solar exterior lights

drmeow3March 5, 2006

Can anyone recommend a solar-powered dawn to dusk exterior security/flood lamp? I want to replace a non-working solar motion sensor flood light and a non-working wired motion sensor flood light with a dawn to dusk solar light and a regular (non-motion detecter) porch light (probably not a flood light). An electrician told me that the motion sensors on those lights tend to break a lot (and that seems to be the problem I'm having).

Here's what I've found on-line so far:




[Solar illuminations


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Does anyone have any experience with any of these or any alternate recommendations for me?


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If you are having problems with the motion detectors malfunctioning, it is probably due to sunlight. If the detectors are facing direct sunlight, they will eventually cook, usually 1 year after you install them.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 10:29PM
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Does anyone have any new comments or recommendations on this topic? I'd like to install solar powered exterior motion-sensor lights--I didn't realize the life on them was only a year: "they will eventually cook, usually 1 year after you install them." Can anyone else confirm this? Thanks!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 10:41AM
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Seems he was refering to the light sensing photo cell.. he believes if it is in direct sunlight the photo cells dies within a year. Which has some merit to it.. some low quality plastics will deteriate in the sun fairly quickly.

Perhaps he meant to say... You may want to aim a photo sensor North if possible. Which should reduce the actual amount of solar radiation reaching the sensor lens. Which should allow it to have its best lifespan.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 7:29PM
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Most of the solar exterior lights I've seen don't put out much light. Can someone recommend a good brand/model?

Sorry to piggyback on the original post, but this seem appropriate.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2007 at 3:42PM
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A standard hard-contact photocell used on post lamps and other standard outdoor fixtures should face north, never into the sun. This is not because it will deteriorate the lens, but because it will cause the internal thermal relay to overheat and fail prematurely. This is a shortcoming of the unit's fairly simple design. You'll find this warning printed in the installation instructions.

However, many or most of the photocells used in motion sensor lights are not of the same design, so this precaution may not apply to them. The only time I've used such a fixture I had it fixed to the west side of the house, and it worked reliably for several years. (Then I moved away, so I don't know what happened later.)

LEDs as used in solar powered fixtures, and available for a price that mere mortals can afford, are great for path markers and indicators. They are satisfactory for illuminating small areas if low light output (tens of lumens) is acceptable. However, they have a considerable distance to go before they're really suited to providing really bright, useful general illumination, with good efficacy, at a reasonable price. Try again in 5 years or so.

If you really need to light up the outdoors, I recommend a hard wired fluorescent wallpack light. Metal halide is great but AFAIK not really available in the homeowner's price range (if someone knows of an exception please post!). HPS is wondrously efficient, but the color rendering is dismal.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 12:42AM
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Thanks for your responses everyone. I don't want to hard wire a light because I live in Arizona and feel like I should be using the sunlight I have for a good purpose.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 11:59PM
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A laudable goal. However, be warned that PV is expensive. The little LED lights are just plain dim. I don't think they'll do much for security, if that's your objective, but your idea of adequate light might be a lot less than mine.

The Gardener Supply light you mention isn't rated in lumens. That's probably because the number would be very low. They claim 90 Lux at 4' but don't tell us what the beamspread is, conveniently preventing us from computing the actual luminous flux. My best guess is that it's roughly comparable to a 4-cell Maglite flashlight. If you consider the output of a flashlight to be sufficient for a security light, then I guess you're all set.

If you want a really useful security lighting setup, here's a better approach. Forget the cheap consumer stuff and build your own. Here's a page with some information on how, and links to resources.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 2:23AM
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Hi David,

Thanks for the link. I just might do that.

I guess I'm not as much concerned about security as just getting SOME light out in the backyard. I especially want to get some light on my compost bin so I can see it at night when I have to empty the scraps into it :) and on the pool equipment (although now that we have a remote, that's less of an issue). We have an alarm system which I consider our real security. I've had really bad experience with motion sensor lights (two that were hard wired and under a porch ... so no direct sunlight ... gave us constant problems. The solar one worked OK for a while but then died - but it was relatively bright) so I don't really trust them (and I'm tired of paying for them) even though that's what I really want.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 3:13PM
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It seems as if a lot of the mass produced solar lights are really cheaply made. Good PVs are not inexpensive. If you want something that will be reliable and last, you may need to get components meant for commercial use, where they're expected to work for years with little or no maintenance. Be prepared for a stiff price tag - but the longer life will make the cost worthwhile.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 6:14AM
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