If you do a lot of entertaining outside in the evening, or even if you just have a lot of company at night, installing landscape lighting is an amazing way to enhance the appearance of your home. At night, a well lit home is a beautiful one, and the right lights in the right places can literally highlight some of the best features of your landscape. But installing traditional electric outdoor lighting can be costly, and so can having all those lights turned on all night long. The solution is both simple and as eco friendly as it is easy on your pocketbook: use solar lights instead.
A solar powered light can substitute for almost any type of traditional landscape lighting, in all cases with a lower utility cost, and frequently easier installation, too. These Flood Lights, for example, only have to be stuck into the ground and angled at the area you want to highlight, and they’ll light your house without maintenance for as long as you want them there – and move just as easily. As well, the remote solar panel means that you have a little more wiggle room with placement - as long as the panel gets maximum light, the lights themselves don’t have to.
The drawback to this is that there is a wire connecting the three lights to the panel, which means none of the four pieces can be more than just under two feet apart from the one next to it. For a truly 100% wireless experience, you’d have to go with their cousin Flood Light (also from Moonrays) that has the solar panel built in. Regardless of the type of solar light you’re looking at, this is probably a choice you’ll have to make: position around the wires, or position around your available sunlight.
That said, if the area you want to light gets even partial sunlight during the day, your lights should charge just fine, and lights placed well away from the house or trees, like this Post Light should be able to charge to full even on a cloudy day. What this means is, while the solar panel is getting sunlight, it’s charging a rechargeable battery inside the light that automatically begins powering the light at dusk. The light will stay on until either the charge runs out or it begins recharging at dawn toward the end of its (in this case up to 12 hour) charge duration.
Simply put, for just about any situation in which you might use an electrical light, you can use a solar one instead without expending any power it doesn’t make itself. In turn, that means no wiring, no switching out batteries, and no bump to your electric bill. Short of an outdoor fireplace, which can come with its own expenses and complications, it’s the most natural light you can get after dark. And unlike a lamp you might haul outside for the evening, something like these Patio Lights are both wireless (trip free!) and versatile – the light fixtures themselves can be removed and carried or used as table lanterns.
I’ve talked a bit about using solar path lighting as an alternative to traditional ones for a lot of the reasons I’ve mentioned here, not the least of which being the expense and difficulty of running lights along wires to a transformer to your house to power them. After all, with a solar light all you have to do is stick it in the ground, or, with these Solar Stepping Stones, set them on the ground. But truth be told, running a line up and down a path isn’t nearly as complicated as some other landscape lighting jobs.
Floodlights, for example, usually cover a much greater area than path lights, especially if you’re highlighting your garden as well as your home – which means a lot more wiring, which means a lot more digging and covering back up. And if you’re installing a deck light or ten, you not only have to contend with area, but also with the structure you’re installing it in – wires are hard to hide in hard wood, and dangerous to leave exposed to the elements. With solar powered ones, though, like this Mini Deck Light, all you have to do is mount it, with no fear of accidentally cutting into or damaging an electrical line later when you maintain (or replace) your deck.
Even a solar Post Cap only has to be mounted on top of a post, rather than wired throughout each post and the length of your fence – and believe me, that’ll save you more than a little grief, especially if you’re installing the lights AFTER the fence has already been built.
One of the most difficult lights to install after the fact, though, is a pool light. If you don’t have one already, don’t like running it, or just want to add a little special something to your pool at night, consider picking up a couple Solar Pool Lights. These ones float on the surface of the water, soaking up sunlight, and turn on at dusk, brilliantly lighting your pool (or pond, or hot tub) in a beautiful alternating rainbow of colors, creating an amazing nocturnal light show. The best part? Installation means chucking them in the water.
If you already have an existing electrical landscape lighting setup, or prefer one for whatever reason (say, an especially shady back yard), solar lights make great accents as well as primary lights. Like the functional but pretty pool lights, something like this Bird Bath serves a simple purpose in the daytime, but the ball on top turns into a brilliant, multi-colored LED light show by night.
Whether you’re looking to add a touch of whimsy to your garden or just want to improve the look and feel of your back yard by night without breaking the bank, solar powered landscape lighting is an excellent alternative – and in many ways, an improvement over – traditional electrical wired lighting. If you’re especially worried about the brightness of the lights, remember as a rule of thumb, the more LED bulbs per light, the brighter it will be. And look for lights with their own solar panel rather than ones that share; they’re likely to be brighter and last longer, since they’re each getting their own full charge. But why are you looking into solar lighting? Eco-friendly, financially frustrated, or something else in between? And what type of lights are you looking to install or replace? Let me know in the comments!