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Why Do Solar Lights Stop Working?

Written by Eddie B. Robinson / Checked by Justin Tucker

Outdoor solar lights are made to be resilient to the ever-changing weather but that does not mean that they are indestructible. If you are lucky enough then not even one of the many outdoor solar lights that you have in your yard will run into any trouble whatsoever. However, no one is that fortunate.

Why Do Solar Lights Stop Working

This is the main reason why you should understand why do solar lights stop working before investing in a set. If you find that one or more of your solar lights have stopped working then you need to find out what caused it so you can decide later how to fix them.

Here are some of the more common reasons why solar lights might have stopped working.


The batteries are dead

One of the most common reasons why solar-powered lamps stop working all of a sudden is a dead battery. Most brands of outdoor solar lights use rechargeable NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) batteries to power up the solar lights and these have a particularly long lifespan.

You can expect their performance to start faltering once they are around two years old. When they get too old and worn, NiMH batteries will find it hard to hold onto a significant amount of electrical charge.

Furthermore, if they get too old and worn, the outer casing might start to erode and cause the battery to leak acid, which will cause a lot of irreparable damage to the electrical components of the solar lights.

They are placed in the wrong area

You need to place solar outdoor lights in an area in your yard that is virtually under the sun the entire day. If the solar panels can get at least six hours of direct sunlight every day, it will be enough to fully charge the batteries of the solar lights.


You might have thought that you place some of the lights in areas that are under the sun for most of the day but then when afternoon comes, the shadows from the trees or your house starts to envelop the solar panels in darkness.

This means that the solar panels are not getting quite enough sunlight to charge the batteries, so they would suddenly turn off during the night.

The solar panels are dirty

The solar panels need to gather as much sunlight as they can so they can fully charge the batteries of the solar lights. However, if they are covered in a layer of dust and dirt, only a fraction of the amount of sunlight gets through to the solar panels.

In worst cases, the dust and dirt layers on the solar panels are so thick that they could not get any sunlight at all. This means that the batteries hardly get charged during the day, so they will not even last one hour when lit at night.

It does not even need to be dust and dirt. Other kinds of debris might have fallen onto the solar panels and have covered them completely. This will often happen when you place your solar lights in an area that is near a tree or a bush.

Some of the leaves from the tree might have fallen and they covered the solar panel, completely blocking them from the rays of the sun.

There is something wrong with the solar panels

Even the best solar light manufacturers will release a couple of defective products into the market, and if you are unlucky, one or two of them might land in your hands.


You might not notice problematic solar panels right away since most solar lights come with batteries that are already fully charged. If the lights have faulty solar panels, they will not recharge the batteries during the day but they will still light up at night since the batteries still have a lot of juice.

The problem happens when the factory charge runs out, causing the lights to not turn on when the night comes. Hopefully, you will notice this problem early while the lights are still under warranty. If they are, you should send them back to the seller and have them send you a new, perfectly functioning one.

There is simply not enough sun in the past couple of days

If the weather in your area has not been sunny in the past couple of days then the solar panels might not have caught enough sunshine to charge their batteries. Also, if you live in an area where it is almost overcast for most parts of the year, like in London, England, then it is probably not a good idea for you to have bought solar outdoor lights.

How to Fix Solar Lights That Don’t Turn On

Now that you know the common possible reasons why solar lights would not turn on at night, you can now think of ways to fix them so they will function properly again.

Change the batteries

If you find that the batteries of the solar lights can no longer hold a significant amount of charge, you should replace them with brand new ones. If it has been more than two years since you bought the solar outdoor lights in your yard, it is best to change all their batteries at once.

When the batteries of one or two of your solar lights have failed then the rest of the lights’ batteries will most likely follow soon. Save yourself from all those extra trips to the hardware store and just buy enough batteries for all of your solar lights at once.

Place the lights in the right area

If the solar panels are in a shaded area, they will not be able to absorb enough solar energy to recharge the batteries. You need to remove them from their current installation and replace them somewhere where they can get at least six hours of direct sunlight. This will ensure that they will be getting enough sun to recharge their batteries completely.

You should also avoid placing the lights where they can be illuminated with artificial light, like when they are placed too near to the house that the light from the porch will make the light sensors “think” that it is still daytime. Place them in an area where no bright lights can reach them.

Aside from that, you can also adjust the light sensitivity of the sensors so that they will not cause the lights to turn off when even a small amount of light shines on them.

Clean the solar panels every once in a while

It is quite easy to clean the solar panels of solar outdoor lights. For instance, you can give them a good dousing whenever you are watering the plants in your garden. Just point the hose in the direction of the solar lights and the pressure from the water will be enough to knock off any loose dirt on the surface of the solar panels.

You should also give your solar lights a proper cleaning at least once a year. This is quite easy to do. You just need a bucket of warm, soapy water (use a mild detergent and do not put in any bleach), and a soft kitchen sponge.

You only need to gently scrub the surface of the miniature solar panels so that you can remove most of the dust and dirt on the surface then rinse them using your garden hose.

Turn off the solar panels when there won’t be sunny weather for a while

If the solar panels will not be able to fully charge the batteries before night comes and the lights need to turn on, this will put a lot of stress on the batteries. Continuously fully discharging batteries will severely shorten their lifespan, causing them to fail much earlier than expected.

To avoid overstressing your batteries, you need to turn off your garden lights whenever the weather forecast tells you that the next couple of days will be overcast at best. Turn them back on when you notice the weather turning, and there is a lot of bright sunshine during the day.

Also, if you live in an area where the temperature drops to below freezing during the winter months, you have to remove your solar lights from the places and store them inside until the weather gets a bit warmer.

The freezing temperature outside and the snow will cause quite a lot of damage not only on the solar panels of your lights but to the entire light itself.


Whenever one or more of your solar lights suddenly stopped working, take note that such does not necessarily mean that they are already broken and that you need to replace them. Keep in mind that the components that make up these solar lights are meant to last for many years.

There might just be a small problem that caused them to suddenly not light up. Now that you learned about the common reasons why do solar lights stop working and some easy ways to deal with these problems, you can now easily “fix” your solar lights so that they will continue to bathe your yard in a beautiful glow every evening.

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