With solar lighting, you usually get what you pay for.
We say this often and while this is generally true, it’s also a fact that there are many times when you really don’t need the highest quality solar lights to get the effect you want.
When it comes to buying lights that impact people’s safety (and your liability), you want to buy the best solar lights that you can afford.
On the other hand, if you are buying solar lights strictly for decoration or to add atmosphere lighting to your patios, gardens or landscape, you may find that you’re budget and design is better served by buying several inexpensive lights.
That’s why our store, SolarFlairLighting.com and many others, offer a broad range of lighting types, styles and prices.
This is particularly true for our solar accent lights, our decorative solar lighting, and some of our solar lanterns. (On the other hand, we only sell top-notch Security Floodlights as well as our Solar Lamps and Commercial Solar Lamp Posts.)
We offer many styles and price ranges for our solar accent lights, decorative lighting and many of our lanterns.
Why? Because accent lights are designed to be decorative, and shouldn’t be used for safety lighting. Rather, they add atmosphere and enhance the overall decor of patios, gardens and landscapes.
When Inexpensive Solar Lights Really Do Make Sense
There are many times and places where cheaper solar lights may be the best solution for you. Here are a few examples.
• When safety is not the main function of the lights
• Areas where light is desirable for evening aesthetics, but where they could be damaged by chewing animals, as well as animal droppings, urine, or other normal but destructive activities
• Places where subtle, ambient light is sufficient (such as outlining walkways or adding accents to gardens)
• Areas where balls, toys or other objects could easily damage a light, regardless of the fixture’s quality
• Special events where a large quantity of distinctive lights are desired which may not fit your everyday tastes.
Over the past year, we sold several sets of lights that were used for special events spanning graduation parties, to outdoor religious ceremonies, to corporate events.
Since the buyers really didn’t plan on using the lights again, the long-term quality wasn’t that important.
What was important: that the lights fit into the theme of their event; that the lights arrived on time; and that the lights worked reliably on the the night of the event.
Honestly: Cheap Solar Lights Won’t Last as Long, or Work as Well as More Expensive Options
Will sets of 8, 10 or 12 lights last as long or be as bright as a single solar light that has a similar price tag? Almost always, the answer is “Definitely Not”.
They don’t provide the same quality of light, they don’t last as long, and they can be far less reliable, particularly after a series of cloudy days or perhaps even during very cold temperatures.
And, it’s a bad idea to judge more expensive lights on the performance of lights for which you pay far less money.
What to Expect from Lower Quality and Cost Solar Lighting
In addition to lower quality light, you may find that batteries may need to be replaced sooner than with more expansive options.
One reason: the lights and their batteries may have been boxed and shelved for a considerably longer time than a newer light.
Simpler solar lighting fixtures cost less, and the more simple a solar light or water feature is, the higher the chance that NiCAD batteries will be used instead of the NiMH or Lithium Ion batteries found in more sophisticated lamps.
Unfortunately, NiCAD batteries usually don’t wear as well as their alternatives.
The cheaper the light, the odds are that the housing that encases the solar battery and circuits is made with less precision and less quality than more expensive lights.
Corrosion and rust-resistant are relative: just because the exterior of the light won’t rust, you’re not out of the woods. Inexpensive housing means that water can leak and damage the parts that you can’t see.
One suggestion, particularly for lights that will not be looked at closely, is to take clear caulk and cover all the seams. This will provide extra protection and may make the interiors of the lighting fixture, which can rust out quickly, last considerably longer.
Less Durable Solar Panels:
Solar technology moves quickly, and that includes solar panels.
Cheaper solar panels not only use older technology, usually lower quality materials are used to construct the solar panels.
This means that the solar panels themselves may crack or peel sooner than more costly alternatives. They may also be less resistant to normal wear and tear or weather extremes.
Replacing Less Expensive Solar Lights
Often, lights sold at bargain prices are older models, which means you may have trouble replacing them. Sometimes, but certainly not always, these lights sell out quickly and once they are gone, they are gone.
Other lights are so popular and sell so well that manufacturers make them for several years without changing the look or the technology of the solar fixtures.
Other times, you’ll find lights that looks virtually identical to your old set, but with a higher price tag. This usually means that while the light itself is popular, the manufacturer has updated the solar technology used in the fixture.
What’s Best for You: Consider the Trade-offs
When you consider that one high quality solar accent light can cost around $80 to $100, whereas you can by sets of several lights for the same price, you need to be realistic about what your money gets you.
If you’re okay with the fact that lower cost lights may not lost as long, probably won’t provide quality and reliable light as long as their higher price counterparts, or want a lot of splash for relatively low upfront and operating costs, inexpensive sets may be the right choice for you.
Just be realistic about your expectations and understand that there may be times when instead of several inexpensive lights, your needs will best be met by spending money for one or two quality fixtures.
In addition to getting inexpensive lighting to enhance your landscape, you’ll enjoy not seeing an increase in your electric or gas bills, and you won’t need to constantly replace candles.