There are three main factors to thank for this:
(1) advances in battery technology,
(2) the rapid and continual technological advancements in solar panels (also known as photovoltaic cells), and
(3) next generation LED lighting, which makes low-power consumption exterior lighting increasingly more available.
How does Solar Landscape Lighting Work?
Outdoor solar lighting works by storing electricity in one of two ways:
(1) excess electricity is sent back to the main electrical power grid, or
(2) electricity is stored locally in batteries.
Outdoor solar lights have three main components:
(1) the collection and conversion of sunlight into energy,
(2) the storage of electricity, and
(3) the expenditure of electricity.
In order to convert the sunlight into energy, one or more solar panels (photovoltaic modules) need to be installed. These panels convert daylight in direct current (DC) energy. The direct current is subsequently transferred to a storage component through an electrical cable.
The storage component then has two options:
(1) pass the electricity on to whatever unit needs power, or
(2) store the electricity in the main power electrical grid.
Here it's important to note that most outdoor lighting systems require a DC current, whereas most indoor electrical appliances require AC (alternating current). Even more, all batteries and outdoor LED lighting require a DC current (most commonly 12v low voltage).
So, at this point, you need to decide whether to leave the current as DC or convert it into AC through the use of an inverter. But it doesn't have to be one or the other. You can use dedicated solar panels for particular applications. In other words, one panel can be dedicated for AC, another for DC, and so on.
Whichever storage option you choose will dictate the end usage.
Reasons to Install Solar Lights
Solar power intrinsically lends itself to outdoor lighting. There are three main reasons for this:
(1) New generation solar LED garden lights require very little power and usually are low voltage (12 volts or less).
(2) It's the ideal, pollution less, free power cycle. When lighting is not required during the day, the batteries are fully charged by the sun. This stored energy is then used to power the lights at night.
(3) All you need is access to daylight to harness this power. And the daylight does not have to be direct sunlight. Any form of daylight will do.
So, once you get past the initial costs of purchasing the exterior solar lighting system, it will run itself cost-free for as long as you own it. And because the true cost of any lighting system is measured in terms of its continual operating expenses, this is a huge benefit. Over time, even the most expensive lighting systems have their costs dwarfed by the electrical expenses incurred by operating them.
Types of LED Outdoor Lights
If you are wondering what types of outdoor solar lights are available, what follows is a quick rundown of some of the most popular solar landscape lights.
Outdoor LED lighting made its first appearance a short while back with the introduction of low voltage garden lighting systems. Since then, it has become widely accepted and popular.
The advantages of LED garden lights include:
(1) easy installation,
(2) beautiful lighting effects,
(3) very low-cost operation,
(4) comparatively inexpensive to purchase, and
(5) safe for children, animals and plants.
Before the introduction of LED exterior lights, halogen and incandescent bulbs were used in garden lighting. These lights would many times be too powerful for the intended application. Not only that, their range of effects is more limited and the extremely high temperature of the bulbs can be dangerous for people, plants and animals.
On top of all this, halogen and incandescent bulbs cost much more to operate. This is because these bulbs need to be replaced regularly (LED bulbs can last 10 years or more) and use more than ten times the amount of electricity of LED garden lights.
Outdoor LED Lighting Choices
Wondering what choices are available in LED landscape lighting?
To begin with, you can try LED spot lights. Or, if want something a bit more powerful, you can select LED flood lights. Then there are LED deck and patio lights, which come in a wide range of colors and sizes. Additionally, you can opt for colored clear rock lights, lanterns, bollards, spikes and LED pond lights.
The options are only as limited as your imagination.
LED deck lighting is a good example to take a look at. These lights are not only easily attached to decking boards, but also can be installed to any outside wooden garden furniture. All you need to do to install them is to drill a hole in the board equal to the diameter of the deck light unit. Then drop the connecting cable into the hole, which is followed by the actual LED light. After that, it's simply a matter of enjoying cost-free illumination for years to come.
What makes these outside lights so great is that they are lightweight, durable, and robust. This means you are not limited to drilling them into regular deck boards that are walked on. You can also install them into side panels of the deck, upright posts, and even cross beams of pergolas, where LED deck lights can be installed at various angles to direct the light toward the ground.
Moreover, you can install LED deck lights into fence panel posts or use them to highlight objects like a garden shed if you so choose.
The point I'm trying to make is that LED deck lights don't necessarily need to be confined to a deck. They are one of the most versatile components used for lighting any part of your garden lighting area. So, if you want to install them into steps or stepping stones, use them for patio lighting, mount them into wood blocks, or even use them as standalone ground level lighting for flower or garden borders, there's nothing to stop you!
Solar post cap lights and solar deck rail lights are variants of regular LED deck lighting. These low power LED lights can be used to decipher the line of fencing and deck rails. They are easy to install, require a minimal amount of maintenance, and display an ambient light intended as an enhancing and finishing touch.
LED garden spot lights are an ideal substitution for halogen bulbs because they generate virtually no heat (which can be damaging to plants, hands and paws) and use a fraction of consumable power. Their light is easily directed and does not require fitted reflectors in order to focus the beam of light.
When considering the installation of LED spotlights in a garden, there are two important points to consider:
(1) LED light color, and
(2) beam angle (i.e. spread out light or tightly focused light).
When referring to color, the reference is intended more in terms of temperature, rather than specific colors. Color choices are available, though. Whether you decide to go with a 'warm' or 'cool' color will depend on the look you are after, which itself will depend on your personal preferences.
A dramatic feel is accomplished by using 'cool' colors (e.g. pure, white light). This works particularly well to sharply define architectural garden objects and to produce a sparkling effect on water. 'Warm' colors like yellow, amber, and even warm white work well to enhance the natural colors of flowers and trees.
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