We’re all emerging into our gardens with more and more confidence as the sun seems to be staying firmly in the sky well into the evening; with summer now in full swing, the UK has the rare opportunity to fill the evenings with garden parties, barbecues, and general outdoor revelry. However, as much as we wish it could last forever, inevitably the sun must begin to set. If you don’t want to cut your evenings short once you can no longer tell whether those are ants or peppercorns on your breadsticks, then you’re likely looking into investing in outdoor lighting.
Of course, the ideal solution for both the environment and your energy bills would be to use solar powered garden lights to illuminate your evening. The concern with solar powered garden lights is that, well, we don’t get enough solar power in this country. Contrary to how it may feel at the moment, the UK is notorious for being quite clouded from the sun for most of the year; therefore, are solar lights really worth the investment? How do they work? Will they work throughout the year? Or will they only be out and shining for the brief 4 weeks of glorious sun? Below, LOFA debate just that.
How Do Solar Powered Garden Lights Work?
How solar lights actually work will go a long way in helping us to gauge whether they’re going to generate enough light to make them worth the investment. Without delving too deep into the science of it, solar power works by harnessing the energy of the sun using electrons, and then storing that in a battery until the evening; this process is called the photovoltaic effect. Through this, sunlight is converted into the electricity that is used to run your solar powered garden lights.
The big thing to understand about this, and solar power in general, is that light, and not heat, generates solar power. We all know that the UK is pretty cold for most of the year, but we do still get the sun’s rays throughout the day – after all, we’re not walking around in the dark! That means that in daytime the sun’s energy is still reaching us, including its light, even if it’s chillier at certain points of the year. With that in mind, the regularly cold weather that we get in the UK doesn’t mean that a solar powered garden light can’t or won’t charge.
The other significant element of solar powered garden lights is that they will automatically turn their light off during daylight, and turn it on once there is no light present; they do this using photoresistors, similarly to streetlights. This means that the energy that is being converted and stored in the battery will not be used during the day when you don’t need it and instead only comes on at night. Of course, if you’re not using the lights at nighttime, this energy will still be used up unless you remember to turn them off.
When Do Solar Powered Garden Lights Work?
It certainly used to be the case that solar chargers were not capable of harnessing enough power through the winter to emit a solid light at night. However, with advancements in materials and technology, charging is far superior to how it was even just a few years ago. Whereas there used to be a case for the theory that solar powered garden lights simply wouldn’t work in any season other than summer, that case is now weakening.
Considering how solar powered garden lights work, there is plenty of evidence that your solar lights will still charge even during colder weather, as the sun’s light will still have an impact. However, with all things considered, we can’t argue that the sun is as bright in the depths of winter. The less the sun’s light hits your solar panel, the less strong your solar light is likely to be at night, and the shorter the amount of time it may last for.
There are things you can do to mitigate the impact (or lack of impact) of the colder and darker seasons so that you get the very most out of your solar powered garden lights. The most helpful thing you can do for your solar lights is to position the solar panel where it will have the best chance of being exposed to direct sunlight. This means taking some time to understand where shadows will be created in your garden and positioning your solar panels accordingly. In winter, the sun is lower in the sky which means that shadows will be longer, so be sure to consider this when you’re deciding where to position the solar panel for your lights.
Another reason why people feel that solar powered garden lights don’t work in winter is that the charge is used up quicker. Though it is partly true that your solar lights may not receive as much charge, the issue is often more that they are required to be on for longer. As solar powered garden lights turn on automatically once it becomes dark, you’ll find that your lights turn on much earlier than they would in summer when daylight is longer. However, this also means that they’ll often turn on when you’re still at work! To get the most out of the charge of your solar powered garden lights, you can switch them off during the day – they will still charge. This means that when you do need them in the evening, you can simply switch them on and get the most out of what they’ve stored throughout the day.
Solar powered garden lights are a great investment if you want to really make the most of your outside space in an easy and energy-efficient way. Through understanding how they work, you can make sure that you are using them in a way that maximises their potential no matter the season. Ultimately, you cannot expect quite the same performance in the darker months of the year, but if you’re aware of the ways by which you can enhance their use at this time, you’ll find that they’re a handy addition to your garden lighting.
For more information about garden lighting, take a browse through LOFA’s other garden lighting articles; create the perfect outside space for entertaining and keep your party going far into the nighttime.