Solar Landscape Lighting

Solar lighting is an energy-efficient way to integrate landscape lighting into your landscape design.
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Modern solar-powered outdoor light

Photo by: Kenneth Cheung

Kenneth Cheung

Solar-powered lighting is becoming an increasingly efficient and affordable option.

Recent improvements in solar technology have made solar lighting a low-maintenance and convenient (no outlets required) choice for homeowners and gardeners. LED – or “light-emitting diode” – lights are dimming the popularity of old-fashioned filament bulbs and widening consumer availability of decorative and functional outdoor fixtures that can last up to 100,000 hours. 

How do solar lights operate? LED, halogen and fluorescent solar lights use batteries that automatically recharge during the daytime. Small solar panels on the fixtures “collect” sunlight during daylight hours, which is generated into electricity inside the lighting mechanism. The power of the light is directly related to the strength and duration of the sunlight received. Varieties of solar lighting may include on/off options such as manual switches, automatic sensors, and motion-detecting sensors. 

LED solar lights are the brightest option, and they generally include a “monocrystal” solar panel with conversion rate equal to or greater than 18% vs. amorphous solar panel (9%), with up to 10 hours of lighting time when fully charged. Most solar lights detect darkness so that a sensor engages each light automatically to illuminate walkways and plantings in the evening hours.

Whether you’re looking for an accent piece such as a globe, or sets of reliable path lights, spotlights, task lights and even strips of twinkling holiday lights for your garden, solar selections are now abundant at most big box retailers, garden centers and online shops. Here’s how to get started:

Take photos of your house and garden to determine where old lighting can be replaced and where new lighting is needed. 

Draw a map or diagram of the areas where you desire solar lighting to be installed. 

  • Are there garden walkways that should be visible at night?
  • Will the lighting be used for aesthetic or working purposes or both?

Create a shopping list. You can adjust the quantity of lights or decide upon a combination of solar and traditional wired lighting to fit your budget. 

Browse lighting online to determine what will work for you and what can be purchased at a store or shipped to your home.

Ask your local retailers about installation options. You maybe able to have the lights installed for a nominal fee; if you opt to install them yourself, make sure complete instructions are in the box before you leave the store.

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