are powered totally by the sun, so you do not have to spend a cent on lighting them. However, they are not the cheapest lighting solutions available, which is why many people are kind of on the fence when it comes to purchasing them for their homes.
The key here is to figure out how long do solar lights last so you will know whether the lighting solutions are worth the investment. The good news is that these lights pay for themselves in electricity savings in the long run. They also do last a long time, especially when you take good care of them.
The Lifespan Of Each Component
How long solar lights last will depend on their separate components. Note that not all parts of the lighting fixtures last as long as the others. Keep this fact in mind when shopping around for solar outdoor lights.
The first thing that conks out in solar garden lighting fixtures is the battery. Solar lights use rechargeable NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) batteries and they are rated to run for at least a thousand recharge-discharge cycles. Essentially, you can expect the batteries to last at least a thousand nights consecutively.
Even though the batteries are the first to give up, they are easy to replace. You just need to find the battery pack, turn off the light, and replace the batteries with fresh, brand new ones.
Also, although the batteries are the first to go in solar garden lights, it is fortunate that they are cheap and easy to replace. You do not even need to open up the entire back panel of the lights. The battery compartment is usually just located at the back of the product.
When it is already time to replace the batteries, choose the ones that have larger charge capacities. These might be a bit more expensive but they are more than worth their price. The LED lamps that solar outdoor lights use have incredibly long lifespans.
Unlike incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs that only last a couple of years at the most, LED lights can last anywhere from 20 to 25 years. However, unlike the batteries, if the LED lamps malfunction or get broken due to other means other than age and deterioration, you cannot replace them.
It takes a lot of effort to make a LED light burn out or get damaged. First of all, the lights are housed in a completely waterproof housing, so they will not get damaged by the rain. Also, unlike incandescent and fluorescent lamps, LED lights do not produce a lot of heat so they do not deteriorate or burn out like other lamp types.
Even physically hitting the LED lamp against something hard will not make them break apart. The solar panels that are on the lights themselves also last a very long time. Some panels are rated to drop in efficiency after around twenty-five years or so.
However, the “drop” would not be that much, maybe a 4%-5% decrease in efficiency, which still makes them quite useful.
How to Make Your Solar Outdoor Lights Last Longer?
Outdoor solar lights can last for many years but that is with proper care and maintenance. If left to their own devices, in the mercy of Mother Nature, they might not last quite as long as the manufacturer claims.
You need to give your solar outdoor lights a bit of care and maintenance to make them last for as long as you need them to. Here are some simple tips on how you can extend the lifespan of your solar outdoor lights:
Replace the batteries when they start to falter
If the batteries can no longer power the lights for at least eight hours every night then they might not have enough life in them left. You need to replace them right away if you want your lights to function properly for many more years to come.
Most rechargeable batteries available these days are rated to be efficient for 1,000 recharge-discharge cycles, which means they can last for more than two-and-a-half years before they start to deteriorate.
You need to replace them right away when you notice them start to lose their charge capacity. It is because they might start to erode and leak battery acid inside the lights, causing irreparable damage.
Place them where they can get at least six hours of sun every day
To make sure that all the batteries are fully charged come nighttime, the solar panels need to be constantly under the sun. If the batteries are always completely drained every night, they will be in too much stress, which will shorten their lifespan.
Do not worry about overcharging. The solar outdoor lights have an automatic charging shutoff when the batteries are already full.
Clean the solar panels occasionally
When the solar panels get covered by a thick layer of dust, not enough light from the sun will reach the photovoltaic sensors in the panels. This means that the solar panels will not be able to efficiently charge the batteries, thus they might not power the lights all through the night.
You need to give your lights a bit of cleaning whenever you can. For instance, if you are watering your plants, you should point the garden hose on the solar panels to wash away any loose dirt and dust that have settled on top of the panels.
Every six months or so, you should give the panels a good cleaning. You just need a bucket of soapy water and a soft sponge. Give each solar panel a good scrub to remove as much of the dirt and grime as you can then rinse them off using the water from your garden hose.
Remember to not use any strong detergents. There should be no bleach. Avoid using abrasive scouring pads to clean the panels, too as these will just scuff up the panels and make them lose efficiency.
Do not place the solar lights where artificial lights hit them
You need to place the lights in areas that are not illuminated by your house lights or the light coming from the streetlamps. They need to detect that it is dark outside for them to turn on the lights. Place them in the dark areas in your garden so they can highlight the boundaries of your garden much better.
Place the lights around the perimeter of your yard
Instead of placing the lights in your flower patches, place them around the perimeter of your yard so that they will not get covered by the leaves of your plants or with dust and dirt from the planters. This will not only highlight your yard much better but will also mean less cleaning for you.
Store the lights indoors during the winter
Although solar outdoor lights are meant to be weatherproof, note that they should not be left outside in the freezing cold. This is especially true if you live in an area where the mercury drops to below zero during the wintertime because the cold will make the components of the solar lights brittle and weak.
Also, the cold weather will cause moisture to condense inside the case of the solar lights, causing the electric circuitry to short out. Before the weather gets too cold outside, you need to take your solar lights out of their installations and clean them up the best that you can.
Store them indoors where the temperature will not reach below freezing, like in your garage. Before you put them away, remove the batteries, wrap the lights in some used newspapers then put them inside a large plastic bag. Doing this will keep the lights high and dry.
Turn off the lights during bad weather
Turn the lights off when the weather forecast says that there will be days of rain or overcast skies. You should do this when you know that the solar panels will not be getting enough sun to fully charge the batteries.
Running the solar lights constantly until the batteries are completely drained will put too much stress on the batteries and might cause them to not last as long as expected. You should also bring them in when there is a particularly strong torrential storm on the horizon.
The strong winds can blow around all kinds of dirt and debris and if any of them hit the solar panels of the outdoor lights then they will be seriously damaged and may not work properly again.
Solar lights can last for many years but that is if you take good care of them. It is a good thing that they are relatively low-maintenance compared to other kinds of outdoor lighting. Yes, you will indeed need quite a bit of initial capital to buy enough solar outdoor lights to completely bask your yard in a soft glow.
However, if you think about it, they will pay for themselves in electricity savings after a while. Just make sure that you are aware of how long do solar lights last, especially the ones you are planning to buy. Also, note that if you provide them with proper care and maintenance, they will last far longer than expected.