Solar lighting has a number of distinct benefits over regular mains electricity outdoor lighting, however it also suffers from a few disadvantages also. Let’s examine the case for and against, beginning with the “pro” side of the argument.
Undoubtedly a primary benefit is the sheer ease of installation that solar lighting offers. There are no cables to connect and hide – all you have to do is place each light fitting where you think it would look good. When the evening comes then you can admire your new purchase and, just as easily, move it around if need be until you find the perfect location.
Cost is another major factor. The initial outlay for regular (electrical) outdoor lighting is less than for solar lighting but you also need to add in the full lifetime costs of each product. Other than replacing rechargeable batteries once they get beyond their effective recharging capacity, there are no costs associated with running solar powered lights and little in the way of maintenance.
Aside from easy installation and low maintenance, there are factors such as safety and reliability where solar lighting scores well plus the fact that it is highly versatile in terms of what you can use it for and there is a vast range of different options and styles to choose from.
So is outdoor solar lighting all sunshine and roses then? Well, only if you can actually guarantee the sunshine; if you have a naturally shady aspect, or seasons that reduce the hours of daylight for half the year, or mixed weather that can result in several overcast days then your solar lighting won’t always be able to get its full charge and will suffer.
Outdoor solar lights can also be adversely affected by physical impediments such as snow or leaves covering the solar panel. One solution is to remove the batteries and recharge them from a mains charger but obviously this is not practical if you have a lot of lights. This brings up the issue of batteries; rechargeable batteries have a limit on the number of times they can be charged and solar lights totally discharge their batteries on a nightly basis which reduces their lifespan.
Solar lights tend to cost more than mains powered versions which is not so much of an issue unless you plan on installing a large number of lights. In such cases you would need to carefully calculate the balance between purchase and operating costs for both options.
Finally, outdoor solar lighting is typically missing two key features inherent in mains powered outdoor lighting. It’s not as bright and doesn’t retain its brightness levels over extended periods of time, and it cannot be switched on and off as required but tends to be automatically controlled by built-in light level meters.
So on balance then, if all you want is a limited amount of lighting that you can bring home and have working that same evening, plus you don’t need it on all night attracting low flying aircraft then outdoor solar lighting is a great choice. For more sophisticated setups and greater control you probably want to put the effort into installing regular electric lighting.
Check out this related article to learn more about solar powered outdoor lighting.