Solar garden lights

It’s taken about five years for me to finally commit on the solar yard lights.

I used to read about them online now and then, and everyone seemed to be whining about how dim they were which made it sound a lot like they didn’t work.

I waited.

Then lately I have been seeing them at Costco and then at my favorite Ace Hardware store. (Yes I have a favorite hardware store, where the employees probably don’t carry guns and they have incomparable greeting cards and  a terrific garden section to look at while the paint is in the shaker machine.)

The tipping point on the solar lights came when the Plant Goddess bought some and she and her consort were both nuts about how they look in the garden. Honestly she has to sit up late now waiting for the darkness so she can gaze upon the lights(Could they be a sleep-deprivation health hazard?)

box of parts, solar lights

So, I bought a box of solar lights at the Ace. Actually TWO boxes, with six in each, so I have a dozen, like doughnuts. They produce 1.2 lumens each ( brighter than doughnuts).

I hope that 1.2 lumens means something to you. I just this minute read it on the box and I’ve had them for a week.  I guess it’s a lot more than for example half a lumen…

I brought the lights home to my greenhouse bench and did the massively simple assembly there, which pretty much was to put the lens on the solar top and stick the post on the bottom of the lens and stick the pointy part into the bottom of the post.

assembled solar garden light

Then is the fun part of carrying the lights around in the garden and saying to Max, “This might be a cute place for a light. Or how about over here by this fern?”  And sometimes, “Max no, don’t pee on the light!”

solar light positionedI was afraid I wouldn’t like the techie look of the lights among my precious plants, but they sort of disappear in the daytime. (The lights not the plants.) (Except for lettuce sometimes.)

solar garden light at night

I like to take pictures, but I have never ever got the camera issues sorted out when it comes to tricky photography. To get these night shots I spent hours with the inch-thick instruction book that is supposed to explain Mr. O’s fabulous but frighteningly complex Nikon digital camera.

I have grasped that there are really just two settings, how big the shutter opening is and how long it’s open. But then there are layers of programs and choices and, to my mind, the book is singularly unclear about where to find the settings it says to set. And EVERTHING is represented by some obscure little icon that is not memorable so you have to look up things and then look up more things in order to implement the first things and when you get all the things looked up you forget what you were trying to accomplish twenty minutes ago when you were wondering about something simple like how to set the damn shutter speed.

I adjusted so many settings that in the end the camera was automatically shooting three images in a row (no discussion, three images, clicka-clicka-clicka) and they were all utterly black.  Why would a camera decide to do that? I had to work like crazy last night just to undo most of what I had done to that camera before Mr. O gets home from San Diego tomorrow. (Just so you know what I go through for you.)

single solar garden lightHere is another minimal slightly blurry representation of an adorable little light in the garden at night.

solar lights at nightMaybe if you squint when you look at this…

I would love to capture a vista of the darkened garden with the lights sprinkled  (as the Plant Goddess says) like so many bright fairies among the plants (what are these, party fairies, out all night, raising hell? are they responsible for the garlic damage?), but when I take that vista picture it comes out totally dark or totally dark with a few bright dots that look like an unfamiliar constellation that you can only see from maybe Mars.

So after I made the Big Investment in lights I checked into the net again to see what the whine is now.  It sounds like these lights will last two or three years, that bugs make them into condos, and that it is about as expensive to replace the batteries as to buy whole new lights. (Nothing’s perfect.)

I found lots more mostly positive discussion at a site called Detect Energy, with this post title that I just love:

5 Reasons Why Solar Yard Lights Poop Out

(But you know everything and everybody poops out eventually. Really you just can’t worry about it.)

Now I have to go take a nap so I can stay up late and see my awesome sparkly garden lamps lighting up the night, because the truth is that I adore them.  (I think they might be good fairies…)

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About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in stuff for your garden that isn't plants, The Plant Goddess and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Solar garden lights

  1. Loving the lights! I’ve always wondered how effective those little solar lights work and these work great! Lights are on my to do list this year, will have to check the link out too. What doesn’t poop out after a few years these days anyway?

    • linniew says:

      You will like these lights Julia. We had a very dark area by our garage, which is detached and some distance from our old house. These little lights do a good job of lighting the dark part of that walk in, so now I expect we will be going out a lot more, to dinners and evening lectures and parties . . . 😉

  2. Greggo says:

    Mine must be constipated.

    • linniew says:

      Hmm, yes Greggo. After some coffee and contemplation I deduced that your lights are working just fine– so I will wish you years of continued solar constipation!

  3. So glad you did this post – I’ve been contemplating solar lights for my front garden but wasn’t sure if they would be nice / effective / pretty enough. Now I see they are:)

  4. linniew says:

    Yes I think you should give them a try Christine, they are way fun and actually useful!

  5. Grace says:

    I buy the cheapo solar lights, take off the solar battery and bulb top part, lay it on top of a clear jar or something similar, wire the jar and voila, now it’s a lantern. I hang them in the garden. Some have been going strong for two years. I’ve probably got a few photos on my blog somewhere if you’re interested in seeing them… Great post, as usual, Linnie.

