Outdoor solar lights and solar garden lights are very popular. Not all brands work well though, so you need to do a little homework first to make sure you get solar outdoor lighting that will last.
Most of solar outdoor lights have a small solar panel or photovoltaic (PV) cells to collect the solar energy during the day.
These photovoltaic cells absorb the sun's energy (direct sunlight) with a semiconductor. This works with the silicon on the cells to create the electricity that is sent via wires and stored in a power battery.
During the night, this battery supplies the electricity to turn on the lights. Because solar power outdoor lighting needs direct sunlight to power them, they will not work as well on a cloudy day.
It is best to set up outdoor solar lighting where they can receive the most direct sunlight. Shadows caused from trees or buildings during the day will lessen the energy stored.
Ideally outdoor solar powered lights work best in a sunny climate away from anything that could block the sun light.
If shadows or cloudy days are a constant problem you can use back-up power source from AA ni-cad batteries (NiMh). This works well for smaller lights. If its a larger light, like a flood light a sealed lead acid battery may be used for back-up.
They have a built-in sensor that can tell when the light levels are low. When the sun sets the sensor will automatically turn on the lights. When the sun rises the sensor will turn these lights off.
The sensors are sensitive and will not turn on if there are bright lights such as a flood light from another source or a street light that shines on the sensors. Be sure to place the lights where this artificial light source wont reach the sensors.
Normally LED bulbs are used. These bulbs use less energy and last a lot longer than your normal incandescent light bulbs. Some LED bulbs can last up to 8 years! These days finding incandescent bulbs has become increasingly difficult due to government regulations.
LED bulbs are more "green" and more friendly to the environment. The newer LED bulbs are much brighter than their old incandescent counter parts and will light up an area much like a halogen light.
Some people still find that LED solar lights do not provide enough light, and generally this can be remedied by choosing a better quality solar outdoor light.
Solar technology varies quite a bit depending upon the manufacturer and how well made your lights are. The less expensive lights tend to be less reliable, and some people find that they stop working after a few weeks or months. In fact, this is a very common complaint, and some people believe that solar outdoor lighting just doesn't work well!
Because many people have had trouble with solar lights not lasting very long, I prefer to buy them from a reputable dealer of solar energy products. I really don't have the time to deal with lights that don't work, or that break after a short time.
I've found that folks that work with solar energy every day and use it themselves know the best types of products and generally will not recommend something that they know does not work!
I've looked around quite a bit and I am most impressed with the folks at Spheral Solar. They are a small mom and pop shop that has been doing business since 1998, and they provide personalized customer service to answer questions and help their customers. They also live in their own off grid solar home so they understand from personal experience the ins and outs and ups and downs of using solar energy on a daily basis.
Outdoor solar lighting is constantly being developed and improved and so another benefit to choosing a merchant who understands solar energy is that they will be informed about the newest and most effective outdoor solar lighting technologies.
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