Where to put solar lights to make sure they actually work

Solar-powered lights are by far the most cost-effective and energy-efficient way to bring some illumination to your garden when the sun goes down. Not all of us have the luxury of being a landscape designer, so it’s tricky to know how to choose, position and maintain lighting to get the most out of your space.

Choosing your solar-powered lights

When deciding how best to light up your garden, a little bit of research goes a long way. There are solar-powered lights to suit every need and budget, so head to the shop (be that online or virtual) with something specific in mind.

The type of light you go for depends on the spaces you want to light up – for example, lights on a stake should be used to light a pathway, spotlights to illuminate a patio, and fairy-style lights on a string are perfect for bringing some twinkle to trees and gazebos.

Placing your solar-powered lights

For both aesthetic and functional reasons, clever placement of your solar-powered lights is crucial.

To decide where they ought to go, think about where in your garden you’re likely to spend the most time during the evening, or which areas you’ll need to be lit when it’s dark. Adding light to mark pathways and patios is practical, while having some dotted in your favourite flowerbeds creates atmosphere for evening entertaining.

To get them to work at their best, you’ll need to make sure they’re placed well away from any other light sources (like windows from the house or street lights) which could trick them into thinking it’s not dark enough to turn on.

Keeping them powered-up

As well as placing them in an area that will work for your garden, their solar panel needs to be positioned in a spot where it’ll get plenty of sunlight all day to power up. This means getting to know your garden to see where the sun hits throughout the day.

If your set has a separate panel, rather than one embedded into the top of the light, placing this should be your first step. Somewhere discreet but sun-flooded is ideal, like the top of a hut or gazebo you’re stringing lights from.

Many people forget to keep the solar panel clean, which is important for letting it charge fully.

Getting set up

There are a couple of tricks to remember when installing your solar-powered lights for the first time. The first is to think about the cable, if there is one. The best way to hide it from view is to bury it under the ground, so if you’re doing this, make sure it’s at least six inches beneath the surface to prevent any rain or rodents from getting to it.

Secondly, as with any battery, they benefit from their first charge being an extra-long one, so make sure they get a full 12 hours of light before being turned on for the first time.

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