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The roots of modern solar power can be traced back to 1839, when the French scientist A.E. Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect. The effect due to which light energy is converted to electric energy is called photovoltaic effect. It is only in the late 1800s did the solar power get commercialized. A worldwide oil crisis and environmental concerns fueled solar power’s growth in the 1970s. The 2000s have brought more advancement into the world of solar energy technology. Even now, scientists are continuously working on experiments that can boost solar efficiency, making solar panels more effective. Combined with increasingly lower cost, solar power is assured to be one of the most important renewable energy technologies in the coming years.

The main components of a solar light are solar panels, battery, controller and light source. Solar panels help in converting the sunlight into electrical energy which is stored in the battery. A controller regulates the current and charges the battery. The solar panels that are available in India are mono crystalline silicon or poly crystalline silicon. Another solar panel that is growing in popularity now is the thin film solar panels. These panels are considered to be a good alternative as they are inexpensive and more flexible than crystalline solar cells.

Solar lights can be empowering as they provide sustainable lighting solution for people in rural areas who do not have access to conventional electrical grid or remote areas that lack a reliable power supply. Solar lights are used for indoor and outdoor purposes. There are numerous styles, shapes and sizes of solar lights which are designed to be visually pleasing. With the advancement of technology, we have a lot to choose between indoor and outdoor lights.

What are solar garden lights?

Having your garden illuminated throughout the night can make the space feel safe and attractive. A well-maintained and well-lit garden increases curb appeal and enhances the value of the property. You may highlight the elements of a garden by strategically placing outdoor lighting. Since the standard lights require wiring or batteries and can be expensive, property owners usually do not care much for putting lights around the drive way or walking path where lights are needed. Solar garden lights are the best solution for this problem. There are different types of solar powered outdoor lighting available in the market. Like any other solar lights, garden light also has a solar panel, battery, controller and a light source. Decorative outdoor lighting is used both in residential as well as commercial properties. There are multiple fixtures to fit your style and needs including motion security lights, deck lights, spot lights, post lights, flood lights, fence lights, lanterns, wall lights, driveway/walkway lights, garden lights, emergency lights, camping lights, street lights, etc.

Features of solar garden light

Solar garden lights are environment friendly as they help in reducing the global carbon footprint. Solar energy is an unlimited energy. As long as the solar garden lights get enough direct sunlight, they will continuously light up during the night. The biggest advantage of solar powered lighting is its cost effectiveness. Solar garden lights are easy to install as there is no wiring required. The usage of solar garden lights is very simple as they switch on and switch off automatically. These lights are made water resistant and are suitable for all weather conditions. Since the solar garden lights are compact and elegantly designed, they do not take up much space in your garden. Solar garden lights are easy to be maintained and only require basic cleaning once in a while. Solar garden lights are energy efficient and have a longer life span.

Type of battery used in solar garden lights

Poly-crystalline panels are used in solar garden lights to sense when the sunlight falls on them and thus to store energy in the battery. In solar garden lights, lithium ion battery (Li-ion), lead acid battery or nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries is used. These batteries provide different performance since they are made of different materials. NiMH batteries are eco friendly but have a high self discharge rate and their performance decreases in high temperature, which is the reason why it is not advisable to use these batteries in solar lighting. Lead acid batteries are affordable comparatively but needs regular maintenance. The panel has to generate at least 6 to 12 V to charge the battery which means on overcast conditions, it may take longer for the battery to be charged. Li-on battery is compact and reliable than NiMH and requires low maintenance and can be charged with 3.7 V, making it easier to charge during cloudy days. Although lithium ion batteries are priced higher, they have a longer life compared to lead acid batteries but less than NiMH but NiMH batteries are heavier and have a high self discharge rate which means NiMH batteries lose a large percentage of their charge every month.

Light source of solar garden lights

The light source used in solar garden light is either incandescent filament bulb, fluorescent or LED. Light emitting diodes (LED) are more efficient than standard fluorescent or filament bulbs, so they are commonly used in solar garden lights as they have longer life and produce lesser heat comparatively. A LED light source with the same wattage as an incandescent or fluorescent light produces higher lumens and is ideal for illuminating dark corners of your landscape as they offer better light quality than other types.

Types of solar panels used in solar garden lights

Mono-crystalline solar panel cells are made of pure silicon, so they tend to achieve higher levels of efficiency and last longer. Poly-crystalline or multi-crystalline solar panel cells are made by melting many fragments of silicon together to form the wafers for the panel. The most commonly used solar panel in garden lights is the poly-crystalline panel which offers higher efficiency even in increased operating temperature and is less expensive comparatively.

Types of controllers used in solar garden lights

Controllers are used to control the charging process and to detect voltage of the solar cell. The controllers commonly used in solar garden lights are CL0116 controller, QX5252 controller, YX8018 controller and PWM controller. CL0116 controller is an ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) in which solar charging and LED driving sections are integrated on the chip. CMOS technology is used QX5252 controller, and these controllers have patented over-discharge protection to help the LED lights shut down without flicker when the battery voltage is low. YX8018 controller has the advantage of low voltage battery protection function. Pulse width monitor (PWM) controller is a new method of solar battery charging and has multiple benefits such as automatically adjusting for battery aging, self regulating for voltage drops and temperature effects, more battery reserve capacity, longer battery life, etc. All these controllers are well known for their high efficiency and ability to perform in less voltage.

