Switching to outdoor solar lighting is a magnificent idea. You can harness the power of the sun to light up your yard at night without pumping up that electricity bill and without having to worry about forgetting to turn the lights on and off. Solar lighting ranges from really affordable to quite expensive, and those who have owned them for a while may have noticed that they don’t shine as bright as they used to. Is there anything that can be done about that?
Method One: Cleaning the solar panel
The solar panel is one of the main components of solar lighting. It’s made up of cells that absorb the energy of the sun to later convert it into battery power. Needless to say, in order for solar light to be effective, they need to be exposed to as much sunlight as possible throughout the course of a day.
In time (and especially if your solar lights aren’t inclined), dust, debris, snow, or other stuff can accumulate on the surface of the panel, blocking sunlight from reaching the photovoltaic cells. That can only mean one thing: it’s time to clean them:
- If your lights are mounted up high, remove them so you’ll have easier access to the solar panel. If they’re in-ground or on-ground solar lights, you can leave them there.
- Use a brush to remove any excess debris or whatever is stuck on top of the solar panel.
- Use a damp cloth and some mild detergent (such as dish soap), and gently scrub the surface of the solar panel.
- Once the solar panel is clean, use a clean cloth to wipe off any excess water and detergent, leaving the solar panel nice and shiny.
- Put the solar lighting back in their original position.
NOTE: Your lights can also lose brightness if the light panel is dirty. The light panel is typically made from plastic or glass, and it’s the protective cover that shields the light from the external environment. Using the same steps that we’ve talked about before, make sure that this protection panel is also clean.
Method Two: Checking the batteries
Batteries are another vital component of solar garden lights. That’s where the sun’s energy is stored and they are what power the bulbs inside the solar fixture. While these batteries are typically made to last, that doesn’t mean that they’ll survive a lifetime. In fact, there are two things that you can do as far as batteries and solar light brightness is concerned: remove corrosion or replace the batteries altogether:
- Grab the user manual that came together with your walkway lighting, and check to see where the battery compartment is located.
- Remove the batteries from their housing and notice if there is any white powder around the metal part.
- Using fine-grit sandpaper or a brush, remove the powder from both the battery and the housing.
- Now, you can either choose to put the battery back or replace it with a new one (we do recommend the latter option, especially if your batteries haven’t been changed in a while).
- Make sure that you use a clean and dry cloth to wipe the battery housing and the batteries. Corrosion is often a result of the solar lights being exposed to high levels of moisture and humidity, so if you put the batteries back in a humid housing, you risk ending up with corrosion all over again.
NOTE: At first you might be tempted to think that a battery upgrade might be the best solution, but that’s not necessarily true. First of all, a solar light fixture is only designed to withstand so much power, not to mention the fact that they are compatible with a limited number of battery types. If you want to experiment with adding a higher-capacity battery, purchase a less expensive light, one that you wouldn’t mind throwing away if you destroy it.
Method Three: Checking sunlight exposure
Even if the concept of how solar lights are supposed to function is pretty clear, there are plenty of people who install these lights in the wrong place. Every light manufacturer (at least every honest one) will specify how many hours of sunlight exposure a certain fixture needs in order to provide a specific runtime. Generally speaking, a solar light needs at least six hours of direct sunlight exposure to render light for another six hours. Typically, it’s best if the lights get about eight to 10 hours of direct sunlight.
When you install a solar light in your yard, you might think that you’ve got it covered” you know “just the spot”. However, there are people who don’t take into consideration the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun, and a light that takes in plenty of sunlight during the morning hours might be obstructed by a tree or a shrub or even a house wall later in the afternoon.
What could actually help in this scenario is to observe how much sunlight you get in several areas of your yard and determine which are the best spots for you to actually install your solar lights. Also note that there are some solar lights with rotating heads, meaning you can change the angle of the solar panel in order to provide it with more sunlight exposure than it has before.
Method Four: Hacking the lights
This method could be considered a little bit extreme, but it should be really fun to do if you’re passionate about messing around with circuit boards and inner components of your solar lights. Of course, this method’s steps will depend on what’s inside your solar lights, but there is basically a standard guideline that you should follow.
- Buy some really cheap solar lights, ones that you shouldn’t mind damaging for good and potentially wasting money if this experiment fails.
- Take your solar lights apart and make sure that you disconnect everything.
- Take a look at the battery that comes with your solar lights (as most of them should come with a pre-installed battery). Make a note of the capacity of the battery then choose to replace it with one that has double the power.
- Determine the location of the inductor on the circuit board of the lights you’re working with. The role of the inductor is to adjust the brightness of your lights. If you’re not sure which one of these parts is the inductor, feel free to look it up (this information might already be available in the manual that came with the lights).
- Modify the circuits so that you can eventually add some extra light bulbs. This should be a fairly simple process that requires the use of wire tighteners for fasting two lights, and then matching the negative and positive ends.
- If need be, change the inductor value, as this might be the case when you’re making modifications to the circuit board.
- Put the light components back together and determine if the lights have changed their intensity (since the value of the battery is doubles and you added one extra light, the lights should be twice as bright now).
Method Five: Removing unnecessary parts
Sometimes, a few minor adjustments that simply removing certain parts of your solar lights might make them brighter. Here are a few extra things you can do:
- See if there are any plastic parts that might stand in the way of more light reaching the panel and the battery.
- Consider making your own battery light holder by using two springs and gluing them in order to recreate the traditional battery setup you’re already familiar with.
- See if you can get rid of the top lid that’s preventing sunlight from reaching the panel so that the rays may be absorbed at their maximum potential. Keep in mind that the role of the lid is also to protect the interior components.
There are plenty of things you can do to brighten your solar lights, especially if we’re talking about items you’ve owned and used for a long time and are most likely dirty. Solar lights are exposed to all sorts of environmental factors, not to mention contaminants (like dust and debris). Generally speaking, solar lights are low-maintenance products, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t periodically have to clean them. Otherwise, you’ll notice that the light is way more faded than it used to be when you first installed it.