Solar Lighting: Meet Your Expectations

solar lighting, which way to go?If people are less than happy with  their first experience with  outdoor solar lighting, I ask them two questions:

  • Are you using them properly?
  • What did you expect from the product you bought?

Often, what they bought was not meant to provide the type of illumination they wanted, so of course they were disappointed.

Many people first purchase solar accent lights, typically the pick the most inexpensive types of outdoor solar lighting.

In a way, this makes sense:  why spend money on overhead lights, security lights or lamp posts until you are comfortable with solar lighting technology?

Get What You Need!

What a lot of people don’t understand is that there is a huge difference between solar accent lights and more expensive solar security lights (flood lights, spotlights), or solar lamps.  Not only in cost, but in the types of light provided.

Here is a brief primer on the most common types of outdoor solar lighting and what buyers should and should not expect from each.

Solar Accent Lighting

Solar Accent Light

Solar Accent Light

Solar accent lighting functions as the phrase suggests:  it provides an ambient or accent light in your garden or landscape with a gentle glow similar to a candle or a low-powered lantern.

Solar Accent Spotlight by Gama Sonic

Solar Accent Spotlight

Along with lights that are placed close to the ground, solar accent lights can include most decorative lanterns and other solar lit garden ornaments.

“Solar Accent Spotlights” provide a stronger light to highlight specific features of your property such as a shrub, bird bath or other ornament you especially like.

While solar accent lighting or solar accent spotlights can delineate a pathway, solar accent lights do not provide a bright light enough to let people see well in the absence other lights.

Any accent light, including solar accent lights, will show where a path is but they simply are not intended to provide the strength of solar lighting offered by solar security lights, overhead solar lights or solar lamp posts.

See low voltage accent lights in action with this short video, produced by Gama Sonic that shows how low voltage accent lights typically work.  If you want or need a stronger solar light,  you should select a solar lamp post or security light, which are discussed below.

Security Lighting

Solar Spotlight

Solar Spotlight

Solar security lighting is typically available as spotlights or flood lights. Spotlights shine a smaller, concentrated beam of light into a specific area, and are available in both motion detection and “fixed on/off” models.


Solar Floodlight, Maxsa Innovations

Solar Floodlight

Floodlights shine a larger “flood” of light to a larger area. Most solar security lights (floodlights and many spotlight) are similar to those powered by electricity in that they are triggered by motion and stay on for about a minute.

Quality models let the user to specify how long the floodlights will stay on, say for 20 to 60 seconds.  Some models stay on continuously, such as ones used to illuminate flags.

Depending on the model, solar security floodlights may have a beam of light beam that is weaker or stronger than that of a spotlight.

How to tell if you will get what you expect:  a good solar security light will specify how many watts they have (usually provided for halogen bulbs), or how many LEDs they have.  Generally, 50 LEDs or 30 watts is adequate for a security floodlight depending on your purposes, while 10 LEDs or 10 watts is good for spotlights.

There are several benefits to using solar security lighting, especially the fact that many areas most in need of security lighting (such as remote sheds or parking areas) are often difficult or very expensive to access with electricity.

Solar security lighting removes this barrier and provides significant savings on lighting bills.  An added benefit:  you’re  protected even during power outages.

Solar Lamps / Lamp Posts

Wall-Mounted Solar Lamp by Gama Sonic

Wall-Mounted Solar Lamp

Quality solar lamps and lamp posts often use patented LED technology for the brightest illumination available.

Like solar accent lights, they generally turn on automatically at dusk and off at dawn and most have manual on/off switches.

Whether solar lamps are mounted to a wall, on a formal post, or on a deck or fence, these lighting fixtures are designed to give strong lighting within a given area, similar to a traditional front door light, or any low-voltage post-mounted electrical feature.

Many retailers not only sell complete solar lamp post sets, they also sell solar lighting fixtures that can be mounted easily to an existing light post used by an energy hogging gas or electric light.  (Watch this video to see how the wall-mounted lamp works.)

Solar lamps can be mounted to walls, on decks or fence posts. Used and maintained properly, solar lamp lights let you “Go Green” with energy-efficient classic designs to safely light an entry way,  a path, or a special part of your property.

Green for the Environment, Green for Your Wallet!

Clean energy, clean sky, clean airUsed and maintained properly, solar lights let you truly “Go Green” with energy-efficient classic designs to safely light an entry way, home or business.

By buying quality solar lighting fixtures (and yes, this often means a little more upfront costs), you can take advantages of the latest in solar lighting technology and styles for added appearance, reliability and durability.

In addition to helping the environment, solar lights mean that you can light your property as you like without increases in your utility bill.   Whether you select new fixtures or items to replace existing electrical lights, you’ll quickly see a return on your investment.

Copyright 2011, AM McElroy, www.SolarFlairLighting.comwww.SolarLightingSmart

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