Solar Lights

Master gardener Paul James lights up the landscape with solar powered lamps that are as easy on the eyes as they are on the pocketbook.

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Figure A

One of the surest ways to enhance the look of any landscape is to light it, and for many years, people have done just that, using either standard fixtures or low-voltage systems. Standard fixtures are those that operate on regular 110-volt household current. These often require professional installation, but low-voltage or 12-volt systems are perfect for do-it-yourselfers (figure A).

Figure B

While the cost of both can quickly run into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, there's no getting around the fact that landscape lighting can dramatically alter and extend the use of an outdoor environment. "For those of you who have considered lighting up your landscape but balked at the price or maybe the hassle of installation, I have some good news for you," says master gardener Paul James. These are the two examples of solar lights for the landscape (figure B).

Figure D

They're not only slick, they're a snap to install (figure D).

Figure F

James points out that solar lights don't offer the flexibility of all hard-wired systems. After all, they rely on solar technology, so you need to place them in sunny locations, and the sunnier, the better. But when placed in full sun, most of these lights will give you eight to ten hours of continuous light at night. The light omitted by solar lights is controlled by a photocell, which is bright enough to illuminate a path (figure F), yet soft enough to add highlights to plants and other garden features.

The only maintenance these lights require is an occasional cleaning of the lens and cover to remove dust or debris, plus a once-a-year replacement of the bulb and batteries. So if you've been thinking about lighting up your landscape, but weren't quite sure which way to go, consider solar lights. They might be the perfect solution to your landscape lighting needs. And they rely on a renewable energy source that's going to be around for a long, long time.

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