We are all somewhat tired of hearing about all the benefits that LEDs are bringing to the table - at least a third of our promotional mails we receive every day are somewhat related to it. However, we just have to shed light on this fact one last time – LEDs consume very little energy. You might immediately think of your reduced power bills and sustainability improvements etc, but rest assured, we are not going to bore you with any of those details today.
So what kind of solar powered LED can you find on your local market? Despite all the buzz around it being a 'better tomorrow' and the 'future of our energy', the real deal is when you walk into your go-to lighting shops, everyday grocery stores, or home improvement chains, all you can find in regards to solar lighting is usually some type of fairy light. They can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, but essentially, they are simply a string of LED bulbs on a wire, and the wire is connected to a tiny solar panel on a pole with a small battery stuck on the back. Sure, some of those fancier ones costing more than ten bucks would probably throw in more features than 'auto on' at night time, offering something like a timer or a lux sensor, but they all do the same thing – gather power from the sun via the tiny solar panel, store it into the tiny battery, and turn on the lights when you want them to.
Why do these solar LED products exist in the market? Well, LED’s low energy footprint comes in handy here. As they consume very little energy, the solar panel and battery required to power them can therefore be very small and easy /cheap to manufacture. These little LED bulbs you are getting from the supermarket consume as low as 0.05W, that’s almost 1/2000 compared your old 100W halogen bulb. That’s why are you sometimes paying less than ten bucks for these solar fairy lights in your supermarket.
So what’s the catch? It can’t be all pros and no cons, I mean, you don’t see solar powered lights taking over the planet any day soon. Well, solar power requires high maintenance cost. You don’t just replace the battery when your $7.99 solar fairy lights fail to light up, the battery alone would most definitely cost more than the entire light. If you are considering replacing the solar panel, you might as well just buy another bunch at a lower price.
Solar LED lights do not last very long. They fail a lot more compared to a wired solution. Considering the complication of the solar design, the battery life, and the aging solar panel, don’t be surprised your garden solar LED light broke before you can say ‘Santa’ again. This is why you usually do not get quality from solar LED lights. They are cheap, inside and out, and they serve their purpose most of the time, for a few months or even only days, if you are unlucky.
That’s why there is another approach, a long lasting solution, which skips the idea of having a weak solar panel and dying battery - the hardwired, low voltage DC solutions. Remember the pain digging up your garden just to bury a cable for your AC powered spike light? With the low DC voltage lights, you won’t have to worry about all that, as the cables are safe enough to not need to be buried very deep. You won’t be spending the same expense with your electrician as you had to before with halogen lights. You also get better quality lights, more variety of styles to choose from, with advanced / integrated controls systems, and a longer life time – all of which would increase your property value and display your personal taste among your friends and loved ones.
If you are after something functional, say to light up a BBQ area, or a tennis court in your back yard, hard wire LEDs are the only way to go. These bright lights require proper electrical supply to function. There are certain places where solar powered lights just cannot compete, for example you won’t have to pray for a sunny day to properly charge your solar lights to see what you're baking off your BBQ grill at night. There are other things to consider besides the functionality. You might want to match the light in your garden with your house design, or maybe a swan shape light to go with your water fountain. When it comes to a customization requirement, solar is very unlikely available.
Hardwired lights at low voltage do have their catches as well; after all, nothing is without flaw. Besides the high down payment, hardware lights won’t be as flexible as the solar lights, as you need to pull the wires out to relocate them, and you will need to hire the electrician to do any work with them again.
Overall, we prefer the ‘hardwire low voltage approach’ more. Our ideas are really simple, we want lights to be bright, beautiful, and long lasting. We might put solar spikes or fairy lights in some places, but they are nothing major, nothing that sets the tune. Solar powered LED garden lights are at this stage and will, mostly like remain to be a temporal solution.
- March 16, 2018
- Alex Wu