Solar Lighting Journey
Reviews & Tips for the Unenlightened
Ongoing -- As long as there is a sun
September 6, 2016
Ever since affordable
solar lighting came out for the garden
paths, I was hooked on solar lighting.
In a region with a lot of sunlight, solar
lighting, when feasible, is the way to go.
Besides, I think the subtle solar lights at
night are just cool looking.
This web page covers my experiences with
The first solar lights I purchased were an
impulse buy at Costco about 7 years ago.
They were those little glass pathway lights
that you stake into the ground. I
believe it was a set of 8. They worked
well for a few years but eventually stopped
working and were tossed.
Solar Path Lights
I do not believe
these first generation models had batteries
that could be changed.
They had also became
pretty beat up looking. The solar
panel on top fogged over and the male dogs
used them to pee on. They were also
tripped over a few times during the daytime.
Because of the tripping hazard, I have not
purchased any more ground staked solar path
Tips - Regarding Solar
- Make sure you place them so they are not a
- If you have hard water in your region, and
the path lights are hit by your sprinklers,
it will leave residue on the solar panel
which blocks the light getting to the
- Don't put the lights where dogs can pee on
The next type of solar lights I purchased
were the solar soji (shoji) lights.
continue to purchase this style of solar
light when they fall apart. Soji solar lights
mimic the Japanese shoji lights made out of
Solar soji lights are now all over the
internet. The leading manufacturer of
these lights, at this time, is a company called Allsop.
There are many other
manufacturers. They are mostly made in China. The fabric is
usually nylon. The top where the solar
panel, battery, and LED bulb is housed, is made of
plastic. Sometimes the housing is
Solar Soji Light
How long will the soji solar lanterns last? Hang it
ignore it? 1-2 years if you're lucky. Tend to it by
taking it in during bad weather and snowy winters?
I have been using the soji (shoji) solar light for
years, here are my tips:
should not be paying more than about $15-$17
as of 9/2016,
for a single colored 10" round soji light.
If it is a different shape, color, or
printed design, you may pay more. I now wait
Regarding the color. The darker the
color, the harder it is to even see that the
light is on. Since I use the soji
lights to light up a few dark areas outside.
I usually only purchase the white. If you are
going for something more decorative, then
yes, the colored ones are nice, but not as
bright as simple white. The colors
also fade very quickly in the sun.
3) Many of the outdoor photos of
these lights show them hanging from trees or
under a roof. Hmmm, if they don't get
any direct sunlight, they are not going to
work, period. If they get a good dose
of strong sunlight per day, at least 6
hours, they will stay lit until the morning.
When you place them under a tree with birds, they will get bird
poop on them.
4) Inclement weather is a problem. The nylon
material does not do well in hail. Hail and
strong winds will rip them apart. They can
handle a steady drizzle of rain. They can
handle some wind if they are hung on something that
allows the metal hanger to swing (but not come off)
in the wind. Holding the metal hanger rigid
will break the plastic off where it hooks through on
the top. What do I do now when I know there is
bad weather coming? I take them down and bring them
5) Make sure the lights cannot fall
down where you
hang them.... if you have dogs. Dogs love to tear
the soji lights to shreds.
6) If the soji lamp material has disintegrated or has
been destroyed BUT the light still works.....Tear
off or otherwise remove the fabric and you now have
a small solar pin light that you can hang on a bush
somewhere for a little point of light at night.
7) If the light stops working, check the battery.
Most of the soji lanterns use AAA
batteries. The AAA are harder to find than the
AA, but you can find them out there.
Different shapes or patterns may
Hang the lights where they will get
lots of sunlight or they are not
going to work
Lights stored in garage during rain
solar light I purchased was a vine or string
lights in little baskets in 2013 from the Plow & Hearth website
for $49.95. These specific solar
lights are no longer available, as far as I
I still have these solar lights in 2016
strung up along the rail of my balcony.
Because the panel only gets a few hours of
sunlight in the morning, they only stay on for about
an hour at sunset. The little baskets
have faded and the solar panel was fogged over until I
painted it. (See tip below)
One little quirk... during an evening
lightning storm these lights turn on for one
second, after each lightning flash.
Solar vine or string light in little baskets
Solar vine lights strung along balcony rail
Tips - Regarding String
- If the string of solar lights only has one
tiny little solar panel, say 2" x 2", the
panel is really not large enough to provide
power to multiple lights for more than a few
hours. Try looking for string lights with a
larger solar panel for longer lasting lights.
