How Do Solar Lights Work?

solar lights

How Do Solar Lights Work?

Solar lights work because of the photovoltaic effect. The most important part of a solar light is the photovoltaic cells which make up the solar panel. They gather and harvest the sun's energy to charge a battery which powers the LED light.

The solar cell is the part that actually converts the sunlight into direct electrical current. You can usually identify the solar cell as a dark panel at the top of a solar light.

The Solar Cell

The solar panel is the dark flat surface on a solar light. It is made up of silicon chips that are called PV (or photovoltaic) cells. These cells are stacked in layers on the panel, backed by a piece of metal. When sunlight passes through the PV layers, they convert the sun’s solar light into electrical energy and transfer this charge of energy to the metal at the bottom of the panel. The panel is connected to a rechargeable battery using electrical wires, and that's where all the power is stored.

A graph of how outdoor solar lights work.

Solar Lights FAQ

What are the benefits of outdoor solar lighting?

There are many benefits to solar-powered garden lights. The first is a simple installation. They don't require any wiring or other power sources, making them easy to set up wherever you want to set them on the ground. As wires don’t restrict you, you can place your solar lights wherever you want - as long as there is enough sunshine to generate energy. You'll be grateful when your power bill comes since these lights aren't using your mains electricity. Solar lights are also safe to use in the garden. Since they don't use power cords or electricity, they can be used near ponds, swimming pools, and water features.

Solar Lights Not Working?

As a solar light is powered by direct sunlight, you need to clean the dust and dirt from the solar panel regularly so that they generate energy properly. If your solar light is getting enough sunlight, but it still isn’t working, the most common problem is found with the rechargeable battery. It could be that the battery is not receiving any charge, or it might be failing to hold the charge. If you can insert normal batteries to test the light, you can narrow down the problem to either the rechargeable battery or the solar panel. Replace the rechargeable battery to see if that resolves the problem.

Do Solar Lights Work In Winter?

Solar Lights do work in the winter. However, they’re not as efficient during the winter or on cloudy days. They need light to be able to charge and you can expect roughly an hour and a half of light for every hour of charge. Solar lights switch on automatically when it gets dark because they have a photoresistor. The photoresistor controls the circuit inside a solar light. During daylight hours the solar panel charges the battery, but the photoresistor stops the lights from coming on. As it gets darker, the photoresistor's resistance increases and the light in triggered. As the winter is darker for longer, solar lights don't have as much time to charge and the lights are triggered for a longer period too. This means that their runtime is more limited than it would be during the spring and summer.

How Do You Charge Solar Lights Without Sun?

Although it’s not ideal, you can charge a solar light without direct sunlight. If you place the solar panel directly next to an incandescent or LED light, it will charge them. It’s best to get the solar panel as close to the light source as possible so that it charges the battery quickly. However, it can take 10 - 12 hours to charge your solar light fully this way, and if you’re not using the other light for any other reason but to charge the solar light, it is counterproductive. If you’re having issues with your solar light and you are finding that it's temperamental, try turning it off to let it charge for 72 hours. Solar lights charge more efficiently when they’re turned off. This technique is sometimes called a ‘deep charge’. Ideally, you should do this regularly - once a month should be enough.

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If you're looking to add some solar lights to your outdoor space, explore the solar lighting collection on our website. Feel free to contact our dedicated sales team via online live chat or telephone for more information or advice.

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