Now that summer’s over, it’s time to pay the fiddler for summer foliage, garden annuals and perennials. For many of us around the United States, fall cleanup time is already here or rapidly approaching.
Once the rakes and leaf blowers come out, it’s very easy to unintentionally damage solar lights, or any landscape lighting for that matter.
Luckily, there are also some very easy things you can to make sure your outdoor lights survive fall cleanup!
Most solar lights have one huge advantage during fall cleanup: unlike low voltage lighting, it’s very easy to install and remove solar accent lights, water fountains, gazing balls.
And, we do recommend that whenever possible, that you remove accent lights (particular those with glass bulbs) during fall cleanup.
The simple act of raking and leaf blowing can turn usually harmless rocks, sticks, acorns and other debris into high-powered missiles. Along with the lighting fixture itself, solar panels can be damaged.
So, it’s well worth the time to remove the lights at least one day before workers are scheduled to clean, or before you take out a rake or leaf blower.
Solar Accent Lights and Water Fountains
To prevent damage to accent lights and water fountains, remove them when the rakes and blowers come out. It’s just too easy for rakes, blowers or thrown debris to damage fixtures or solar panels.
If you hiring someone to do your clean-up, we REALLY recommend removing accent lights, and it’s best to do it before the work is scheduled.
Here’s why. Like painters, many landscapers tend to “overbook” during busy seasons. Often, the person you spoke with to arrange the job isn’t the person or persons who do the work.
And, workers are usually told to go in and get the job done as quickly as possible so they can move on to the next customer.
Last summer, we hired someone to paint our house. By the time I realized the painter’s assistant came a day early to pressure wash the house, our deck furniture, grill, fountain and lights were covered with paint. Chimes, lights and bird feeders not screwed into a wall or post literally flew up to 30 feet into the yard.
But, their task was to clean the house as quickly as possible; preventing damage to other items wasn’t in their job description. Like your mother said, “Better safe than sorry.”
Protecting Solar Lamps and Other Items Not Easily Removed
If you really are into solar lighting, odds are that in addition to accent lights, you probably have solar lamps, solar lamp posts or solar security lights.
Most spotlights or floodlights are likely situated high enough to be safe without any action on your part unless a leaf blower will be used. If this is the case, temporarily remove the security lights if you can, or cover them up.
Because solar lamps are usually fixed by screws to fence posts or walls, or on posts mounted in concrete or set on permanent augers, moving them isn’t an option. But protecting them is necessary, since they are homeowner’s most expensive types of solar lights.
Some solar lamps have polycarbonate panes or covers, some have glass panes, but all have solar panels.
While the picture shows a low solar light, about 3.5 feet tall, even full-size 7 or 8 foot solar light posts should be protected if leaf blowers are used.
Our suggestion, even though it looks ridiculous for a short time: take old comforters and cut out a piece large enough to completely cover the lamp. Then, take large rubber bands, tape or string and tightly tie the material to make a hood that covers the lamp.
Because comforters have some padding in them, they provide great protection. If you don’t have old comforters lying around, use two or three towels. If your yard has lots of grave, sticks or acorns, you may also want to further pad the hood with rags, crumpled newspapers or old bubble wrap.
The hood should absorb the shock of debris thrown up by rakes or blowers, protecting the panes and the solar panels. When the lawn work is done, just remove the hoods and save them for spring clean-up or next fall.
What to Take in for Winter
If you live in a warm climate that rarely gets freezing temperatures or snow, there really isn’t any reason other to take things in for the winter. The exception: if you have a summer residence, it’s a good idea to take in anything that could be stolen when you’re away. (That’s one reason portable solar lamp posts are great for vacation homes.)
If you live in a region that gets freezing temperatures or heavy snow cover, it’s a good idea to remove the following solar products.
Solar Accent Lights
While it’s okay to leave lights in garden beds that aren’t touched, walkway lights are prime targets for damage from shovels, plows and blowers.
Other vulnerable accent lights include those with glass bulbs, as extreme cold and ice could crack these.
You may also want to take in decorative solar lights such as solar gazing balls or lighted wind chimes: odds are you don’t appreciate them during the winter, so why take a chance?
Lights (solar or otherwise) in areas frequently salted also are good candidates for winter storage. Salt and other ice-melting materials can corrode metal lights, damage solar panels and, depending on the quality of the fixture’s housing, and do a number on internal wiring and other hidden components.
Solar Water Features
Water fountains and birdbaths with solar pumps should be taken indoors, especially ceramic ones whether they are solar or not.
Not only can the natural expansion and contraction of freezing water damage pumps, the fountain or birdbath itself can be damaged.
Alternatives: metal birdbaths or birdbaths heated by passive solar or solar panel technology.
Safely Storing Solar Products
If solar lights or other products are taken in for more than a couple of weeks, you really should remove the battery because if it leaks, the product can be irreparably damaged.
Just make sure that next spring, each battery goes into the correct fixture.
Our system: take each fixture’s battery and put it into a sealed envelope and write a number/name on the envelope. Put masking tape or a peel-off label with the same number written on it with a marker and firmly attach it to the product that goes with the battery. Remember: using the wrong type or strength of battery is highly likely to ruin the fixture.
All in all, a little bit of work before fall clean-up, especially if you are storing items for the winter, is a good use of time and a great way to protect your investment!
Copyright 2012, AM McElroy, www.SolarLightingSmart.com, www.SolarFlairLighting.com
All Rights Reserved. This blog may not be used in part or in whole without our express written consent or without working links to the above two sites. Please note that we vigorously protect our intellectual property.