Replacing Solar Light Batteries: Fixing Solar Light Issues

Replacing your electrical lights with solar lights is a great idea until your solar lights are noticeably dimmer or aren’t working as well as they used to. At this point, the environmentally-friendly, cost-saving purchase you made can become a bit of a troubleshooting exercise.

Briefly, if you’re solar lights are not performing as well as they did when they were new, it’s most likely due to a worn-out rechargeable battery, or a minimal amount of sunlight is being captured on the solar panels.

The good news is, if either of these is the problem, they are both easy to fix.

But before we talk about batteries and maintenance of solar powered lights, let’s discuss solar light life span.

How Long do Solar Lights Last?

The lifespan of your solar lights will be somewhere between 2-8 years. And this depends on three main components of the light, which are the LED, rechargeable solar battery, and the solar panel.

If the power of your solar lights seem to be diminishing, you might wonder how long do solar lights last? And how can I extend the life of my solar lights? Solar power is awesome, but we’re not all engineers so it can be confusing technology for homeowners. Unless you purchased some low-grade solar lights, you don’t need to toss your solar lights in the garbage quite yet. You most likely can troubleshoot the problem yourself and extend the life of your solar lights.

The three main components mentioned above include the LED, the solar light batteries, and a small photovoltaic cell or solar collector.

  • A rechargeable battery will store the power collected by the solar array to power the solar light at night.
  • The LED(s) will provide the light.
  • The solar array will capture the light during the day and convert it into electrical energy. The solar array is usually affixed to the top of the light fixture. While some may have a separate platform for the photovoltaic cell(s) which then has a thin wire allowing the light to be located in a separate area while the solar array itself is placed in a bright, sunny location.

Rechargeable Solar Light Batteries

Rechargeable solar light batteries can be a little costly depending on which kind you get.

The rechargeable batteries in your solar lights would be the first place I would check in the event your solar light isn’t emitting the same amount of light it once was. Solar batteries will slowly self-discharge over time, meaning they will begin to lose the storage and use the power they once had.

To help with the lifespan of your rechargeable solar light batteries best management practice is to ensure you’re charging your solar lights at least every 2-3 months. This will help you get the most out of your rechargeable batteries. Around 18-24 months you can expect their performance to decline.

This is especially true of the batteries included with the original purchase of your solar lights. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the batteries that come with your solar lights will be a bit on the cheaper, less reliable scale.

Once you notice that the lighting time is considerably diminishing and the lights are not as bright as before, it’s probably time to replace your rechargeable solar light batteries. If the batteries are still fairly new ( a few months old) and the performance of the solar lights is already declining, it’s probably time to troubleshoot other problems.

Another reason for declining solar light performance is the rechargeable solar batteries aren’t charging correctly. It’s possible the rechargeable battery isn’t making a connection. Somewhere along the circuitry line in your light, there is a break or bad connection.  If the feed of electricity that is supplied by the solar panel during the day isn’t getting through, then the battery won’t charge to its full capacity, if at all.

A lawnmower, weed-whacker, pets, or pesky neighborhood kids kicking the solar light around are all common reasons for bad connections.

Tip* If you’re storing your solar lights are not using them for long periods (over the winter for example, or at a second home) it’s best to take out the rechargeable batteries. This will provide a longer life span.

Rechargeable Battery Testing

An easy way to check if your solar batteries are dead is to test them by briefly swapping them out with regular batteries, just long enough to check if the light is working. Don’t leave normal batteries in your solar lights, as they are not designed for solar light products.

If you are testing the solar light during the day, don’t forget to cover it, or place the light in a darkened room. This will allow the photocell to trigger the light to its “on” position. If the solar light turns on with normal batteries it means that the rechargeable batteries are faulty and you will need to buy a new set.

How to Replace Your Solar Light Batteries

Replacing solar light batteries is simple. No special instructions are needed.

Most people know how to swap out normal batteries for any product, but they are concerned that rechargeable solar light batteries need special instructions or steps. This is not true. Replacing your solar light batteries is the same as swapping out the batteries on any device.

Locate the solar light battery cover, open it up, take out the old dead batteries and replace them with new rechargeable batteries. If you are having a difficult time finding the battery cover, it’s possible you may have to disassemble the unit by taking out a couple of screws.

Most solar lights will have a couple of screws that will give you access to the battery compartment. Once you’ve replaced the rechargeable solar batteries, carefully place the light back on, and screw down the units, so it’s completely closed.

