The future looks bright for solar lighting devices.
Solar energy is one of the most eco-friendly and long-lasting ways of illuminating any outdoor space, and it is estimated that much of the world’s power will be solar fueled by 2030.
Today, however, solar-powered lights – when compared to traditional fluorescent or Incandescent lighting – are comparatively more expensive upfront.
This has, understandably, led to many people asking “how long do solar lights last?” to establish if they are a worthwhile decision.
Below we will delve deeper into how long solar panels last and provide some actionable tips about how solar lights work and how to keep yours in the best shape possible.
Can Solar Lights Last Forever?
Solar lighting is powered by the sun (an infinite energy source) and connects with common rechargeable batteries. As long as the sun shines, your soar lights should keep running.
That being said, most common rechargeable batteries do need to be replaced every few years, and some basic maintenance of the solar panel may be needed over time.
Provided you carry this proper maintenance – which is far simpler than wired lighting systems – the panels on your solar lights can easily last up to 10 years or more.
The lifespan of most solar lights depends largely on the strength of their various components, which work in unison to absorb, retain and disperse energy from the sun.
Understanding the role each of these parts plays and how to properly clean, change or maintain them can massively lengthen how long solar lights last.
Suggested Reading: Our Top 10 Favorite Outdoor Solar Lights
When To Replace Solar Lighting Components
When replacing parts on solar light, you rarely have to worry about the solar panels themselves.
This is because they don’t actually power the lights themselves, but rather they absorb solar energy from the sun and store the electricity within a battery unit.
Being wireless and self-charging means that solar panels hardly ever need to be swapped out.
However, you should always make sure that your solar panel is clear of any debris or obstructions caused by weather, and that it is placed in direct sunlight.
If a solar panel does not get enough sun throughout the day, then it may not burn bright enough come nightfall – so always make sure that your panel is positioned directly where its light source (the sun) is shining.
Giving your solar panels a quick clean with a wet cloth or towel around twice a week will ensure that no dust will block out the sun and the lights last longer.
Solar Light Batteries
The most common part of a solar lighting system that needs replacing is the batteries.
While the rechargeable batteries that solar lights use can last for up to 4 years before needing to be changed, they will eventually burn out.
The good news is that changing over the batteries is a simple, carefree task that can be done with minimum technical know-how.
Almost all solar-powered fixtures use standard replacement batteries, including Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) and Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), both rechargeable products.
This makes solar light batteries a far more eco-friendly solution than traditional single-use Alkaline batteries and saves you money in the process.
LEDs are one of the cheapest lighting solutions out there and one of the most reliable.
As solar lights work best outdoors, the LED lights used are always constructed entirely from graded, durable materials which will perform equally well in warm or cold weather.
Most solar garden lights will be IP67 waterproof graded, meaning they will prevent any rainwater or storm damage to the interior of your solar lights.
LED solar lights are commonly graded to last up to 10 years before they may require repair. Taking simple preventative measures such as cleaning and inspections of your LED solar lights can be a massive contributor to this.
The plastic or glass casing which protects your lights is one of the most durable and versatile components.
Its primary purpose is to shield the inner workings of the solar light; as long as the casing is kept clean enough that no dirt or dust can get inside, it should not impact how long your solar lights last.
One important component you must regularly inspect and maintain if you are looking to prolong the lifespan of your solar lights is the light sensor.
The purpose of the light sensor within solar lights is to trigger their intuitive dusk-till-dawn features, which automatically turn the lights on when the sun goes down, and off when the sensor detects too much sunlight in the morning.
If the light sensor is obstructed with dirt or dust, then the light may stay illuminated during lighting hours of the day, which can quickly reduce the battery reserves and cause the light to stop working.
Making Your Solar Powered Lights Last: Tips & Tricks
Have Some Spare Batteries Ready To Go
Although the recharging batteries supplied with solar lights can last years, they will eventually burn out.
When this happens, although it is an easy fix, it can prove to be time-consuming if you don’t already have spare batteries to hand.
Rather than waste time sourcing replacement batteries and risking losing a night of lighting, plan ahead by stocking up on spare NiCd or NiMH batteries.
That way, all you need to do is swap them out as you would a traditional Alkaline battery and enjoy.
Keep Your Lights Clean
As mentioned before, if dirt, dust, or debris forms on your solar lights, it can affect their performance massively.
If the sunlight cannot find a path to the solar panel, less energy will be absorbed and transferred into electricity meaning less power and duller shining lights.
The easiest way to avoid dirt or dust buildup is to regularly wipe down each section of your solar lights with a wet cloth initially and then a dry one afterward to get rid of any leftover moisture.
