How Solar Lights Work (types – Charging – Maintaining)

With renewable energy on everyone’s minds and as a topic of many conversations, it’s only natural for people to grow curious about what solar can do for them.

While many people have embraced solar, some are still new to solar-powered devices, especially solar lighting. Below are frequently asked questions about solar lights.

Here are a few things we’ll be looking at today;

  • Different types of solar lights
  • How they work
  • How long they last
  • How to maintain them

The following information will help you enjoy your solar lights for longer than normal, let’s get started!

Solar Lights Along A Garden Path At Night
Solar Lights Along A Garden Path At Night

What Is A Solar Light?

Solar lights are the same as your normal light. Except they don’t draw power from electricity to function, they use the sun’s light. Solar lights have photovoltaic batteries that are charged each day to provide light.

The solar cells convert sunlight into electricity and are made from crystalline silicon layers containing positive and negatively charged electrons.

The sunlight then powers the electrons when it enters the solar cell and pushes them where the positive charge is.

While not all towns and cities have them, you might notice something on your streetlight if you’ve paid attention to your streetlights as you’ve walked, biked, or driven around town.

This solar collector collects sunlight and automatically turns on the light when it detects darkness.

Cities with solar-powered streetlights include Kampala, Uganda, Beaumont, California, Highland Park, Michigan, Jinja City, Uganda, Belleair Beach, Florida; and others.

A Solar Street Light
A Solar Street Light

Types Of Solar Lights

There are several types of solar lights available. These include solar lanterns, solar spotlights, solar streetlights, and solar pathway lighting. Below are a few examples of solar lights.

Hybrid Solar Lights

Hybrid solar lights are a little more complex, and several systems function differently. One system that powers a grid will function differently than one that powers lighting or both.

There are also grid-tied and off-grid systems as well.

Solar Sky Lights

Solar skylights save a great amount of energy you would otherwise spend on electricity. Solar skylights are easier to maintain than solar panels, and they are smaller.

They have a rain sensor built-in, which closes the skylight when it senses rain.

Solar Flood Lights

Floodlights are blindingly bright, making it a surprise that solar power is viable for floodlights. Just like any other solar-powered light, there are solar cells to harness sunlight to produce energy and a battery to store the energy.

Solar flood lights on motion detectors last a long time, but the battery is what you have to worry about the most.

Even the rechargeable batteries have a certain number of charges they can go through before performance decreases.

Solar Pathway Lighting

Solar lights for an outdoor path are an excellent option for homeowners and businesses.

Not only are they easy to install and cost-efficient, but they are far brighter than pathway lights that rely on traditional wired options to provide lighting.

Solar Lights Next To Flowers On A Path
Solar Lights Next To Flowers On A Path

How Long Do Solar Lights Take To Charge?

Solar devices typically need between four to twelve hours to charge fully. They need direct sun exposure every day, which means they charge well when not under trees, shady areas, or under a roof overhang.

Dirty solar lights will also take longer to charge, and it’s also advisable not to place them near another lighted object.

Do Solar Power Lights Need To Be Turned On To Charge?

Solar lights are easy to operate, especially with an on/off switch. If your device does have an on/off switch, you need to switch it to the on position while in use.

If you are storing or trying to preserve the battery life, you can turn your solar light off.

Will Solar Lights Charge On A Cloudy Day?

Many people, especially those living in cloudy, rainy climates, wonder if it is feasible to use solar power. The good news is that solar lights and other solar devices can charge even if it’s cloudy.

This is due to the sensitivity of the receptors, which means if the sun is up, your device can charge, even though it may take longer.

Why Are My Solar Lights Flashing?

Flashing solar lights indicate that there’s a chance that your lights aren’t receiving enough sunlight to produce a charge.

It also indicates that your batteries are old and can’t hold a charge or that your solar light is dirty and needs cleaning.

What Does A, B, and C Mean On Solar Lights?

If you have a solar light with a switch with A, B, or C indications, you’re likely curious about what it means if you’re not one to consult an owner’s manual.

  • The A indication means that the solar light will provide a bright light that’s always on in the dark until the battery is dead.
  • If you choose B, there will be a constant dimmed light until it detects motion. It will go to full illumination for 15 seconds when it detects motion.
  • If you choose C, the solar light will remain off until it detects motion, after which it will go to full illumination for 15 seconds.
Solar Powered Led Lights On Outdoor Deck Post With Trees In Background. - Sol Voltaics: Solar Panel Information
Solar Powered Led Lights On Outdoor Deck Post With Trees In Background.

Can You Use Regular Batteries for Solar Lights?

You can use regular batteries to solar power lights for short periods, but you shouldn’t leave them there for more than a week.

But, it’s best not to use regular batteries because they are alkaline based and designed to be thrown away after they run out of power.

