Solar powered landscape lighting

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Artful Dodger
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Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by Artful Dodger » Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:06 am

Hi All,
We have a big yard area with lots of landscaping, paths, steps, plantings, raised vegetable garden containers, etc. It would be hard to install wired landscape lighting other than fairly close to the house. I have in the past bought different landscape lights powered by solar. But, they don't seem to last long, and have had varying success with light brightness. Does anybody have any recommendations for good lights with decent brightness that are long lasting. We live in the St. Louis area, so winters while not harsh will have some cold, wet, occasional snow. I'm willing to spend more than what I've done up to now, which has been mostly impulse purchases while browsing my local Ace, Home Depot, Lowe's, etc.
Any recommendations will be appreciated.
AD

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dm200
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by dm200 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:15 am

Artful Dodger wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:06 am
Hi All,
We have a big yard area with lots of landscaping, paths, steps, plantings, raised vegetable garden containers, etc. It would be hard to install wired landscape lighting other than fairly close to the house. I have in the past bought different landscape lights powered by solar. But, they don't seem to last long, and have had varying success with light brightness. Does anybody have any recommendations for good lights with decent brightness that are long lasting. We live in the St. Louis area, so winters while not harsh will have some cold, wet, occasional snow. I'm willing to spend more than what I've done up to now, which has been mostly impulse purchases while browsing my local Ace, Home Depot, Lowe's, etc.
Any recommendations will be appreciated.
AD
How many hours, after dark, do want the lights to work?

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Artful Dodger
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by Artful Dodger » Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:40 am

dm200 wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:15 am
Artful Dodger wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:06 am
Hi All,
We have a big yard area with lots of landscaping, paths, steps, plantings, raised vegetable garden containers, etc. It would be hard to install wired landscape lighting other than fairly close to the house. I have in the past bought different landscape lights powered by solar. But, they don't seem to last long, and have had varying success with light brightness. Does anybody have any recommendations for good lights with decent brightness that are long lasting. We live in the St. Louis area, so winters while not harsh will have some cold, wet, occasional snow. I'm willing to spend more than what I've done up to now, which has been mostly impulse purchases while browsing my local Ace, Home Depot, Lowe's, etc.
Any recommendations will be appreciated.
AD
How many hours, after dark, do want the lights to work?
I realize level of shade vs sun will have some affect, but ideally 4 minimum up to 6.

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dm200
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by dm200 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:43 am

Artful Dodger wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:40 am
dm200 wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:15 am
Artful Dodger wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:06 am
Hi All,
We have a big yard area with lots of landscaping, paths, steps, plantings, raised vegetable garden containers, etc. It would be hard to install wired landscape lighting other than fairly close to the house. I have in the past bought different landscape lights powered by solar. But, they don't seem to last long, and have had varying success with light brightness. Does anybody have any recommendations for good lights with decent brightness that are long lasting. We live in the St. Louis area, so winters while not harsh will have some cold, wet, occasional snow. I'm willing to spend more than what I've done up to now, which has been mostly impulse purchases while browsing my local Ace, Home Depot, Lowe's, etc.
Any recommendations will be appreciated.
AD
How many hours, after dark, do want the lights to work?
I realize level of shade vs sun will have some affect, but ideally 4 minimum up to 6.
Maybe multiple approaches because of different lighting needs in different areas? I can't cite any right now, but look for solar lighting solutions for very remote third world countries. I believe some of the rechargeable lighting used in such places can provide light for this number of hours.

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Kenkat
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by Kenkat » Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:51 am

I have never found solar landscape lighting to provide all night light consistently and it’s usually only good for about 2 years until it is shot. My wife still buys cheapie solar lights for out in the yard because she really likes lights, but they don’t provide much light overall.

I recently replaced my hard wired cheap plastic Malibu style lights with metal light fixtures, LED bulbs and 12 gauge wire and they are far better. Because the LEDs require so little power, you can run wire pretty far and get good results still. They are either on or off - no dimming issues like the Malibu’s had at the end of a wire run. I did invest in outside outlets such that I don’t have any wire runs over concrete and we have talked about burying a low voltage cable in the grass to run lights to the back of the yard but I’ve been able to hold my spouse off on that so far.

tedgeorge
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by tedgeorge » Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:57 am

Same here. I've tried a few times and the solar lights are very hit or miss. Especially on the cloudy days. You might consider the ones with motion sensors for the places where you don't go that much so they might have power when you get there!

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dm200
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by dm200 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:01 pm

Kenkat wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:51 am
I have never found solar landscape lighting to provide all night light consistently and it’s usually only good for about 2 years until it is shot. My wife still buys cheapie solar lights for out in the yard because she really likes lights, but they don’t provide much light overall.

