How Solar Garden Lights Work

Solar garden lights work through what is known as the photovoltaic (PV) effect. The PV effect is the method that sunlight generates energy in solar cells (also called photovoltaic cells). How do solar garden lights work - and can they provide enough lighting for dark nights?

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How Solar Cells Power Garden Lights

A solar cell is capable of converting sunlight to a direct current. The cell is made up of several layers: the back of the cell generally consists of crystalline silicone and a chemical that creates positive charged spaces. The front consists of a chemical that creates the negative charged electrons. When the sun passes through the front of the cell, it generates an excitement level which triggers the electrons that in turn pass through the back of the cell into the positive charged spaces. These charged spaces then transfer the solar power through the wires embedded in the cell. This is what makes up the photovoltaic system; the transfer of the sunlight into energy, storing it and sending it to the solar powered garden lights that can accent yards and gardens beautifully.

Solar garden lights use a small photovoltaic panel you see at the top of the light. This panel draws the sunlight in, and then charges and stores the energy it makes into the battery under the PV panel in the light. As it charges throughout the day, it stores enough energy to light a walkway or a garden path throughout the night, repeating the cycle again when the sun rises.

Where Can Solar Garden Lights Be Placed?

Solar garden lights can be used anywhere it will receive sunlight throughout the day. When planning your landscaping, choose a location for your solar garden lights that will get ample sunlight. For the most long-lasting and effective night-time illumination, make sure that the solar garden lights are not shaded by trees or structures that may interfere with exposure to direct sunlight. A south exposure is best. If fully charged, solar garden lights can many hours of illumination on summer nights.

In the winter, solar garden lights may not receive enough stored energy to last throughout an evening. The nights are longer in the winter and sunlight hours shorter. And if you happen to live in a place where there's lots of snow, snowfall can cover the PV panel in the lights, rendering them ineffective unless cleaned off regularly. Consider storing solar garden lights indoors in the winter months.

The Aesthetics of Solar Garden Lights

Solar garden lights come in a variety of styles from plastic casings to die cast metals, from clear lights to colored lights, from a modern stainless steel look to country to contemporary. Regardless of the style you prefer, you'll need to determine what type of solar garden light will fit your needs.

You can illuminate a shady area if you purchase lights that run off a separate PV panel. A disadvantage of such a system is that you have to bury wires between the panel and the lights. With self-contained individual lights, you simply place them in the ground or mount them wherever you like. Still, a separate panel works great with shady areas - you can place the PV panel where it will get direct sunlight, and still be able to charge your solar lights in order to illuminate the shady area.

Some solar garden lights offer LED light bulbs. These produce a brighter, clearer light, last much longer, use less energy, generate very little heat, and the new batteries hold a charge better. These lights offer so many decorative options for gardeners seeking to create a certain "look" or effect. Even solar Christmas lights with LEDs are available.

Using solar powered garden lights eliminates the need to use outdoor electrical outlets and allows for greater flexibility with landscaping. Take some time to plan out your yard so that you can get the most benefit from your solar lights. They're a wonderfully easy way to add illmuniation and interest to your yard.