How to Choose Outdoor Solar Powered Lights

September/October 2007
http://www.motherearthnews.com/renewable-energy/how-to-choose-outdoor-solar-powered-lights.aspx



Photo courtesy of www.snappdragon.com

When it comes to backyard or pathway lights, forget practical and boring ? think fun and fancy. You can create a soothing, inviting mood with unique and attractive outdoor lighting.


Better yet, you can use solar powered outdoor lights, to save energy and save yourself digging ditches, laying the wire and attaching it to a junction box. When choosing an outdoor solar powered light you will need to consider a variety of factors in order to match the function you want with the available lighting choices.


Solar lights use small photovoltaic cells that absorb sunlight during the day and turn it into energy. Rechargeable batteries store the energy, making it available at night when it is needed. LED (light emitting diode) bulbs, which require little power and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, provide the illumination. There is no wiring necessary to connect the lights to each other or to the electric grid.


For starters, there are three kinds of garden solar lights:


Path lights: solar powered path lights come in a variety of fairly standard styles from modern to classic. They can be hung from a pole or embedded in the ground to light a dark walk or guide the way. And because there is no wiring involved, they can easily be moved to a new location whenever the remodeling bug hits you.


Decorative accent lights: For more fun and fancy, check out the solar powered garden lights that glow with attractive designs and colors. Position them right and it will be like having a giant-size firefly in your yard. These unique lights, made of blown glass or hand-made materials, will add a touch of whimsy to your yard, when placed in and around your shrubs and flower beds. You can find these lights online or in home improvement stores and garden centers. Most have the glowing light perched on top of a slim stake that can easily be pushed into the soil. The small solar collector is attached to the stake and must receive direct sunlight each day in order to charge the batteries.


Spot lights: For focused lighting, there are spotlights that can be tucked into the garden foliage illuminating a unique landscape feature. The one we tested from Gaiam has a cord attached to the small solar panel, which is placed in direct sunlight, up to 8 feet away from the lights. On some solar spotlights, the solar panel is attached to the spotlight head, which must have direct sunlight to recharge the batteries.


Here are some companies that carry a variety of solar garden lights.
www.gaiam.com
www.homedepot.com
www.snappdragon.com