You don’t need to invest in an entire rooftop solar system to take advantage of solar energy. Just get some outdoor solar LED lights. You can get lights with a built-in solar collector or lights with a solar panel you can mount at a distance. In that case, if you want to put lights in spots that don’t get much sunlight, you can mount the panel in a spot that does. There, it can enhance the beauty of your lawn and garden.
Outdoor solar LED lights enhance the beauty and security of your home and yard. Once installed, they cost nothing to operate. But beware of light pollution.
They don’t use your home electricity. The power is free. So they will pay for themselves by not adding to your electric bill.
Installation and maintenance of outdoor solar LED lights
Solar lights don’t require wiring, so installation is easy. Simply put them somewhere in direct sunlight and they work automatically.
Solar outdoor lights require little maintenance. Clean dirt off the solar collector from time to time and the battery will last about two years. Then, you can replace it. The LEDs themselves run up to 100,000 hours.
Naturally, solar lights don’t work as well in cloudy conditions or in the winter. Fortunately, it’s easy to take them down, turn off the switch, and store them indoors in a dark place when you expect heavy storms, or, if you like, during the winter.
Lights for entertaining
Do you love to entertain friends outdoors on a summer evening? Just think of sharing good food and drink out on your patio with people you enjoy. The sun stays up a long time during the summer, but eventually it goes down. And when it gets dark, you need light if you intend to remain outdoors.
Whether on your porch or on a pole nearer the curb, an outdoor solar light gives the front of your house a warm welcome to guests.
With versatile solar LED lights, you have wide choices of where to put patio or deck lights. You can mount them on the wall of your house or on your fence. You can install the kind mounted on a pole. You can even put solar LED string lights on the underside of your deck umbrella. That way, it will provide shade during the day and a cheerful glow at night.
Do you have a pool? Solar LED lights have no wiring. They’re safe in and around pools.
Lights for decoration
I mentioned solar string lights under your deck umbrella. Of course, they also make a great choice for Christmas lights. If you don’t like to climb on a ladder to string lights on the eaves, you can simply wrap solar string lights around a tree. Since you don’t need to plug them in to your house’s electricity, you can put them anywhere you can imagine.
Lights for security
When you think of security, you might first think of protection from intruders. And indeed a solar floodlight with a motion detector can offer it. It comes on when people walk past it and turns off by itself.
But lights provide security in other ways, too. You can get individual solar LED lights on stakes and push them into the ground along your driveway or sidewalks to make those areas more easily visible.
You can install lights on the risers of the steps leading up to the door. With or without a motion detector, they enhance the safety of you and your guests.
Lights you can use indoors
You might not think of indoor solar lights, but they can be very practical. Especially if you have a shed or other outbuilding. It’s expensive to run your house electricity out there, and ugly, too. So get the kind of light where you can put the solar panel out on the roof. With a motion detector, the light you mount inside will turn on as soon as you enter.
If you put a solar desk lamp by a window where it will get sun, you can use it at night. Actually, it doesn’t need direct sunlight. It just needs light. Even light from other lights in the room.
And don’t forget camping. You can find all kinds of solar lanterns to suit your needs in or out of the tent.
Some warnings about the environmental impact of outdoor lighting
Outdoor lighting, solar or otherwise, potentially has two harmful effects: it contributes to light pollution and disrupts nocturnal wildlife.
Most lighting in our cities is brighter than necessary and poorly shielded. Light shining or reflecting up to the sky creates sky glow. This layer of bright lights hovering over our cities obscures the night sky for about 80% of the world’s population. For North America and Europe, that figure is 99%. On cloudy nights, light shining upwards reflects back down. It’s not dark outside on those nights.
This excessive light often serves no useful purpose. It just wastes the energy it takes to operate all the lamps. It interferes with astronomical observatories. But it has little or no effect on safety or deterring crime.
In case you’ve wondered why moths hang around lights, they rely on moonlight for navigation. Overly bright artificial light confuses them. You might find them annoying, but they play a vital role in pollinating plants.
Sea turtles lay their eggs on beaches at night. They rely on the brightness of the horizon over the sea to help them find their way back. If artificial light is brighter, they’ll wander in the wrong direction and die.
Glow worms emit light to attract mates. Artificial light inhibits their breeding cycles, and their population is declining.
Minimizing the harm of outdoor lighting
Residential garden lighting doesn’t cause nearly as much trouble as illuminating parking lots or buildings at night. Still, there are steps you can take to make sure you can enjoy outdoor solar LED lights without adding to the damage.
- Make sure to install lights that are no brighter than necessary.
- Don’t leave them on after you go to bed.
- Prevent light from shining upward in the first place.
I’ll only make one suggestion here for the latter point. Install lights that allow little or no light intensity to shine above a line roughly parallel to the ground. Most lights actually send nearly as much light upward, where it does only damage, as where it’s actually needed. So look for lights with full cutoff, cutoff, or at least semi cutoff.
The National Lighting Product Information Program offers a detailed look at the causes and prevention of light pollution. With careful selection and placement of your outdoor solar LED lights, you can enjoy them with a clear conscience.
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