  6. linniew says:

    Oh my goodness, what a great variation Grace- The clear lenses attach to the battery part on mine, so I suppose you could just skip the post and hang the rest somehow. But I like the jar concept, like you’ve captured a firefly or maybe Tinkerbell…

  7. Alberto says:

    You sent Tillie over, Tillie asked me to post a comment on your blog:

  8. I have a Nikon camera and the same problems with the instructions. Every six months I renew my vow to read the booklet and figure everything out only to be defeated once again.

    • linniew says:

      Who WRITES those manuals? Why isn’t there a version for people who don’t want to focus only at a point exactly 12.5 ft from the camera and light only the left corner of the image?

  9. b-a-g says:

    Tillie by lamplight. It’s a scary prospect.

  10. I am glad you included the reasons they fail. We have never been sure how or why they failed…now we know. Your lights look so great in your garden

  11. linniew says:

    Thanks Butterfly– they would look pretty fun in any sunny-day/dark-night place. Until they poop out, as Greggo would say.

  12. Sheila says:

    You are so right – everything poops out sooner or later. Enjoy them while they last! You are too funny about the camera manual and the three dark shots. That’s happened to me before. WTF? I’ve gotten to the point where I blame all problems with photos on the camera, not on me. It’s better for my self-esteem.

    • linniew says:

      Sheila the problems are TOTALLY the fault of the camera, trust me. There is some kind of technological conspiracy…well don’t get me started. WTF indeed!!

  13. That three in a row lark! So frustrating! It’s a frustrating post too though because you don’t say whether the lights are blue or white. I really dislike white lights that glow blue. Truthfully, I don’t really like lights in the garden at all because, where I live, there is already too much light from the street and I yearn for the dark – so I can see Mars and constellations more clearly?

    Esther

    • linniew says:

      Oh I see that the lights DO appear blue-ish in the images Esther. Just another example of my astonishing camera expertise– I don’t think they are actually blue at all. I’ve lived in cities and I know how annoying the streetlights can be, but here we are utterly isolated. It makes the night sky a glorious thing, but when there is no moon, or, more likely, when there the sky is overcast, it is so very dark that little ground lights are welcome. (Too bad they aren’t cloud-powered.)

  14. gagarden says:

    Sorry my pick got you bumped, I had to come back and fix it. Donna@GWGT

    • linniew says:

      Hmmm– I’m afraid I am semi-clueless here. I didn’t feel the “bump” but I do appreciate any repairs. Thank you! Must be something to do with the Botanical site, where using the Picks system is a puzzle to me still…

  15. Aimee says:

    Hahaha! First of all I have to say that I had a good chuckle reading about your adventures with the Nikon. It all sounds way too familiar to me, right down to the icons. I feel your pain here.

    I think your photos are great and love the way the lights look and the locations where you’ve placed them! We have a few of these in our garden as well and I like them more than I expected I would. They are not bright enough to be obnoxious, and yet they provide enough light so that we can see where we’re going out there when it’s dark. Plus it’s kind of lovely to look out at the garden in the evening and not have it be pitch black.

    We got them a year ago and left them out there all winter long, buried under all that snow. (lazy, I know.) It didn’t seem to matter – they worked all winter (when they weren’t buried) and they’ve been doing their thing just fine all year. No bugs have inhabited them, but they do get a little dirty and would probably shine brighter if I’d bother to clean them.

    At $3 a pop, it was a good investment – even if they do only last another year or two! Next up I’m considering some of the solar lanterns at, of all places, IKEA…

    • linniew says:

      Yippee maybe the lights WILL last for next year too! Thanks for the testimonial Aimee–I will be watching for photos of your new solar lanterns on your blog. Oh and you have officially joined the circle of frustrated fancy camera users, welcome 🙂

  16. Dear Linnie, I think you did rather well with your camera. I am definitely a frustrated fancy camera user and my camera isn’t that fancy. My husband buys those lights and places them around the garden. They are cheap and dim, so at night you can’t see he didn’t cut the grass. But he likes them, and as long as he’s happy maybe he WILL get around to mowing …
    P. x

  17. linniew says:

    Aren’t men creative? You have to admire it. And welcome to the frustrated fancy camera club Pam! Your blog photos always look great so you must be learning some stuff.

  18. Cathy says:

    Linnie the old time solar lights were a disaster — they were totally useless – but the newer ones do a very nice job. We got ours at Home Depot and the person-in-the-know there told us it’s because the bulbs and batteries are much better. We got some on clearance last summer and I have to admit, I am impressed. The best part of all is that I don’t have to worry about Steve cutting through the buried-in-the-garden wires to low voltage lights when he is out there going at it with the Mantis. Enjoy! We love ours!

  19. linniew says:

    I just KNEW the lights were improved! But how do you ever get the Mantis to work? Mine has been impossible from day one. Every now and then Mr. O gets it out and runs it for about 5 minutes before it stops.

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