Lighting is often the last consideration in gardening or landscaping. We tend to focus on plants—their colors, the vertical interest they add, and how they fill and accent our spaces. However, lighting offers some additional ways to accent, define, and spice up our spaces both indoor and outdoor. Solar-powered lighting, which charges its batters via a built-in solar panel rather than plugging into a wall outlet, is a flexible approach to lighting your outdoor spaces. So, is solar lighting right for your garden? Let’s dig in and look at the pros and cons of outdoor solar lighting, how you can use solar lighting in your gardening and landscaping, and a few tips and tricks for getting the most out of your outdoor solar lighting.
Pros and Cons of Outdoor Solar Lighting
As with everything else in life, outdoor solar lighting has both strengths and weaknesses. Whether or not outdoor solar lighting is the right choice for you and your space will depend on your unique situation, but here are some common potential pros and cons to consider.
Pros of Outdoor Solar Lighting:
- Easy installationis one of the biggest pros of outdoor solar lighting. Depending on the light it can be as simple as sticking it into the ground where you want it. Even lights that have a panel that needs to be mounted generally only need a few screws to hold them in place, which makes installing them easier than running a power line for conventional lighting.
- Solar lighting can go just about anywhere. With conventional lighting your limited by wiring, outlet availability, and extension cords. Solar lighting can go wherever the sunlight is, meaning that you can install it well away from outlets and other conventional power sources.
- Potentially, solar lighting can save you moneywhen compared to conventional lighting. This gets a little tricky—what your lighting actually ends up costing or saving you depends on a whole lot of things we can’t predict from here. But solar lighting doesn’t add to your electric bill, which may result in significant savings over time.
- Outdoor solar lighting is environmentally friendlywhen installed and used properly. Quality solar lighting lasts for years, reduces demand on the electrical grid, and many of the components can be recycled at the end of its life via an appropriate recycling center. Many outdoor solar lights are adjustable for both output and color, meaning that they can be friendlier to local wildlife is employed properly.
Cons of Outdoor Solar Lighting:
- It should go without saying, but outdoor solar lighting needs sunlight to function. This places some limits on where and when it can work. If your space is predominately shaded, in winter when daylight hours are shorter, or on cloudy days, you may get much less use from outdoor solar lighting.
- Outdoor solar lighting can be inconsistent, due in part to its dependence on batteries charged by the sun. While conventional mains-powered lighting will run with a consistent output for as long as the bulb or LED lasts, outdoor solar lighting may get dimmer as the battery discharges.
- As with so, so many things in our gardens, outdoor solar lighting requires regular maintenance. In particular, the solar panels themselves need to be kept clean of dust, dirt, and debris—including ice and snow. The panels will last a good long time, but the rechargeable batteries may need replacement occasionally. Protip: the batteries can and should be recycled, but you’ll need to take them to the right recycling facility.
Using Outdoor Solar Lighting in Your Garden
So with the pros and cons out of the way, what can you do with outdoor solar lighting in your garden? As it turns out, quite a lot! A string of outdoor solar lights can provide a wonderful accent for a fence, pergola, or archway. In-ground outdoor solar lights can illuminate a walkway or provide some definition around the perimeter of a garden bed. In a patio garden, solar lighting placed into containers can add visual interests and useful outdoor lighting. You can highlight night-bloom plants, or just set the mood for your space.
The possibilities are nearly endless, so use your imagination!
Getting the Most from Outdoor Solar Lighting
Let’s close with a few tips and tricks to get the most out of your outdoor solar lighting. First and foremost—make sure that the solar panels get the light they need to work! While you should check the manual that comes with your outdoor solar lighting for the manufacturers’ recommendation, most outdoor solar lighting products we’re familiar with recommend at least four to six hours of direct sun in order to reach a full charge. This is where gardeners have an advantage—we’re used to thinking about how the sun lights our space and we may even have a sun map for reference. Secondly, think about what you want the light to do; are you trying to illuminate a space, set a mood, add visual interest to your nighttime garden, or light up a walkway/pathway/driveway? When you know what you’d like to get out of your lighting, you’ll be better able to find the right products and setup for you.
We hope this helps you thinking about landscape and garden lighting in general, and the use of outdoor solar lighting in particular. If you have any tips or tricks of your own to share, let us know—Gardzen is all about community and we love to hear from you!