A good solar light is hard to find. Here, sun-powered spotlights and string lights that cast a warm glow
Q: I want to install outdoor lighting in our garden and patio, but I’d like to avoid an elaborate and costly installation. I was considering getting solar lights—but I’ve heard terrible stories about them. Do they really work?
A: It’s true solar outdoor lights has a reputation for flakiness and an eerie light quality. That said, I’ve been experimenting with various versions for years, and am a fairly passionate supporter. The lights turn on automatically at dusk and stay lighted until their batteries die down into the night. The best ones I’ve tested manage to stay illuminated for hours come twilight, even on cloudy days. Plus they’re bright enough to serve as accent lighting and install easily.
My only complaint: Many solar fixtures cast a cold, bluish glow. At night, you crave warm light. But without seeing a light in action, you can’t assess its colour temperature; I’ve ordered models labelled as “warm” that turned out to be cool.
One spotlight-style solar light that lives up to its warm-light promise: micro solar’s $27 “SP2-WARM” (not to be confused with the SP2; search Amazon for “MicroSolar warm 24 LED solar spotlight”). You can spike its light into the ground up to 16 feet away from its (particularly sturdy) solar panel; a detachable wire connects the two. I prefer this design to lights topped by a solar panel because you can position the solar panel in direct sun and the light fixture nearly anywhere you wish. Additional wire is available for $6, should you need to place the light farther away.
Innoo Tech’s “8 Mode Decoration 200 Solar String LED Lights” ($13 on Amazon) also impressed me. Similar to Christmas tree lights, this 72-foot-long string chains 200 tiny, warm-white LEDs.
One drawback to solar lights: Over time, the battery that stores all the solar-generated power eventually loses its mojo. The lights won’t stay lighted as long, no matter how much sun they’re exposed to. When this happens, simply replace the rechargeable battery, located inside the solar panel. MicroSolar sells replacement batteries for its unit. The Innoo Tech string light uses a standard AA NiCd rechargeable battery, accessible by removing four screws.