Installation of solar garden lights

Solar garden lights can be installed without hassle by just removing from the box and securing into the ground. The most important thing to consider before installing is choosing the right spot. If you want to light a drive way or path way, you may want to make sure the lights are located at even widths apart to provide total illumination across the garden. To illuminate a garden feature, make sure you place the solar garden light close to that particular feature. Also, ensure the placement of the lights do not present an obstacle to using your lawn. Place the lights where they are clearly visible so as to avoid accidents. It is important that solar garden lights are fully charged to give maximum backup. There is no need of any special soil preparation. To soften up the ground, prepare it by watering it thoroughly. Solar garden lights have a sharp base (spike) that is designed to push into the earth, making it effortless for DIY enthusiasts. Another variant of solar garden lights can be bolted to the concrete surface of your garden. Remember to place the solar garden lights in such a way that there is direct access to sunlight to be able to absorb as much sunlight as possible to work well throughout the night.

Maintenance of solar garden lights

Solar garden lights require very low maintenance. IP65 rating waterproofing is used to withstand rough weather. Over time, the light may become muddy or dirty. Usually, a good rain can take care of the cleaning; however, you can remove any debris from the solar panel by using a damp washcloth or paper towel to wipe the surface. Solar panels get hot in direct sunlight so it is better to clean them on a cool day. Avoid any harsh detergent on the panels. You may also use a mild soap and warm water for cleaning or even spray water using a garden hose. It is of utmost importance that you choose from a premium quality brand that meets good quality standards.

Solar Garden Lights - FAQ

What are the benefits of outdoor solar lighting?

Outdoor lighting is mainly used for decorative purposes and also for safety and security. Since the solar garden lights do not use any wiring, they are safe to use even around swimming pools or ponds. Even if there is power outage in the building, the solar garden lights will provide you with sufficient lighting in your garden and/or backyard to ensure safety. The LED lamps used in solar garden lights have a greater lifespan compared to a conventional lighting system. Solar garden lights are self sufficient and do not require any manual intervention after installation.

Do solar light batteries need to be replaced?

Solar garden lights have rechargeable batteries. Most lithium ion batteries have a minimum life span of around 4 to 5 years. Lead acid batteries have a relatively shorter life and may last around 3 years. Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries typically last around 5 years. After that, the batteries may require replacement and when you do, it is recommended to replace the batteries with the same voltage and capacity as the old one.

How do I take care of my solar garden light?

Solar garden lights do not require a lot of maintenance. Since the lights are placed outdoors and are subjected to different climate conditions, the brightness of the light may vary with time. You can clean the solar panels periodically using a damp cloth or sponge to remove dust or mud. You may also use a soft brush to remove debris from the fixture. Prune the surrounding shrubs, trees or plants if required to ensure the solar panels have sufficient sun exposure.

Is outdoor solar lighting weatherproof?

Solar garden lights are designed to stay outdoors so they should be waterproof. To avoid water intrusion and to withstand tough weather, IP65 waterproofing is used in solar garden lights. Ingress protection (IP) 65 rating offers safety from rain and has features that makes the lights heat and frost resistant. The lights are created using ABS plastic or metal housing for durability.

Do all LEDs produce only white light?

The color of light produced depends on the material used in the LED lighting. Usually, solar light fixtures emit warm white or cool white accents. Customers can choose according to their preferences.

Do I need to switch on and switch off the lights daily?

No, the controller in solar lights comes with a dusk to dawn feature. The solar garden lights switch on in the evening and turn off in the morning automatically.

Can solar lights be placed in shaded areas?

Although it is better to place solar garden lights in sunny areas to see maximum potential, the lights can be placed in shaded areas too. Solar lights with lithium ion batteries need less voltage to charge and may work without direct sunlight although the brightness of the light will be different depending on the area of placement.

Do LEDs produce heat or harmful effects?

The heat generated is very minimal compared to fluorescent or incandescent bulb, so the solar garden lights are safe to use around pets and children. There are no hazardous materials with LEDs, so their disposal has less of an impact on the environment.

Can solar garden lights remain on even during cloudy days?

Solar garden lights do not require direct sunlight to function though direct sunlight gives maximum efficiency. The lights work even during cloudy or rainy weather but the light efficiency is going to be reduced to some extent. In India, since we get more than 300 sunny days per year, overcast conditions are not a major concern.

What is the life expectancy of the solar panel and LED fixture?

The modern solar panels are expected to last around 25 years. You may help the panels last longer by keeping them well maintained to lower the degradation rate and improve their performance. The average LED fixture usually lasts anywhere between 30,000 and 50,000 hours.

Can I use solar lights in my terrace garden?

Urban homes lack a proper garden space and roofs, terraces and balconies are turning into gardens. Solar garden lights can be easily installed in these gardens too. The lights can be spiked into a pot filled with mud or bolted into the concrete ground of the terrace or balcony.

Can I change the position of the lights once installed?

Yes, since the installation process is very easy, the lights can be moved easily if required.