How Do Solar Lights Work?

Just some years ago, the thought of powering lights solely by using the power of the sun sounded unreachable. Now, solar-powered lights are widely available at extremely affordable prices.

Besides being environmentally friendly, solar garden lights are self-sustainable, which means they don’t require electricity to run. This allows you to save hundreds of pounds on energy bills all year round.

In this article, we will take a deep look at how solar lights work and we will answer some of our customer’s most asked questions.

solar-powered lights in a garden

How Do Solar Garden Lights Work?

Whether you use solar fairy lights for your BBQs or you’re looking for solar-powered lights to add ambience to your outdoor space, it is important to understand how solar garden lights work so that you know how you can use these lights effectively. 

The 5 steps below explain how solar lights work:

The solar panel receives energy from the sun

During the day, the solar panel attached to your garden lights receives energy from the sun. The photovoltaic cells in your solar panel absorb the energy from sunlight.

solar panel

The solar panel converts solar energy into electricity

The energy absorbed by the photovoltaic cells in the panel creates electrical charges. These charges move in response to an electrical field in the solar panel’s cells, which ultimately causes electricity to flow.

Electrical power charges the batteries

The photovoltaic cells are wired directly to batteries. Once electricity starts to flow, the solar panel’s batteries are charged and the electrical power is stored. This way, the yard lights will be powered by the stored energy when sunlight is no longer available.

solar panel battery

The batteries are activated at night time

Every solar light has a controller with a photoresistor. A photoresistor detects when there is little or no light from the sun. At night time, sunlight can’t be detected by the solar panel’s controller. When this happens, the controller activates the batteries automatically.

The light switches on automatically

When the solar panel’s batteries are activated by the controller, the electrical power is released and the light switches on. When fully charged, most solar string lights can operate for up to 15 hours.

solar garden light switched on

How do Solar Lights Work At Night?

Solar garden lights use photovoltaic technology to convert energy from the sun into electricity. These lights work at night thanks to a device called photoresistor, which controls the circuit inside your solar lights depending on how dark or light it is in the area where you’ve put your lights.

At night, the photoresistor detects little or no light, which causes your solar light’s controller to activate the batteries inside the solar panel. When the batteries are activated, the light turns on automatically at night and they stay on until the photoresistor detects big amounts of sunlight again.

During winter months, it is especially important to use high-quality solar panels to make the most of the reduced amount of daylight for an optimal light output. Our article about whether solar lights work in winter explains this in more detail.

Do Solar String Lights Work?

Solar string lights work as long as there is enough sunlight during the day. If the solar panels wired to the string lights capture enough light during the day, they will be able to produce a decent amount of light output.

If you live in an area with a limited amount of sunshine, you can try to move your solar lights around to find the best spot for sunlight. The quality of your solar lights' panel will determine the efficiency of your solar lights in capturing enough solar energy during winter and cloudy days.

If your solar string lights are not working, it may be because their batteries have worn out. Batteries for solar lights should be replaced at least every year for optimum lighting and brightness performance.

Do Solar Lights Need Batteries?

One of the most common questions from our customers is whether solar lights need batteries to work. In short, most solar garden lights require rechargeable batteries to work.

Solar lights need batteries to work efficiently because batteries store the energy captured by the solar panels during the day. At night, this electrical energy is used to power the lights, allowing them to stay on all light.

solar garden lights with a solar panel

Learn more

At The OutdoorLights Store, we like to provide our customers with information and ideas about solar yard lights, home improvement and all things related to exterior lighting. You can follow our outdoor lighting blog to access exclusive content and lighting ideas every month.

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