Have you been also racking your brain on whether the solar lights you just installed would work under snow or not? Solar lights are a great alternative to regular lights because they are cheap and even better for the environment. But if you live in a place that gets the longest and cold winters, it could be tricky for your lights to work.
While it is known that solar lights need light from the visible spectrum, getting that light during winters and snowy weather is difficult. Therefore, there have been ways to overcome this weakness of solar lights.
But to understand this, you must know how the solar lights work to get how they would work in winters. Read on further to understand how to use solar lights in winters.
Does solar light work in winters?
First and foremost, we must know how the solar lights work to understand how effective they would be in winters. Solar lights have a photovoltaic solar cell. The cell has a semiconductor, such as silicon which produces a chemical reaction as soon as it comes in contact with the sunlight. The chemical reaction leads to the production of negatively charged electrons, which flow as the current through the circuit.
This current then flows into a battery, stored as potential energy. During the night, a light sensor, also known as a photocell, lets the power go through the circuit, which has an LED light, and the same light burns until there is daylight the next day. The photocell senses the daylight and the light turns off. If you want to see how that works, click here.
Therefore, solar lights work in winter as they store the light they receive and not the heat. Solar cells then store it in the batteries and use it when required. It is irony at display because solar lights work well in the winters better than when they get extremely hot. Because these solar panels have a range of temperatures up to 77 F, that hampers the performance.
All electronic devices work better at cool temperatures; therefore, solar lights work well in winter.
How do I get the solar lights to work in winter?
Even though we have established that the solar lights work well in winters, there can be certain problems that you would face, like not getting enough light. To work out these problems and get your solar light to work in its best possible potential, let us discuss ways by which you can do that; they’re mentioned as follows:
- Location: when you install a solar light, you must do it in a place with ample sunlight that the solar panel can receive. However, you have to remember that the sun has a different direction at different times in a year.
Therefore, you need to strategically plan and see which place can you install the light that will receive sunlight at all times of the year. Also, check buildings and natural habitat around the light to keep it from blocking the sun for the light.
- Purchase lights made to withstand the cold temperatures: there are some lights designed in such a way that they can work easily in cold temperatures. Therefore, these lights come with a power-saving mode that reduces brightness when there isn’t much charge so that the battery can last longer. Therefore, you must shop for the right brand and model to withstand the winters.
- Charge solar lights from other sources: you can charge the solar light from regular lights like light bulbs, LED lights, etc. all you need to do is direct the panel towards the light so that more and more solar energy can be conserved stored. Even though they don’t charge as efficiently as under the sun, it will act as an emergency solution.
- Clean and clear the solar lights: the devices must be kept clean for them to work properly, and it applies to solar lights as well. Check and keep the solar light clean and keep in mind that the photocell remains clear. If you have to clean dust or any dirt material, use mild detergent and soft sponges. If you think the cell looks cloudy, try to replace it to hamper its performance.
- Use security lights: instead of installing garden lights, add security lighting because these lights work only when needed and have motion sensors that enable to conserve the power of the solar lights. This makes it the most efficient.
- Direct a mirror: it reflects the sunlight in the direction of the solar panel, which helps the solar panel charge up enough energy. Mirrors are a better way of creating a direction for the solar cells and can also be a decorative and aesthetic material for your gardens and patios.
How to charge solar lights in winters?
The best way to charge solar light in winter is:
- Use as little light as possible during winters.
- You can also use incandescent lights to charge the lights when there is no sun available.
- You can also use an alternative charging method like a USB connected to the power socket.
- Tilt the solar panel at an angle that can take on more sun, i.e. maximum exposure.
- You can also use an LED source to charge the solar light by directly placing it under it.
- You can also use artificial lighting to charge up the battery of a solar light.
- Charge the solar lights under a flashlight, too, if there is absolutely no way of charging the solar light.
- Solar lights also have a sensor that enables them to switch on/off when there is enough energy and when there is no energy.
How to Protect Solar lights in winters?
Here are fee ways that assist you to keep solar lights longer, even in the darkest of winters.
- Check the solar panel position- it is best to keep panels pointed to the sun at noon.
- Check obstacles– Putting a blanket over the solar panels is a good idea that works, as light can be obstructed with anything.
- Switch off lights in the day– The less you use in the day, the more you can use in the night. It’s simple logic, which means use when you need.
Can you leave solar lights out in winter?
Solar lights are designed especially to withstand low temperatures, so you can go ahead and buy those if you know you’re a place of residence that sees the coldest temperature. Therefore, you can leave the lights outdoors as they can withstand any type of temperatures, rainfall, and even snowfalls.
Leaving the solar light in winter is a way better thing than leaving them out in extreme heat because it leads to the lights automatically switching off when they are not in use and conserving energy. The automatic photo sensors allow this to happen easily. However, you must keep the solar panel clean so that the panel can sense the solar energy.
Are the solar lights any good in winters?
Ironically, the solar lights work better in cold winters than they would under extremely hot temperatures. This is because the solar panel is clean and devoid of any falling leaves or other debris. Also, a better-designed light would work for more time than a cheap one, but cold temperatures lead to conserving solar energy and using that conserved energy during the times they are needed.
Solar lights cannot take more than 77 F temperature in most designs. Therefore, these work better anyway in cold conditions as if they were made for this temperature.
Do solar light work on cloudy days?
The clouds do not stop the travelling of sunlight and make it even better. The clouds refract the light and let the sunlight reach the panel in a much better-focused way. It does not change that if it is cloudier than ever, then the solar lights may not work as well as you might think.
Solar lights generate up to 10 to 25 % of light even with coverage of heavy clouds. But it does not mean that the solar lights will not work. Hence, solar lights work on cloudy days even if they don’t work as effectively as under direct sunlight.
The final words
The sun is a renewable energy source, and it will never run out. However, we can find ways to use it, and some of our scientists have invented are the most popular devices, such as solar lights. Solar lights are the most efficient and cheap way of using the sun’s energy to generate light. The solar lights take this sunlight and conserve it in the battery, using the sun’s energy to convert it into electricity.
Therefore, winter or not, the solar light is a good way of lighting an area, and also it can act as a security device as solar lights have motion sensors as well. These motion sensors light up the way when they sense motion.
Therefore, we can conclude that solar lights are the best inventions ever, and they work better in winters than in extreme heat.
Eng. Matthew Joseph Nandirio is the Founder of walkingsolar.
After graduating from the University of Houston in 2002, matt started working as a Solar Electrical Engineer for several multi-national solar energy companies.
He has a wide range of experiences including solar system requirement analysis, planning, maintaining, debugging and even solar device development through research.
He now shares his 20 years of expertise through his articles on the walkingsolar website.
Further, he is also the author of two books on Solar Technology, “Solar Power for Villages” and “DIY Solar System for Dummies”.