You want to be sure the unit is as tightly closed as it was when it was originally sent to you. Any film, dirt, or debris could interfere with the unit’s ability to effectively and fully charge the solar light batteries.

Most solar lights will need one-four rechargeable batteries and there are two types of rechargeable batteries commonly used in solar lights.

Types of Rechargeable Batteries

There are two main types of rechargeable batteries:

  • Nickel-metal hydride battery (NiMH) – They are more environmentally friendly because they use a dry liquid, which can be disposed of easily (How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint). They will also withstand greater temperature fluctuations operating in temperatures ranging from -20 to 60 degrees Celsius (-4 to 140F). Ni-MH batteries have a “non-memory effect” which means they will continue to charge on cloudy days. The battery performance will not be diminished by these partial charges.
  • Nickel-cadmium battery (NiCd) – The NiCd is used where long life, high discharge rate, and economical price are important. This means they can deliver practically their full rated capacity at high discharge rates. Their higher capacity combined with their affordability is what makes them appealing. Unfortunately, their high toxic value is a big deterrent.

If the rechargeable batteries don’t seem to be the problem the location of the solar right or the cleanliness of the solar collector is the next common culprit.

Best Solar Light Batteries

There are a plethora of batteries available on the market, which is good for the end-user.

Here are a couple I use and recommend.

1) Tenergy Solla Rechargeable NiMH

2) Geilienergy NiMH Rechargeable Batteries

Solar Light Optimal Placement

The placement of solar lights plays a crucial role in maximizing their effectiveness and efficiency. Here are some guidelines for the best placement of solar lights:

  1. Direct Sunlight: Solar panels on solar lights require direct sunlight to charge effectively. Place the solar lights in areas that receive ample sunlight during the day. Avoid placing them in shaded areas, under trees, or near tall structures that might block sunlight.
  2. South-Facing Exposure: In the Northern Hemisphere, south-facing locations tend to receive the most sunlight throughout the day. For optimal charging, position the solar lights so their solar panels face south. In the Southern Hemisphere, consider a north-facing exposure.
  3. Clear of Obstructions: Ensure there are no obstructions that can cast shadows on the solar panels, especially during the peak charging hours. Overhanging branches, buildings, walls, and other objects can block sunlight and reduce the efficiency of the solar lights.
  4. Avoid Light Pollution: Be mindful of placing solar lights in areas where they won’t contribute to light pollution, which can negatively impact the environment and visibility of the night sky. Direct the light downward and use shields or diffusers to minimize upward light emission.
  5. Pathways and Borders: Solar path lights are commonly used along walkways, driveways, and garden borders. Place them along pathways to provide illumination for safe navigation. Position them a few feet apart for consistent lighting.
  6. Entryways and Doorsteps: Solar wall-mounted lights are ideal for illuminating entryways, doorsteps, and door areas. Mount them at eye level to ensure effective lighting.
  7. Accent Lighting: Use solar spotlights or accent lights to highlight architectural features, landscape elements, or special plants. These lights can add a decorative touch and create visual interest.
  8. Security Lighting: For security purposes, place solar lights near entrances, dark corners, and vulnerable areas around your property. Motion-activated solar lights are especially effective for this purpose.
  9. Water Features and Pools: Solar lights can enhance the ambiance around water features and swimming pools. Ensure they are positioned to avoid contact with water and submerged lighting components.
  10. Staggered Heights: If you’re using multiple solar lights, consider staggering their heights for a more visually appealing and effective lighting effect.
  11. Regular Maintenance: Keep the solar panels clean and free from dirt, dust, and debris. Regular cleaning ensures optimal sunlight absorption and charging efficiency.
  12. Adjustable Mounting: Some solar lights come with adjustable mounting options. Use this flexibility to position the solar panels at the optimal angle for capturing sunlight.
Keeping your solar panels free from debris, dirt and film will provide for a longer life span.

Remember that the ideal placement of solar lights may vary based on your specific property’s layout, local weather conditions, and intended purpose for the lights. Regularly assess the lighting performance and adjust placements as needed to ensure consistent and effective illumination.

Wrapping up Solar Light Declining Performance

Solar technology has come a long way, and the cost of solar is continuing to go down. But our solar products need to be cared for and maintained just like any other home appliance we have. Troubleshooting your solar lights will usually come down to the battery and the amount of sunlight the solar collectors are getting. Keeping the solar collector clean and exposed to as much sunlight as possible will provide your batteries enough power to keep your solar light functioning reliably.

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