What if you don’t have direct sun? If you are putting solar lights in your desert yard in Tucscon or Palm Springs, they are sure to operate at maximum strength — but what if you live in Seattle or simply have a heavily shaded yard? It’s not quite as simple, but you can still have solar-powered lights, even in a fully shaded area. A solar or landscape lighting pro can help position a remote photovoltaic panel on your roof or in a sunnier area of your yard, which can then be wired to the lights in the shady area.
If there simply isn’t much sunlight to be gathered, even on the roof (for example, you live somewhere like Seattle or Portland), the solar lights will still work, but they won’t shine as brightly or for as long each evening.
Solar path lights. These are small solar lights on stakes, which can be pushed into the ground alongside a walkway to softly illuminate the path at night. They are not as bright as electric path lights, so plan to use more (up to twice as many) to light your path with roughly the same glow as electric.
Where to use ambient solar lights. Place a few handblown glass solar lights on stakes in your garden beds for soft landscape lighting. Or hang solar string lights, like the charming mason jar lights shown here, over an outdoor dining table for a welcoming touch at your next gathering.
Where to use solar spotlights. Motion-sensing solar spotlights can be used near doors and in the driveway. Spotlights can also be placed in the garden, with the beam of light directed at a tree or another landscape feature.
You get what you pay for. The brightness of a solar light depends on the brightness of the sun and the amount of daylight it is exposed to — but it also depends on the quality of the photovoltaic cells and the size of the LED bulb. Higher-quality photovoltaic cells and larger LED bulbs tend to cost more, so to a certain extent, the higher-priced solar lights do tend to shine more brightly.
Tell us: Do you use outdoor solar lighting? Has your experience been good, bad or mixed? Share your thoughts and tips in the Comments.
Browse photos of landscapes illuminated by solar lights