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Should I Use Solar-Powered Outdoor Lighting (Part I)?

Despite impressive advances in solar lighting technology over the years, many people are still wary of investing in solar-powered lighting, but are those fears founded given how much solar science has improved?

Well, maybe. The technology is sound, so there’s not much to worry about there, but you still have to consider a few things before you opt for solar-powered lighting.

In Part I, we’re going to talk about the solar part of solar-powered landscape lighting.

How much sun do solar lights need?

Cloudy days do impact performance on the photovoltaic cells most solar landscape lights use to function, much the same as with solar panels. After all, the only difference between those large panels and the cells your outdoor lights use is one of size.

The amount of sunlight you need is a hard thing to measure as a quantity due to several variables. For first-time use, most solar lights will need eight hours or more of full, direct sunlight for optimum performance.

Does it matter where solar lights are positioned?

It sure does. If you follow the same wisdom applied to solar panels – and there’s no reason you shouldn’t – then you’re going to get the most solar bang for your buck if you point your photovoltaic cells either westward or southward, regardless of geographic location.

This is confirmed in a recent study conducted by the Pecan Street Research Institute; however, there are many factors one must consider (and a few that should be discounted, as they apply only to solar panels) when positioning solar-powered lighting.

The most important is that you avoid placing your lights in shade, which of course changes over the course of the day. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to dodge all the shade, though you’ll want to do your best.

Then there are all those variables regarding the quality of your solar landscape lighting, and that’s what we’ll look at tomorrow in Part II of this series.  

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