An Introduction to Solar Lights

                       Photo taken by Larala Lights at a solar lights manufacturer.


In this post we are going to take a look at solar lights. Solar can be a great alternative to mains powered lights as they are a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative. Solar garden lights have been popular for a number of years now but they are also well known for breaking after a short time, only ever giving a dim light, sometimes not coming on at all and sometimes never working in the first place. Firstly it is beneficial to have a brief understanding of how solar lights work.

Inside the solar panel are 'photovoltaic cells' - simply put these absorb the sunlight when the sun is out and shining which charge the batteries in the solar light and then when the sun disappears in the evening the lights turn on. This creates the main challenge for solar lights which is they need to be positioned to capture the full sunlight and during the day it actually has to be sunny! And ideally sunny all day. For most parts of a country like New Zealand this can be challenging. 

However recently solar lights have seen some improvements. The combination of solar and LEDs allows for a much brighter light and improvements in rechargeable batteries allow for a longer period of light and hold their charge longer. The battery is actually one of the most important components in a solar light (and actually with any rechargeable light). If a light contains a poor quality battery and it only lights up for one hour then it's pretty useless. Lithium ion batteries which are the most common type of battery found in modern rechargeable devices have a longer life and give better performance than older batteries such as Nickel-Metal Hydride battery (NiMH). 

As with many products the price can be a good indication of the quality. If you buy a pack of 12 solar lights for under $5 then the quality is going to be questionable. As manufacturers want to keep costs down they will use cheaper components which in turn create a poor quality product. The vast majority of consumers view solar lights as 'cheap' so they tend to buy the cheaper solar lights with the knowledge they might not work or will cease functioning properly after only a short time; this creates a public perception that all solar lights are poor quality so not many are willing to risk a higher spend on solar lights. Whereas if one does spend an appropriate amount from a reputable supplier or brand then one can actually get a high quality solar light that achieves a decent light output and lasts for a long time.





Kem Christensen