Solar lights have come a long way since their inception, and mass development, in the past decade. Their initial features were fairly basic and clumsy yet they offered the gardener a cheap, no-nonsense way to install landscape lighting. No heavy digging. No high voltage power cables. They were the darling of the gardening world – for a time.
Yet, now, as they have finally improved a million-fold and become cheaper due to better technology we’re reticent to put them in our gardens. It seems ironic that our first views of solar lights have clouded our thinking on installing them today. So, let’s start with the basics.
Why Would You Want Solar Landscape Lighting
The little “green” button inside each of us seems to instantly get pushed ON when we start talking energy from the sun. And why wouldn’t it? Renewable energy is the way of the future so substituting coal-powered electricity for solar is a no-brainer.
But, the predominant reason most people look at solar landscape lighting is the cost. Try getting an electrician ’round to your house to fix a few wires or install some new lights and you’ll soon realise that it’s an expensive affair. If you wanted to take that outdoors and have a sparkie install some traditional garden lighting then you might want to start looking at organising a second mortgage on your property – it won’t be cheap!
What Types of Solar Lighting Are Available
- Accent Lights – These are used to illuminate driveways, paths, walkways and other thoroughfares throughout the landscape.
- Spot Lights – As the name suggests they brighten a specific area in focus.
- Security Lights – In most applications, solar security lights are attached to motion sensors and only come on when the sensor is triggered.
- Door Entry Lights – Positioned above an external door these solar lights limit the exposure to their illumination within the door’s boundaries.
- Whimsy Lights – These can be any of the above but are usually crafted with decorative shapes, patterns and even themes.
- Net Lights – These solar lights are positioned within a net and cover shrubs, trees and bushes as an impact statement.
Tips for Installing Solar Landscape Lighting
As there is no hard-wiring to do when it comes to installing solar lights the job is very much a DIY opportunity. However, there are some tips to make the job, and subsequent maintenance, even easier.
- Positioning the Solar Panel – Some solar lights, especially solar security lights, come with a separate solar panel. These can often be mounted up to 5m away from the light itself. When positioning the solar panel ensure that it is facing north (southern hemisphere) or south (northern hemisphere) so that it captures the most sun. Often the DIYer will just position it toward the sun when it’s being fitted and fail to consider this maximum solar capture zone.
- Cover Any Wires in Conduit – While many solar lights are stand-alone units there are some that come with wiring. This wiring either enables hook-up to a separate solar panel or connects strings of lights to each other. Where these solar lights are situated in garden beds or running across roofs it is best to cover them with some form of conduit to secure them from birds and animals and the occasional wayward shovel.
- Easy Access – While many DIYers can install these types of lights quite easily often ease of access for later problems is ignored. Changing back-up batteries, cleaning light diffusers, and even ammendments to current settings can become a bigger-than-need-be job. Therefore, when installing the lights always consider how you might access them at a later date and prepare accordingly.
- Conservative Distances Between Lights – Installing solar landscape lighting is more of an art than a science so be prepared to decrease your initial spacings between lights. Accent lights are notorious for being spaced too far apart and then offer little illumination to the thoroughfare they’re providing for. Adhere to the manufacturer’s sepcifications as a minimum but prepared to decrease the distance if required.
And there you have it. Installing some solar lights around your yard should be a snap.