Outdoor lighting that is powered by solar energy is one of the least expensive and easiest ways to bring attractive lighting to areas of your lawn and garden that would be difficult to light by traditional electric lighting systems. Installing these lights is so easy that any novice “do it yourself-er” will be able to light up their whole yard, patio or walk in the time it takes to plan the positioning of the lights, and perform a few basic steps.
First, a little bit about the lights themselves. Based on the latest solar-panel technology, energy is gathered from the sun during the daytime and is used to power the lights at night. The energy is stored in internal rechargeable nicad batteries. Sensors ensure the light comes on at dusk, day after day, night after night.
Not only do these lights not use electricity that needs wiring buried underground, but you will also have no further cost to run them after your initial purchase price. The lights are priced around $20 for one, or about $10 apiece if you buy a box of eight or ten lights. You can get a more expensive lantern that will last longer than the typical five or six hours. There are also motion sensors that can turn the lights on and off automatically when motion is detected nearby, thus conserving the stored power.
The most important thing when installing solar-powered lights is that you put them in areas that have access to sun light. The good news is that to install the lights, all you have to do is snap them together (if that is even necessary), install any battery that is needed, and put them in the ground!
The lights can either be staked into the ground, or some models can be mounted on the side of your house, or garage. Then just let the sun energize them for a day and at dusk your area will be lit, with very little effort on your part! The bad news though, is if you want to install these lights in a shady area, you may not find they can give off enough light.
The next step in this scenario is to look into a low-voltage outdoor lighting system. While this is a little more time consuming to install, you will have more control over the amount of time you have your lights on or off, and you will never have to replace a battery. Installing these lights is also a do-it-yourself job up to the point of having a GFCI receptacle installed on the outside of your house. An electrician should do this part of the installation for safety’s sake.
The kit of low-voltage lights comes with a transformer, usually with a built in timer that allows you to set the lights to turn on and off at what ever time you desire. They also include the necessary lights and electrical cable for complete installation. These transformers main duties are to take a normal 120-volt household current and reduce it to a safe 12 volts.
For this installation you will need to draw a diagram of where you want the lights. The lights can be easily staked into the ground the same as the solar lights. You will have to run your cable along the ground from the outside GFCI receptacle and beside the individual lights. Today’s lighting systems are literally a snap to put together. Most of them come with two wires to each light, that have metal clips on the end that just snap into the cable.
At this point you may want to wait until dusk and make sure you like the placement of the lights and where the light falls, before the final installation. After you have your lights and cable in place it is a matter of digging a small ditch (5” deep) to lay the cable in. Try to keep as much of the dirt close to the trench as possible. Insert the cable into the trench and back-fill all of the dirt that was removed. Carefully compact the loose dirt with your foot as you go.
If you have shyed away from installing garden or pathway lighting in the past you should see by these simple directions that installing them is a relatively easy job. Always follow the specific manufacturer’s directions that come with your product because each set of lights is a little different. Using solar energy to light your yard at night is definitely the best way to go!