- Make sure the length of wire between the
solar panel to the first light on the string
is long enough. This way you can place
the panel out in the sun, and have the
lights strung in a shaded area.
|Tip - For Fogged
Over Solar Panels
If the plastic solar panel has fogged over you
will not be getting as much sunlight to the
rechargeable battery. Make the panel clear
again by either painting over the panel with clear
fingernail polish or clear enamel paint.
This crystal clear enamel works
great on other fogged over plastic.
I used it on the old plastic dial
cover on my gas meter. This
way the gas meter reader does not
have to spray the plastic with water
to read the meter.
Hmm, I may try this on my old SUV
headlights lenses which are now
foggy after 15 years......
Wall Mounted Porch
The next solar lights I
purchased in Aug
2013 were a set of two wall mounted porch lights for
the sale price of $49.99, on the Plow &
Hearth website. (Sadly, no longer available)
They looked so classy looking, compared to
most other solar lights at the time, I could
not resist purchasing them....and they were
I was pleasantly surprised when I received
them. They were made of metal (cast
aluminum?) with etched glass panels. The solar panel was
huge, covering the entire top of the light.
When mounted, you can't even tell they are
Wall mounted solar lights
I originally wanted to place them
in front of the house on each side of the garage
doors. But the roof shades this area most of
the day and the two mounting screws on the wall are
easy to remove. Which means, the lights can be
stolen easily. Backyard, same problem.
Roof shades areas against the house.
I then came up with idea of mounting them on the
brick wall on the front patio. The brick patio
wall receives a good dose of sunshine everyday, no
roof, patio gate is padlocked. The only
problems was the brick. I needed a hammer
drill to make the holes to attach the mounting
hardware. I then became busy with other life
issues and these lovely lights remained boxed for
almost a year.
Fast forward to April 2014. I purchased a
hammer drill and mounted the lights on the patio
wall. THESE LIGHTS ARE AWESOME....now that
they were installed. Not only did they softly
light up the whole front patio, they stayed on all
night long. I went online to buy some more.
Hah! No longer available. But of course!
Wall mounted solar lights on front patio brick wall,
These lights are still
mounted on my front patio and yes, they
still work great.
BUT...... ah there are always a few quirks.
These lights do not use standard
rechargeable batteries like an AA or AAA.
They use a Lithium Ion Polymer Battery -
3.7v 2500mAh. Also know as LiPo
During the winter of 2014, I noticed that
lights did not stay on as long. I just
left them out, even when we had some snow.
Lithium Ion Polymer Battery - 3.7v 2500mAh
When the weather was warmer, the
lights stayed on until sunrise. I did some
research and discovered that these polymer batteries
do not do well when temperatures at night dip into
the 40's and lower. So I now bring them in for
the winter when the temperature drops to the 40's.
I also run out and take them down when there is
hail larger than dime. Smaller pea sized hail
we have had, has not damaged the panels on
Fast forward to Summer 2016. The batteries
were not charging well. The lights were only
staying on a few hours. I went online and
purchased two more new LiPo batteries for the
lights. Looks like these batteries only last
around three years. All of the LED bulbs in
the lights are still working.
Wall mounted solar lights on front patio brick wall,
September 8, 2016. No flash night exposure.
Tips - Solar Wall Mounted
- If you are looking for solar wall mounted
lights, chances are the area you want to mount them
is under a roof. Will you get enough sunshine
there to make them work? If the answer is no,
but you still want to put a solar wall mounted light
there then look for the lights where the solar panel
is not on the actual light fixture. There will
be a wire to a solar panel that you can mount in the
sun. These are a little harder to find, but
they are out there.
- If you want a bright light, two things are needed.
A bunch of LED bulbs. Look at the count.
For something to put off a decent amount of light,
there needs to be 20 or more bulbs on one fixture.
The second thing to look for is a large solar panel.
A little 2" x 2" or smaller solar panel is not going
to light 20 LED bulbs for very long.
Particularly if the light is only using a AA
- LiPo batteries have more staying power (except in
cold temperatures). They are more difficult to find
than standard batteries but you get more bang for
the buck. Also, keep these batteries away from
kids and pets!! Handle with care!!
Table or Deck
type of solar lights that I purchased were
table top or deck lights.
