You want lighting for your garden or pond you are in a garden centre or DIY store and you see solar lights, No complicated wiring required, little cost, just needs sunshine ?plant them? and away you go, light all the time, who needs wired lights?
Nice in theory pity its not quite that true.
First you need to know that the majority of solar lights use LED?s (Light Emitting Diodes) Until the early 00?s you could not get a white LED so solar lights had an amber LED and were often sold as ?solar marker lights? because the LED was so dim. Since the advent of the white LED (and other colours) things have changed dramatically, or have they?
You can now buy solar garden lights with one white LED
Other brands of solar lights are available. (Blue paint optional)
Although the LED is white and as such appears brighter, a single normal LED is not really that bright, which is why indoor LED lamps have multiple LED?s
A very modern LED lamp, it has multiple surface mount LED's
How does a solar garden / pond light work? (In easy terms)
A solar panel about 4 x 4 cm sits on top of the light fitting.
The small solar panel converts sunshine into electricity and charges a couple of AA size rechargeable batteries. When it gets dark a light sensor turns the LED on. The LED runs until the batteries are exhausted. The next day the process starts again.
A solar light needs bright sunshine to charge properly, you assume it?s charging because it?s daylight. But if its cloudy, overcast or snowing in winter, they don?t charge too well. (If at all) Printed on the packaging it says ?Lasts up to eight hours? Note the words UPTO, that means it could last for 20 minutes, because that is still UPTO eight hours. It doesn't say "Lasts for 8 hours"
Let me ask you this
Q. When do you really need the light? A. When its dark
In summer it gets dark around 21:00 by which time most folk go indoors so the light is wasted. In winter its dark around 16:00 but often in winter a solar light only lasts for an hour, which means by the time you come home, the battery is exhausted.
The brighter side.
You can get solar lights for sheds etc, these have a bigger solar panel and a switch, so they only come on when you turn them on, thereby saving the battery power. If its totally dark, they are better than nothing, but even these have multiple LED?s
I am told if you spend ?quite a bit? you can get really bright solar powered lights that will last for hours. (I have yet to actually see one.) Also for the ?quite a bit price? you can get a set of wired lights fed from a transformer that you plug in. These have the advantage that they will work without sunshine, come on at the flick of a switch and are brighter. Solar Lights do have their place, but for most they are not that bright and are a ?wish I hadn?t brought that item?
Not Mentioned: But worthy of note:
You can get 1 watt LED?s which really are very bright, but they are not that cheap and are not used in solar lights (Yet)
Please look out for other articles for your guidance.
We had some free (except for P&P ) lights from a loyalty scheme, two out of three of which have corroded inside due to water ingress - these are outside lights!!! So if you do buy any, ensure they say waterproof! These leaked between the solar panel and the recess in which it sat, so poor design and poor quality build.
Extending your line of reasoning, whilst solar LED lights have their limitations, and older, filament lamps used quite a bit of power, a compromise has now been reached in the marketplace with cabled LED lights, which are bright, yet energy efficient. Cabling gives good reliability, and you only have to hide it once, on installation of course. Thereafter, you get to enjoy your reliable, efficient lighting whatever time you are in the garden after dusk