Thursday, August 6, 2015

Solar lights and survival of the fitest

Heather look after her indoor plants, mostly African Violets, I'm in charge of the outdoor plant beds...

Well, she does mostly pick the plants and tell me where I would had put them, if only....

But I digress, I AM in charge of outdoors plant beds, so I must put some toys in them :-)

Enter solar powered lights. They have come a long way since their introduction a few years back, and come in a variety of shape, form etc.
Cheap, cheap...Dollar store cheap!

I put some of these lamp post in numerous places,
 in the front flower beds. 4 in this pic alone.

Plus a few rock lites and frog lites etc.

Another at each end of the flag pole flower bed, plus a spot

And 4 solar post caps, two at each exits of the rear deck

So obviously, I just had to put them everywhere. Well some sanity prevailed, and I only have a few in service :-)
I will never do the runway like lights surroundings the walkway.  I live too close to actual runways, could be a bad idea :-)

But truth be known, they don't seems to last very long :-(
Either the brand name or the cheap Dollar store ones.

The longest lasting so far are the post caps lights, they are very bright and last a long time at nite. But one of the four is now dead.

These of course wintered in situ.

The solar projector works very well, but was never really bright enough to illuminated the flag at nite. The flag pole got broken during a powerful storm earlier and is down at the moment. Yes, its on my to do list :-)

Up front, most of the cheap Dollar store solar lite I bought didn't last very long.
Weeks, months at the most.
One exception are the lamp post, some are still going strong after 3 years, but every years I have to weeded out the dead ones. I have 5 still working out of about 12.  And before you ask, I always removed my landscaping lights for the winter, they are turned off and stay protected in the shed.

I have 5 put asides trying tho weed out the bad ones.
I can't never remember which is which. 

I always seems to mixed them up and forget. 
This time the picture should help :-)
Only 3 out of 5 works, 2 when I last check last nite...

Out on my autopsy table right now are the little frog lites and rock lites, long dead.  Also my two LED driveway markers post did not survived their first winter... :-(

So let see what goes wrong with them.
First up on the table are my driveway markers.

Nice rechargeable battery in there.

The power and function switch (they can be made to flash)
is accessible from the bottom, once removed from post.

And sure enough, the switches are badly corroded.
They used open frame switches, they had no chances...

Then I opened the cast resin rocks, frogs etc and they all exhibited the same problem, the switch...

Not very well sealed and easy to pry open.

These cheap ones and the brand names ones, all exhibited the same failure; The switch!
Should not come as a surprise, although they appear to seal the switch with a rubber boot on the outside, the switch frame is open, and subject to lot of condensation, humidity etc. They rust fast!

So there you have it, if you have some of these and they have failed, I'll bet the problem is with the switch...
You can buy replacement battery for most of these solar lights, but I'll surmised that the switch will fail long before the battery.

The brand name ones seems to be longer lasting, but those driveway markers were not cheap and very disappointing :-(

I'll somehow recycle the parts, hate to throw out perfectly good solar cell, LEDs etc... Probably into my annual Christmas village. 
It too has a few LEDs lights, but it could always used more lights :-)

Bob, the mad light scientist


  1. Is there anyway you could seal these? You just cured me of a itch to try some of these.
    What's the regulations for the Canadian flag flying at night? The US flag can only be flown at night if there is light shining on it until daybreak.

  2. Yes, same flag rule, hence why I tried the spot light. Did not really do the job, flag came down then later the still empty pole got broken by a storm. Still have not been a let to remove the broken piece of steel mast from the ground. Stuck solid.

    As for sealing then better would be just as bad, they would sweat too much.
    Problem is the vulnerable open case switch. A good sealed switch would last, but of course the price would be to much...??

  3. Have you looked at the hardwired LED lights that Lee Valley offers? They sell an outdoor deck lighting kit that may work - just not with the convenience of solar power.

  4. Yes I have been thinking about wired low volt lights for a while, but I much prefer the liberty to put them anywhere at a whim to try different decor.
    So for that, you can't beat solar.