If you use standard batteries, something could cause you to forget to take them out at the end of the week, so they’re not worth the risk.

How Do You Install Solar Lights?

When installing your solar lights, it’s important to read the manual first while identifying what you will need, if anything, and what features your solar lights have.

Once you’ve read the instructions, find a sunny place where you wish to put your solar lights and mark the spot. The last step is to install your lights in the areas you choose.

How Far Apart Should You Place Solar Lights?

The general rule states that solar lights should be placed between six to eight feet apart for residential use.

Before you go out and purchase a large number of solar lights, measure the space you wish to illuminate and mark the spots.

Can You Leave Solar Lights Out In The Winter?

You can only leave your solar lights outside in the winter if they are rated as outside lighting; otherwise, it will affect the performance of the light.

The batteries within the solar light work better the closer to room temperature.

How To Clean Your Solar Lights

We’ve mentioned above that keeping your solar lights clean is important. This is because dust and other debris on the solar cells impact the ability of the battery to charge.

When your solar lights don’t charge as well, your outdoor lights won’t stay on very long, and it will shorten the life of your battery.

When cleaning your solar lights, it’s best to use a soft cloth and a little soapy water.

You will need a brush with soft bristles if you have any mud or other debris. For maximum performance, clean your solar cells once per month.

General Solar Panel FAQ

What Problems Do Solar Panels Solve?

In environmental terms, solar panels can potentially solve a handful of problems, including;
1. Air pollution
2. Water pollution
3. Greenhouse gases
4. Reduction in fossil fuel use

For individuals, solar energy allows you to become completely self-sufficient when it comes to your electricity needs and can save you a lot of money in the long run.

What Are 3 Important Uses Of Solar Panels?

The three most important uses of solar panels are;
1. Solar electricity. This can be used to power almost any appliance in your home, including TVs, computers, and fridges.
2. Lighting. In addition to the use of low-power, LED lightbulbs, solar panels can provide an efficient, low-cost, and environmentally friendly way to provide lighting to homes. 
3. Portable solar. In our modern, always-connected lives, our phones, tablets, and computers are almost always with us, and all run on batteries. Portable PV chargers can help keep our batteries topped up no matter where we are, as long as there is some sun to charge them.

Do solar panels give you free electricity?

Once the cost of the array is paid in full, the energy it produces is free. There are ongoing maintenance costs, too, such as annual panel cleaning, etc. 

How much will my electric bill be with solar panels?

Suppose your solar array includes a solar battery backup system, and it is large enough to fully cover your energy usage per day. In that case, your monthly electric bill will be next to zero dollars, even with a grid-tied system. 

If your solar array does not include a solar battery backup system, then at night, your house or business will use grid electricity. That cost will vary but expect to pay from 1/3-2/3 of your average electric bill, and that cost will fluctuate seasonally. 

Do you save money with solar panels?

The simple answer is, Yes, you save money with solar panels. There is an initial upfront cost, but since solar panels are warrantied for 25 years, you will save money over time. You will also begin to see monthly savings in energy bills, but there are other ways that solar panels pay you back. Those include:
1. Adding value to your home or commercial building 
2. Monthly decreases in energy costs
3. The ability to add more energy appliances without increased monthly costs
4. The potential for tax credits for going solar

Can solar panels power a house 24-7?

Most definitely! Solar panels can certainly power a house 24-7, with the addition of a high-quality inverter and a suitable battery bank, of course. To power, a house under normal usage will require a massive solar array, though, and there will be a very expensive initial financial outlay.

Do I need to tell my energy supplier I have solar panels?

This depends on where you live, but in most cases, it’s not necessary to inform your energy supplier that you have solar panels. That said, you may be producing excess power with your solar system, in which case you may be able to sell that excess power back to energy companies.

In this case, you’ll naturally need to be in contact with them. 

What Are Solar Cells Known as and Why?

Solar cells are also called photovoltaic (PV) cells. They are called so because the term ‘photovoltaic’ literally means light i.e. photo and electricity i.e. voltaic.

These cells generate electricity through the photovoltaic effect. This effect basically causes the generation of free electrons from the semiconducting silicon material of the solar panel when sunlight hits its surface.

What Type of Solar Panels Are Most Efficient and Why?

There are currently three types of solar panels available in the market that are:
1. Monocrystalline
2. Polycrystalline
3. Thin-filmed

Among these, monocrystalline solar panels are known to be the most efficient among all others.

Does heat enter your home through the roof?

Absolutely. Heat enters your home through your roof, and on a hot day your attic can get up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Through conduction, heat from the sun warms your roof which then warms your attic and the rest of your home.

Sol Voltaics is an affiliate and an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases - at no extra cost to you.


Sol Voltaics Logo Icon green white