Choose solar lights to fulfill a purpose in the landscape. Whether you want your lights to shine on a footpath or highlight a prized plant, you should evaluate solar lights based on how they look, how they operate and how much they cost. In areas in the north, your lights might not receive enough power from the sun to operate properly. Store them indoors or charge the batteries in a separate charger to restore full power. Winter storage will also protect your lights from the elements.
Identify the specific purpose you want your solar lights to fill. Use landscape lights to enhance safety along footpaths, to provide accent lighting or as ambient light.
Set a lighting budget by deciding how much you are willing and able to spend for the entire project. Solar light prices range from $3 or $4 for simple, mass-produced lights to several hundred dollars for high-quality fixtures.
Seek out reputable companies that sell solar lights. Garden centers, home improvement stores and online specialty stores all carry solar lights. Find out about a store’s return policies before you make a purchase. Specifically, learn if you can return the lights if you decide you do not like the way they look once they are in place.
Create a cohesive look throughout your landscape by choosing lights that complement your existing fixtures as well as the look of your softscape and hardscape. Take into account the lights’ styles as well as their finishes. Choose solar lights fashioned in the style of paper lanterns if you have an Asian themed landscape, for example. Choose a Tiffany-style pattern for Victorian homes. Choose a rustic design for casual homes.
Look at where you will position the lights. Determine if you can use lights that are linked together or whether each light must be powered separately. Lights that are linked together have one solar panel and it distributes power to the other lights in the set through wires. You cannot space the lights farther apart than the longest stretch of wire between fixtures. Connected lights allow you to place the fixture with the solar panel in a sunny place while adding light to places that do not receive as much sun exposure, such as under a tree.
Choose lights that you stake into the ground only for places where you have soft ground. Use cap-post lights for decks. Bring light higher on the deck by choosing lights that screw into deck posts or by sticking lights with stakes into planters.
Read the descriptions of the lights to find out whether it uses batteries, how many and what type. Expect to find that your lights will need at least two AA or AAA rechargeable batteries powered by the light’s solar panel. The great majority of solar light manufacturers provide batteries, when needed, but these are often low-end batteries. Replace the manufacturer’s rechargeable batteries with those of a high-end brand to improve performance, longevity and reliability, but include the expense of high-quality batteries into your budget.
Give a preference to lights sold individually as well as in sets. Find out if you can buy members of a set of lamps separately, either to extend your initial set or to act as replacements. Ask about replacement light bulbs. Many manufacturers do not offer replacement bulbs and anticipate that the consumer will purchase a new fixture in the event of failure.