As of now (9/2018), are solar-powered landscaping lights a sensible option?

In 5-year intervals, for the past 15 years, I've been suckered into buying solar-powered landscaping lights and every time it has been a complete waste of money. The lights are dim, last for about two hours after dark, and the battery loses its ability to charge in about 4-6 months.

Before I repeat the same mistake, I figured I'd ask: Have solar-powered lights improved significantly over the past 5 years to the point that one should consider buying them again? Perhaps this question could be answered for path-lighting lights as well as lights designed to be pointed at trees and house walls.

  • The answer depends entirely on the quality of the particular product. Most of the ones sold at department stores are the cheapest of crap. If you find some good ones, they'll probably perform very well. – isherwood Sep 1 '18 at 12:21

I have fence-post-top solar lights purchased some more than five years ago and a couple more recently. What I've found is the older models use NiCad batteries and the newer, slightly more expensive ones use lithium based batteries.

The NiCad versions are useless and no longer illuminate, while the lithium versions are still alight the next morning. In the winter, with the shorter daylight hours, they won't last the entire night but continue to return each summer, thus far.

I've been considering popping the dead ones off and getting the new stuff, but it's easy to put things off.

Read the fine print, aim for the lithium powered stuff, and you may have better luck.

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  • Have you tried changing the NiCd batteries? 5 years is a good run for a NiCd! Odd NiCd battery sizes are readily available in quantity on ebay. Avoid NiMH, they are electrically compatible for high-draw tools, but many path lights rely on the internal resistance peculiar ro NiCd. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 1 '18 at 15:21
  • I 2nd Harper's comment. Batteries don't do well in cold. Bring The Batteries in before it gets too cold. Replace with new ones if they don't last a long time. The transformer fed lights are the preferred where lighting is to be used year round. – user68386 Sep 1 '18 at 16:00
  • I had not considered to change out the NiCd batteries, as the lithium stuff is so much longer lasting during the dark periods. I'm aware that I can't just drop in a lithium in the NiCd cricuit, as the charge profiles are different. I'm a proponent of procrastination, which means nothing will happen for a couple of years, anyway! – fred_dot_u Sep 1 '18 at 18:27

Sure, it's a great product concept. But there are pitfalls that anger consumers.

Buying from junk shops and expecting it not to be junk

Enough said.

Expecting infinite battery life

If you discover a small battery tech that lasts longer than 3-4 years in daily use, Elon Musk would appreciate a phone call.

Other than that, when your small rechargeable batteries get unacceptably short service lives, just change them. You wouldn't toss out an 18V drill because its battery pack doesn't have the range it did.

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