I recently replaced my hard wired cheap plastic Malibu style lights with metal light fixtures, LED bulbs and 12 gauge wire and they are far better. Because the LEDs require so little power, you can run wire pretty far and get good results still. They are either on or off - no dimming issues like the Malibu’s had at the end of a wire run. I did invest in outside outlets such that I don’t have any wire runs over concrete and we have talked about burying a low voltage cable in the grass to run lights to the back of the yard but I’ve been able to hold my spouse off on that so far.
From things I follow on and off, I think the dependability, efficiency and functioning of solar has improved greatly.

rj342
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by rj342 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:02 pm

Have not tried anything nicer yet, but the cheap stake type self contained solar lights had two problems (apart from amount and duration of light when new):
- had lousy NiCad batteries so lost capacity quickly
- the plastic lens protecting solar cell would fog turning yellow and dull fairly quickly.

Surely there is a better grade available.

If the issue is more lack of access to AC power than running wires between lights, there might be some wired lights that would run off a larger dedicated solar cell w battery.
Last edited by rj342 on Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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dm200
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by dm200 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:05 pm

rj342 wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:02 pm
Have not tried anything nicer yet, but the cheap stake type self contained solar lights had two problems (apart from amount and duration of light when new):
- had lousy NiCad batteries so lost capacity quickly
- the plastic lens protecting solar cell would fog turning yellow and dull fairly quickly.
Surely there is a better grade available.

If the issue is more lack of access to AC power than running wires, there might be some wired lights that would run off a larger dedicated solar cell w battery.
This might be the most "efficient" as well.

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lthenderson
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by lthenderson » Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:47 pm

I've been buying solar powered ones for years at the big box store but generally after two years they are junk. It doesn't seem to matter what price I pay, I get the same result. I just pulled them all up a month ago when we started an addition to the front of our house. When the addition is finished, I plan to hardwire the next set in and be done with it, even if it is a lot more work.

flarf
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by flarf » Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:13 pm

I have one solar landscape light that works well. It has a separate panel, roughly the size of an index card, on a 10 foot cord. It was something like $25 from Amazon. During the summer it runs for probably 8 hours after dark, but in the winter it's less than half of that (northeastern US). Cloudy days also limit output that night. It's about 3-4 years old now and still works as well as day one.

I bit the bullet on the rest and ran wire, and used waterproof wire nuts instead of the usual crimp connectors.

Neighbor buys the throwaways from the big box store and they never work for long.

One project on my list is to set up a few solar panels and a battery to run the wired lights. They're all on 12v already, so it should be straightforward... just have lots of other things to do first.

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dodecahedron
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by dodecahedron » Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:19 pm

dm200 wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:01 pm
From things I follow on and off, I think the dependability, efficiency and functioning of solar has improved greatly.
Things are better, but still not great, but ...

... I am hopeful this trend will continue to the point where it will be silly to consider wiring outdoor lights within a few years.

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Artful Dodger
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by Artful Dodger » Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:07 pm

flarf wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:13 pm
I have one solar landscape light that works well. It has a separate panel, roughly the size of an index card, on a 10 foot cord. It was something like $25 from Amazon. During the summer it runs for probably 8 hours after dark, but in the winter it's less than half of that (northeastern US). Cloudy days also limit output that night. It's about 3-4 years old now and still works as well as day one.

I bit the bullet on the rest and ran wire, and used waterproof wire nuts instead of the usual crimp connectors.

Neighbor buys the throwaways from the big box store and they never work for long.

One project on my list is to set up a few solar panels and a battery to run the wired lights. They're all on 12v already, so it should be straightforward... just have lots of other things to do first.
Thanks, everyone. Some ideas to consider.

We were on a pond tour a few weeks ago, and I saw some lights with the separate 3X4 solar panel. That may be an option.

Flarf, do you remember the brand name of the lights you purchased from Amazon?

I've never thought about it, but maybe investigate your idea about getting some solar panels, battery, and low watt wired lights. I could use that for one area with a lot of landscaping.

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Kenkat
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by Kenkat » Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:24 pm

Artful Dodger wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:07 pm
I've never thought about it, but maybe investigate your idea about getting some solar panels, battery, and low watt wired lights. I could use that for one area with a lot of landscaping.
That is an interesting idea; the LED bulbs I used in my wired lighting only use 1w each and replaced 7w incandescent bulbs and provide similar brightness. If you could get a big enough solar panel out into full sunlight with a decent battery, you might be able to run multiple lights. One of the biggest issues I have run into with solar lights is the fact that the solar panel is attached to the light itself and often ends up in shade.

flarf
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by flarf » Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:13 pm

Artful Dodger wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:07 pm
Flarf, do you remember the brand name of the lights you purchased from Amazon?
MicroSolar, but I just looked and it's no longer available. Here's a similar model that has two heads instead of one:

https://www.amazon.com/Solar-Powered-Al ... B00QT9XSOG

Barsoom
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Re: Solar powered landscape lighting

Post by Barsoom » Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:37 pm

For me, I had a landscaper give me a quote to wire my front yard for permanent landscape lighting, including adding the necessary wiring and fixtures from the house.

I decided that the payback period versus replacing cheaper solar lighting was close to 10 years, and opted to keep spending on solar lighting every few years.

Besides, my wife likes to decorate the front yard for the different holidays throughout the year, so having movable lighting is nice for that purpose.

-B

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