Make Sure The Solar Panels Are In Direct Sunlight
This may sound obvious, but solar lights need sunlight to function.
The placement of your solar lights is one of the most crucial contributes to its effectiveness and something that people often make avoidable mistakes with.
For example, one common mistake that people make is placing their lights too close to their houses – which can mean that the shadow cast by your home during the day prevents the panels from absorbing all the available light.
Similarly, if solar-powered fixtures are placed alongside a fence or hedge, the shadow it casts may block out the sun and disrupt functionality.
Turn Solar Lights Off In Poor Weather
As solar lights are fueled by the sun, it is no surprise that they work best during the summer months.
This is not to say that they will not work during colder weather, however (in fact, solar lights often out-perform traditional incandescent bulbs during winter), just that they generate more power on sunnier days.
One tip to prolong the lifespan of your lights is to turn them off – by hitting the built-in override switch – during overcast or cloudy days.
As there is a lower amount of sun getting through the clouds on bad-weather days, the panels will not be able to work to full capacity anyway, so turning them off is the best solution to preserve power.
Keep Panels Away From Artificial Light Sources
Another pro-tip that few people are aware of is that other artificial light sources – such as streetlights or security lights can significantly impact how long your solar lights last.
This is because the light sensor within the solar lights will detect the artificial lights rays and mistake them for sunshine.
As this artificial light cannot be absorbed and retained by the panels, it can lead to the solar lights failing to get a full charge – causing them to be significantly less bright.
When Should You Buy New Solar Lights?
If your solar lights stop working, the most common cause is a burnt-out batter.
Thankfully, this is also the easiest part of solar light to change over – provided you have spare batteries on hand.
All of the parts of solar light fixtures are built to last years, and if a part breaks, it should be easily replaceable.
Although solar lighting may be slightly more expensive up-front, their cost-effectiveness and longevity more than make up for their price tag in the long run.
Why Do Solar Lights Stop Working?
If your lights stop working, their batteries may need to be switched over. If this does not work, try giving the light sensor and panels a wipe with a cloth to remove dirt or dust.
How Long Do Solar Lights Stay On At Night?
Most solar-powered lights automatically turn themselves on after the sun goes down and will remain lit until sunrise.
However, certain devices have remote control functions and can be set on a timer to preserve energy.
Can I Repair Solar Lights Myself?
If there is an issue with the batter of LED’s within your solar-powered light, it should be easily fixable. However, damaged panels may require a more professional approach to fix.
How Bright Are Solar Lights?
The light output of any solar device varies depending on the strength of the bulbs used. Generally, a solar-powered light will produce up to the equivalent of a 40 Watt incandescent lightbulb.
If your lights are installed somewhere where they’re prone to get covered in dirt or dust, it’s recommended you clean the panels every week.
If grime accumulates on the boards, it acts as a barrier between the sunlight and the panel, so it’s harder for the battery to charge. Otherwise, you can clean the panels every couple of months.
Another factor that can affect your solar light brightness is where you place it. It must not be placed somewhere in the shadow; instead, it should face the sun directly. Also, placing solar lights close to another light source disturbs the sensor, causing a weakness in performance.
If you’re living somewhere where winter is rough and snowfall is expected, you’ll need to take some extra measures to keep your solar lights safe. Since the panels get buried in snow, it’s challenging to receive the sunlight and convert it to electricity.
Also, as the daytime is short and mostly cloudy, the batteries may not fully charge. So, you might want to store the solar lights indoors for protection.
Before thinking that your solar lights have lost their luster with time, check the batteries. The batteries are bound to require a change every three years. So, they might be the reason behind the dimness of your light.
What Are the Advantages of Solar Lights?
On top of that, they’re easy to install and fix since there’s no wiring to trouble you. That also means they’re flexible when it comes to location, as they don’t need a fixed electricity transmission.
You won’t have to worry about the danger of electrocution or power cuts either, making them both reliable and safe!
What Are the Disadvantages of Solar Lights?
Solar lights are affected by the weather. Of course, they still charge when it’s cloudy, but the performance won’t be the same. Also, snow could be a liability. So, make sure you’re living in a place where the weather won’t cause you any inconvenience.
Furthermore, solar lights can sometimes be too bulky, so they might not match your aesthetic. However, they come in many shapes and colors, so you can always find the one for you!
Solar lights might need a bit of maintenance and good weather to give out their full range. Nevertheless, they charge quickly, and their illumination is ideal. Their ten-year lifespan is quite long, not only to us as consumers but also to the environment to stay harm-free.