How do Solar Lights Work?

How do Solar Lights Work?

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For many years, solar lights seemed fairly expensive and didn’t produce much light. However, prices have now dropped, and solar lights are now common due to their range of brightness and flexible use for outdoor purposes but exactly How do solar lights work?

Solar lights have a small photovoltaic panel that absorbs energy from sunlight and converts it to energy which charges a small battery inside. At night a photoresistor detects that the light has gone and the battery is used to power a bulb or number of LED lights.

Solar-powered lighting can now be found on the rooftops of buildings, in homes, and on city streets. Regardless of how fascinating that seems, I’m sure you’ve wondered how the sun’s energy becomes a reliable lighting source.

If you want to find out a little more about how solar lights work and why you should buy some, keep reading.

What is a Solar Light?

Solar lights, also known as solar lamps or solar lanterns, are portable light fixtures that include an LED bulb, photovoltaic solar panels, a battery, a charge controller, and in some cases, an inverter. In simpler terms, solar refers to the sun, while lighting refers to the act of providing light. So, light is produced in the solar light by utilising the sun’s energy.

How Do Solar Lights Work?

Solar lights are equipped with solar cells, also called photovoltaic cells, that convert solar energy into electrical energy through solar panels.

The absorbed energy by the solar cells is then wired to a battery through a charge controller that prevents backflow of current, which then stores and converts the power until needed.

Solar cells stop the conversion process and produce energy when there’s not sufficient sunlight energy to convert at nighttime.

Photoreceptors on the light sense it, and the stored energy from the battery is then used to power the LED (light-emitting diode) bulb. The photoreceptors shut the lights off automatically at daybreak and repeat the cycle daily.

Why Does My Solar Panel Have Batteries?

Solar energy is absorbed through the panel and stores the power in a battery. If the solar panel does not generate sufficient energy, the battery takes over the energy supply process.

If there were no batteries inside, as soon as the sunlight disappeared there would be nothing to power the lights.

Do Solar Batteries Run Out?

Solar batteries will not last forever. Unfortunately at some point, they will no longer charge sufficiently to power the lights.

If this happens you can easily replace the battery by following our handy battery guide.

How Does My Solar Light Know When to Turn on?

During the day, solar lights charge and store energy in the battery. They contain photoresistors that act as a sensor and prevent turning on. If the photoresistor detects little to no light, it automatically activates the battery to turn the lights on.

Why Buy Solar Garden Lights?

To help you choose whether or not you should buy solar garden lights we’ve put together a list of some of the benefits and drawbacks of solar lights below.

Benefits of Solar Lights

There are a number of benefits to installing solar lights in your garden.

  • Easy installation- installing solar lights yourself will take you more or less an hour
  • Cheap installation – solar lights can be installed by anyone, no electrician required
  • Electricity saver- since solar lights are charged and powered through solar energy, it will not cost you money on your electricity bill
  • Eco-friendly- helps reduce carbon footprint and promotes the use of renewable resources
  • Safety- low risk of electrocution, fire, and burns
  • Hassle-free- since solar lights turn on and off automatically, it will save you time and effort
  • Low maintenance, low costs- there is no need for you to spend on anything extra to protect your panels. Solar lights are usually weatherproof or waterproof

Drawbacks of Solar Lights

  • High upfront cost- Although prices have decreased the initial price of good quality lights can put some people off
  • Batteries – Batteries will eventually run out. Some are easy to replace, others require soldering

Types of Solar Lights

Solar lights come in all shapes, sizes, and designs but we’ve listed some of the most popular types below.

1. Solar Fence Lights

Solar fence lights are great for gardens with wooden fences as they can screw directly to the fence post or the fence itself.

Perfect for lighting gardens or driveways, the lights are easy to install and produce a nice light to allow you to get around your garden during the night.

2. Solar Deck Lights

Solar decking lights come in a variety of styles. Some fix to the edge of the decking boards and others need a hole drilled in the deck and they sit in the floor like runway lights.

Offering a great ambiance for parties and gatherings, decking lights normally come in either white, warm or rainbow coloured.

3. Solar Wall Lights

Solar wall lights are great for lighting pathways, driveways, and garden spaces. They are easily fixed to a wall by drilling a small hole and crewing into a wall plug.

4. Solar Security Lights

Solar security lights are a great alternative to wired security lights. They usually have a number of LED lights and produce light across 180 degrees. Solar security lights also have a PIR sensor so that the lights turn on automatically when movement is detected.

The great thing about them is that they can be easily used in areas where it is more difficult to run electricity for standard lights eg the end of a garden.

6. Solar String Lights

Solar string and solar fairy lights are not there to provide a large amount of light. They instead provide ambiance to any garden and of course look really pretty.

Used in bushes, around pergolas and along fences, solar string lights are a perfect addition to any garden.

7. Solar Festoon Lights

If you’re looking to add a touch of style to your garden then go for some solar festoon lights. Strung between trees, buildings, fence posts or simply from one end of the garden to another, these lights look fabulous at night.


Whatever type of solar lighting you use for your garden, solar lights function in the same way: absorbing, converting, storing, and supplying energy to be used when needed.

With the huge increase in electricity cost and its wide variety of uses, solar lighting is surely a good investment to make.

Don’t forget, you can see the latest and best selling solar lights here.