Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Product Review: Solar Lights

A selection of daylight photos of the lights I'm reviewing
Review lights in the daytime 

On the whole I'm very happy with my garden's layout, but sometimes I regret there's no lighting in the design. When Festive Lights contacted me with the offer to select some solar lights for review, here was an ideal opportunity to rectify my mistake.

As you can see I chose two quite different designs to review...

Glass Brick Garden Path Lights

Glass brick solar lights lighting the steps from my patio

It just so happened I was tempted by these glass brick garden path lights when I saw them on another website recently. They looked a good potential solution to brighten our garden steps or along our gravel path, so that was one choice sorted straight away.

No assembly is required for these robust lights, and there's a simple on/off switch on the base. They're about three inches square and the solar panel, single LED light and battery are well encased inside the glass. I simply left these on top of my garden wall by the central patio steps to see how they performed.

I had a problem with one of the lights which was solved after I switched it off and on again. After that they all lit the way well.

Black Solar Lamp Post

Solar Lamp Post in our back garden

We don't have any street lighting right by us, so I selected a black solar lamp post as a potential solution to try. I sometimes feel a bit vulnerable when walking up the shared drive to our house at night, so some lighting to get me from there to the safety of our outside lights is a good thing. The design is quite similar to the Narnia-like lamp posts we have nearby on the estate, which is an added bonus.

I was sent the 2.1 metre height lamp, which was easy to assemble and as the pole came in three pieces, there's actually a choice of heights to suit your situation. There's also a stake for in-ground placement, or a base mount if you'd prefer to fix your lamp onto a solid surface. I don't have a suitable surface, so it was the stake option for me. This worked well and seems pretty secure, though how it'll fare in a winter storm remains to be seen.

The light has two brightness settings, so I chose High... after I'd assembled the whole thing and then realised the next day I'd left the switch in the Off position. Thank goodness that was easy to rectify! Then I found there was a fault with the lamp itself, as there was no light for the second night either. NAH being the engineer that he is came to my rescue and fixed it, though to be fair Festive Lights did offer to replace it straight away (NB they have a 12 month warranty on their lights).

This lamp provided a nice welcome home once I'd turned the corner into our drive. It gives out a pool of light about 15 feet across, helped by the lamp's 6 LEDs, plus reflective mirror at the base.

Further notes

All the lights came on promptly at dusk, and were still going strong at 4.30am as we're currently in the height of summer. Winter will be a much sterner test, especially for the lamp as this will be the time it'll really come into its own. Note there is a PIR security version, which only switches on for 30 seconds when it detects movement. On reflection, I think this would be a much better option for year-round use.

Solar lights and LEDs have come a long way in the last 10 years, where the early versions definitely fell into the class of 'ambient lighting'. I grouped these lights in the back garden at one point and they were bright enough to be seen through the curtains and cast a stripe of light on the bedroom ceiling! They're still not as bright as a full electrical installation though.

It goes without saying that the tops of these lights need to be kept clean to get the best out of them. I found plant debris and spiders webs started to cover them in just a couple of weeks, so it's best to site these lights where they can be accessed easily for cleaning.

Solar lights are environmentally friendly-ish; it's too early to say how these will perform in the longer-term. The ones I've had previously lasted 3-4 years before I had to throw the whole thing away. I'd like to see designs where the LEDs or battery can be replaced if and when needed, so they're an even greener option.

Overall I'm pleased with my choices and I'd be willing to pay for them

If these particular lights don't take your fancy, I see several bloggers had some solar lights to review from the same company, and we've all chosen completely different ones. Alison reviewed some stake lights and a string of party lights, June had a smart looking PIR security light for her shed, plus a string of blue LEDs, and Mark and Gaz went for some warm globe lights for their pergola.

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