Here’s answers to the top six questions we get the most often.
For more information on getting the most out of your solar products year-round, please see our Solar Tips & Information.
Does “Dusk to Dawn” Really Mean Dusk to Dawn?
Actually, “dusk to dawn operation” is a term that means that the light will go on automatically and stay on until the stored battery power runs out. During the winter, dusk to dawn often is longer than dawn to dusk.
Instead of interpreting this term literally, read the product description to determine how long the product is designed to stay on for when it receives a “full charge,” typically 6 hours in direct sunlight. The quality of the solar lighting fixture, particularly the batteries used, will determine how long it will stay on, and if the fixture will provide light on consecutive days of cloudy weather.
If you really want dusk to dawn light, look for products that have adjustable brightness settings and set them to the “medium” or “power saving” mode. You’ll get a light for a longer period of time, but it won’t be as strong as the full-power setting.
Are Solar Lights Effective in the Winter Months?
Yes, but again it depends on the quality of the lighting fixture and how you maintain it. This starts when the light is removed from its package. Instructions should state that the light should be charged for two full days before using at night. This is important because the light starts out with a good battery charge, and sets the stage for the rest of the fixture’s life.
An accent light that may be fine is certain areas during when there is more daylight may not work as well during winter months, but the solution is easy: move them to a sunnier spot. And if they are in an area where snow plows or shovels could damage the lights, you might want to think about taking them in for the winter.
The sun is stronger spring through early fall than during late fall through early spring. So, a solar lighting fixture that gets 6 hours of “okay” sunlight in the summer is likely to require six hours of charging in direct sunlight to be as effective when the days are shorter.
Many solar lights have panels that can be adjusted. If they can be adjusted, the solar panels should be placed at a 60 to 70 degree angle facing the where the sun is strongest for the longest period of the day.
What do Some Solar Lights Work Better when Days Are Shorter?
As we’ve said before, solar lighting is an area where generally, you get what you pay for. For example: unless you are getting a very good deal (such as a sale price or buying lights in large quantities), there is a HUGE difference between a solar lamp that you buy for $75 dollars and one that costs $150. Better solar technology, including Lithium-Ion batteries that tend to store solar power longer than NiCad batteries in particular, cost a bit more.
We could sell complete solar lamp sets for under $100, but we don’t because we don’t think our customers would be satisfied with them. In our opinion, while NiCad batteries are fine for some solar products, they are definitely not a good choice for Solar Lamps or Solar Lamp Posts.
Our Solar Lights Are Covered with Ice or Snow. What Do We Do?
If solar lights or solar panels are covered with snow and you can easily access the panel, simply brush the snow off. If they are covered with ice, you need to be a bit more careful to prevent damaging the light or the solar panel. You could try pouring very hot water, but whatever you do: do not try to scrape or chip the ice away.
If the solar lights or panels are in an area you can’t easily or safely access, make sure the lights receive at least six full hours of direct sunlight after the thaw before using them again.
Do Solar Fountains and Solar Water Pumps Really Need to be Taken Inside During Cold Weather?
The short answer: Yes! This has nothing to do with the fact that solar is used. All pumps and water features powered by pumps (such as fountains) have parts that can be damaged by the expansion of freezing water. If you have a pond that is deep enough so that certain areas do not freeze, just make sure the pump is weighted down to stay in the deepest area possible.
If you can’t easily take the fountain in, check the instructions to see if the water pump can be removed during winter months; many fountains allow this. However, if you have a fountain or combination fountain/bird bath made of ceramic or any porous material, these should also be taken inside during freezing temperatures. This is because porous materials absorb moisture and freezing temperatures can make them expand and contract, leading to cracking or even worse, crumbling.
Are My Motion Detection Lights Really Going On More Frequently in the Cold?
It’s not your imagination. The Passive Infrared Sensor (PIR) device built into most motion-activated lights is indeed more sensitive during the cold.
Many solar lights have a setting that lets you adjust how much movement will cause the light to go on. (Another reason to keep the instructions that came with the light fixture!)
Adjusting the setting is easy to do and will make the lights as sensitive to motion as you like. Most motion-activated lights also let you set the duration that the light will stay on each time that motion is detected.
If you are using the lights for security of safety, you might want to adjust both of these to make sure that the lights meet your functional needs, especially if you are using them to provide lighting at entrances.