Winter Often Means Special Care for Solar Lights
Note: we’re going to be posting a few more winter tips for solar lights post over the next couple of days, but this one covers some of the most important things.
Like it or not, winter is here in most of the United States.
Unfortunately, the performance of many solar lights can decrease dramatically in winter.
The days shorter, nights are longer and some lights just work better when the temperatures are above freezing.
(Similarly, the heat of the summer can wreak havoc on many cheap solar lights.)
The Good News: There are MANY ways you can get better performance from your lights this time of year.
It’s also important to remember that some solar lights and virtually all solar water products should be taken indoors, dried thoroughly, and stored until nicer weather returns.
Here¡¯s some tips for you to make sure winter doesn¡¯t take its toll on your solar landscape or marine solar products.
Extend Run Times by Switching Adjustable Lights to Lower Settings
Many better solar lights, including many of our solar lamps and most of our solar boat lights, let you choose different settings, such as High or Dim Illumination.
If you need lights to run until morning, you¡¯re best bet is to switch these to the Dim or Low setting until early spring when daylight hours increase.
And for the record: the phrase “dusk to dawn” illumination doesn’t really mean dusk to dawn. The phrase, usually badly used, means the lights will turn when it starts to get dark and run until the stored solar energy in the rechargeable battery runs out.
That’s one reason why it’s a good idea to buy the best solar lights you can afford, and to look at the different features before you buy. Run times, the ability to change operating modes, and other things that make lights far more likely to truly operate as long as possible usually do cost. Solar lights usually give you what you pay for.
Not only are there less hours of sunlight, the sun isn¡¯t as strong in December or February as June. The further north you live, the more your lights will be impacted.
Solar lights have many advantages but they all need sun. The more sun and the better quality sunshine they receive, the better solar lights work. You can¡¯t fight Mother Nature, but you can play around with her a bit.
It¡¯s Not Your Imagination: Motion Detection Lights Do Go On More During Cold Weather
cold, not scary things, make security lights activate more often in winter
Cold, not the Boogey Man, can make any motion activated lights turn on more frequently.
Motion detection lights are operated by Passive Infrared (PIR) detectors. These detectors don¡¯t really detect motion, they detect changes in heat.
Many PIR lights, particularly spotlights and floodlights, let you do this easily using the SENS button on the back of the fixture.
Things to Take In During Cold Temperatures
Plows for Roads or Driveways are Risky for solar lights. So are shovels and de-icing chemicals including sand.
If you have delicate solar lights (mostly decorative lights), ground-staked accent lights that could be hit by plows, snow blowers or shovels, or solar water features, many of these should be stored indoors for winter.
Find out which ones to be extra careful of and how to store them properly with our posts: What¡¯s Missing from This Picture? What We Stored for Winter and Caring for Your Outdoor Solar Lighting and Garden Products This Winter (off-site links)
If Possible, Move the Lights or Adjust Solar Panels
Most solar lights, during optimum weather conditions need at least four and at best six hours of sunshine directly on the solar panel.
But four hours of sun in May or June is very different from four hours of sun in December or January.
Always remember that the running/operating times cited by the manufacturer assume that the lights are indeed getting the appropriate amount of sunshine.
Ground lights that you leave out during the winter are usually easily moved. If you rely on them for, say pathway lighting, moving them a few feet can make a radical difference.
One good thing about winter: there are fewer leaves on trees so a spot that might not work in when trees have all there leaves may be an ideal spot during winter. (We actually have a couple of solar lights that work far better in the winter, because they while the days are shorter, there is no foliage blocking the panels.)
While most solar panels are fixed, many solar panels for security lights are adjustable.
The following graphic is one we use a lot, because it¡¯s relevant to all seasons of the year. Fewer lights have adjustable panels than a few years ago.
One reason for this as the costs of better solar panels, batteries and controllers goes down, quality lights can perform better with 4 to 6 hours of sun, though again, 6 is best. But if you can re-position your solar panels, please use the following chart to adjust them to get the maximum amount of sunshine..