On the Improvements website I found these
Portsmouth Solar Metal Lanterns on sale and
purchased 2 at $37.42. I eventually
bought 2 more because I liked them so much
and they were marked for clearance. Yep, no
longer available. But there are similar
lights on the marketplace. Just search
for hurricane solar lamps.
Portsmouth Solar Metal Lanterns
|The frame is metal. The
faux candle casing is glass, not plastic. The
light bulb used inside is a flameless LED candle
that emits a soft flickering amber glow. The solar panel
is located on top of the light fixture. With a good 6
- 8 hour charge, they last all night long.
For this particular light, I use them inside as
night lights on tables around the stairs in my
house. They emit enough light to allow me to
walk around my house at night without turning on any
In the morning, I set them out in the sun. At
night, I bring them in. I am not sure how
waterproof they are because I bring them inside if
Lanterns placed outside for daily dose of
Also on the
Improvements website, I purchased some
Porcelain Etched Floral Lantern which were
marked for clearance. I knew this was
a one shot purchase, so I bought 4 for
$35.92. I liked them because they were
kind of a combination of luminaria
lights and papel picado.
They are not porcelain, but I knew that when I bought them. They
are just ceramic. The solar panel on top
is removable. In fact, it is exactly
the same size as the solar unit on the soji
Ceramic Floral Solar Lantern
|The light is very subtle. It is less
bright than the photograph. One thing
I discovered was that the solar panel was
not waterproof. Which means, after a
rain, the lights would not work until they
dried out. I cut up a Ziploc freezer bag
(thicker) and placed the plastic over the top
and inserted the panel back into the top of
the ceramic. Now it lets the sun in,
but keeps the water out.
I used these lights to light-up the raised
plant bed on my terrace patio. I
recently planted a hack berry tree in this
area. When the tree gets larger,
shading the area, I will move the lanterns
Ceramic Floral Solar Lantern placed around
young hack berry tree on terrace patio
Tip - Solar Table or Deck
- Since these lights are assuming you will
use them in a protected area, they may or may not be
waterproof. If they are not waterproof AND get
wet and stop working. Usually when the light
dries out, it will start working again. Give
it a few days to do this before you toss it.
On one light, I took the panel apart, drained the
water, and let it dry. When I put it back
together it worked great.
You can try covering the panel with something clear
to keep water from entering like I did with a cut up
Ziploc freezer bag.
A little pricey for something made out of plastic.
I'll have to wait and see how long they will last.
For now, they work great and the light is bright.
You can adjust the lamp to the height you want it.
I have it dangling about a foot from the ceiling
because I want to be able to access the red button
on it without a ladder. To turn the light
on/off, you pull the cord. The solar battery inside
is changeable if it no longer holds a charge.
Purchased for $49.99 a piece in June 2016 on Amazon.com
Solar Shed or Barn
For this type of solar light, I needed
something different. All of the
decorative lights above functioned the same
way. They sit out in the sun all day.
When the sun goes down, the light comes on.
inside of my garage, I needed a
regular light.....that just happened to be
solar powered. The electrical wiring
in my garage is not robust enough to handle
extra light fixtures. I occasionally
trip the circuit operating my table saw.
So I needed some area lights in my new
closets and above the new workbench.
Something that would work in the daytime.
The solar lights that I purchased are called:
MicroSolar Super Bright - Lithium Battery - 60 LED
Solar Shed Light - Power Adjustable. The
lights work during the day, which is what I needed.
They are basically a regular LED light that just
happens to charge it's batteries with a solar panel.
Only solar light on.
Able to see inside closet easily.
Solar panels for lights attached to fascia
west side of garage
Super Bright - Lithium Battery - 60 LED
Solar Shed Light - Power Adjustable
Solar lighting takes some work.
Unlike electrical lighting, with solar lights, there
are batteries to change, fogged up lenses to
refresh, weather considerations, etc. etc. So
why bother at all??
Besides saving on hiring
an electrician to put in electrical wiring, where it
does not exist, so you can have light AND being off
the grid, you still have to pay for the light itself
and and eventually buy new rechareable batteries.
So why do I bother? I like them and
they do come in handy. Particularly during a power
outage and in my garage.
If there is a zombie apocalypse and
the electrical grid goes down, my house will still
be lit-up for a couple of years until my solar
batteries die or the lights are destroyed.
If the sun burns out in a billion years, the lights will
be continued if I purchase a different type of