Retrofits with Solar Lights: When You Need Electricians or Plumbers


Lamp on Left is Ugly, Worn Out, Electric and a Great Candidate for a Solar Retrofit

One of the major advantages of solar lights is that most are incredibly easy to install, a simple DIY weekend project.

And, selecting solar lights over electrical fixtures means cost savings on far more than utility bills. Solar lighting means cost savings since:

  • No Electricians to install power to remote/unlit areas
  • No expenses to repair landscaping or hardscape damaged by laying electrical lines
  • Rarely are any permits or inspections required.

But, there are rare exceptions when you should consult or hire a qualified electrician, plumber or even a lighting engineer.

The most common reason: when you retrofit an existing gas or electrical lamp with an eco-friendly and more energy efficient solar light.  Find out what you really should should have a licensed professional take care of and why.

Retrofits Really Are One Exception to the Rule

Flag lit by ground staked solar spot light

Solar Spotlight Lighting This Flag was Installed in Under 1 Minute. Note Electric Light in Background is OFF.

Many solar lights, like solar lanterns, can be hung or placed anywhere in your yard.  And, most accent lights and spotlights are installed by sticking a stake in to the ground.

(We’re mainly talking about residential lights here; solar street lights, some commercial solar lights, and hybrid lighting systems may need electricians and possibly lighting engineers.)

Other common solar lights (such as spotlights, flood and solar lamps and lamp posts) take a bit more time to mount in your yard or to a fence, wall, roof or other structure.  The hardware is almost always included and the only tools needed are in most household tool boxes: screw drivers, a drill, and a level.

It’s true that new solar lamp posts often need a small concrete base, but that’s relatively easy. You need a shovel to dig a whole, a bag or two of quick set concrete, a level, and a drill with masonry bit.

Here’s a Trick:
If you don’t have a masonry bit (about only about 5 dollars and fit standard drills), stick a long narrow nail or even a thin pen or knitting needle into the concrete after it has set for a while but isn’t yet rock-hard.

Then, install the bottom/base of the post with screws that come with the lamp once the concrete is solid enough to hold the weight. You should, however, have wait for the concrete to cure for about a week before putting up the entire solar lamp and post.

Enhance Safety, Reduce Liability: Have Professionals Terminate Existing Power Sources

Burning Houses

Electrical problems cause for 26,100 house fires, $1 billion in lost property,280 deaths, and over 1,000 serious injuries each year. Source: FEMA

Whether you’re replacing a dated and energy eating electric or gas powered fixture, installing the new solar lamp isn’t the issue. (Installing wall-mounted solar lamps or a new solar lamp fitter where the old gas or electric fixture was is actually pretty easy for anyone handy with a drill, screwdriver and level.)

The thing to make absolutely sure of:  the old fixture’s gas or electric supply must be properly terminated to eliminate risks of electrical shock, fire or a gas explosion during or after installation.

Bottom Line: Using a Professional Is Safer AND Protects You against Liability

If the work isn’t done properly, you risk of fire, electrical shock or even an explosion. Depending on your local building codes, you may not have a choice in the matter.

While capping an electrical source technically can be done by a skilled non-professional (meaning someone with far more than a casual knowledge of electrical repairs), but we don’t recommend it.

DIY is Never a Wise Option When Capping Gas Lines


Check Contractors’ Licenses & Ask for Proof of Active Liability and Workers Comp Insurance

When you use a licensed professional plumber or electrician, make sure you actually see the contractor’s license as well as both his/her liability and Workers Comp insurance certificates before hiring them.

A professional plumber or electrician means your property, family, guests or customers are FAR safer.  And, your insurance company won’t blame you and raise your rates in the unlikely event the job isn’t done properly.

Once you hire a licensed professional with liability insurance, the cost and liability of repairs and damages becomes the problem of the contractor and his/her liability policy, not yours.

Copyright 2013,,, AM McElroy

Note: We vigorously protect our intellectual property and while you may link to this post, you may not use it or any images within this post unless you link directly to this page and/or have expressed written consent from AM McElroy on behalf of the above-named copyright holders.

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