Why is Regular Solar Light Maintenance Important?
Solar lights are exposed to the environment, and require regular maintenance in order to ensure that they continue to operate at their best. Solar lights will become dirty as a result of being outside, and over time will accumulate debris that will reduce the ability for solar lights to receive enough sunlight. Solar lights such as solar path lights that are in need of maintenance might have limited/dim light output at night, reduced periods of nighttime illumination, or might simply not produce any light at all. If this is the case, it is usually possible to solve these problems with a small amount of maintenance and our guide on how to clean solar lights, which should keep your solar lights running smoothly. Regular maintenance can be helpful to extend the lifetime of the solar lights, and reduce the time needed before the solar lights will need to be replaced.
There are three main parts that require maintenance:
- Solar panels: Solar panels can become obstructed due dirt collecting on the surface, and the plastic covering the panels may become cloudy. These should be checked approximately once a month in order to ensure that the panels receive as much light during the day as possible.
- Batteries: Batteries can sometimes oxidize as a result of moisture collecting within the solar lights. Batteries should be checked once every three months, but would benefit from being checked more frequently if you install them in a humid climate with lots of rainfall.
- Light Cover: Solar lights also include plastic or glass that protects the lights within from the outdoor environment. Over time, these will become cloudy as well, reducing the amount of light that can be produced at night. As needed, ensure that the light cover is clear, and that it provides enough light to meet your lighting needs.
Generally, maintenance requires a few basic tools, and less than 20 minutes per light. A few paper towels or a cloth, a Phillips screwdriver, and a soft brush are all that is needed to maintain your solar lights to the best possible quality. It is also a good idea to have the instructions for your solar lights handy to help to disassemble and reassemble your solar lights.
Cleaning the Solar Panel
The solar panel is found on the top portion of the solar light, and is used to collect solar energy to store in the solar light battery for nighttime illumination. Over time, the protective plastic on top of the solar panel will become cloudy, limiting the amount of energy that can be collected and limiting the amount of nighttime illumination. If you do not clean your solar panels regularly, the solar lights may stop working entirely. However, this does not mean that they are broken, but instead the solar panels might need to be cleaned.
Cleaning the solar panel is quick and easy. Brush off any loose debris with a damp paper towel, then proceed to gently wipe the surface of the panel to remove any cloudy buildup. Applying a small amount of dish soap to the surface of the solar panel and using a damp cloth might help to remove cloudiness. Once finished, use a slightly damp, clean cloth to remove any remaining soap.
Cleaning the Batteries
Solar lights, like many electronics, may malfunction if exposed to humid environments. This is why many electronics suggest that they be stored in a cool, dry location when not in use. Moisture can collect within electronics if left in a humid environment, or as a result of heavy rain, causing the wires or batteries to corrode. While solar lights are designed to be weatherproof, moisture from rainfall can accumulate inside the solar light housing. As a result, checking the battery inside the solar light is necessary to ensure that the solar light will continue to operate.
Battery corrosion can be identified as a white powder that accumulates on the metal surface. If you notice this on your battery, remove it from the housing, and brush it with a soft brush. The white powder should come off rather easily. If there is corrosion that more difficult to remove, using fine-grit sandpaper might help to remove it. It is also important to brush off the housing of the battery within the solar light using the same procedure. Ensure that the housing is dry before replacing the battery inside the solar light in order to prevent further corrosion.
Cleaning the Light Cover
Most solar lights have a glass or plastic cover that protects the LED lights from the environment. Over time, debris or dirt can collect either on the surface, or on the inside because of being exposed to the outdoors. Lights that are placed in climates with lots of rain or thunderstorms are more likely to require more maintenance than those that are placed in drier climates. This plastic or glass can be cleaned in much the same way as the cover of the solar panel, with a paper towel or cloth softly rubbing away any contaminants.
Once the all the light components have been cleaned, it is also important to ensure that everything is dry before reassembling. Moisture that is trapped within the solar lights will cause problems, and will require further maintenance. Use the instructions manual to ensure that all the pieces are put back together correctly.
Extra Steps to Minimize Maintenance
There are few things that can be done with solar lights that help to minimize the amount of maintenance that is required on your solar lights.
- If the solar light is still not functioning after removing the corrosion from the battery and the battery housing, it will be necessary to replace the battery. Bring the battery to a hardware store and purchase replacements, as generally solar batteries need to be replaced every two years as a result of repetitive use.
- When purchasing new solar lights, you can apply either a clear lacquer or clear nail polish to the surface of the protective plastic covering the solar panel. Make sure to put painter’s tape around the cover to prevent coating other areas. This will help to protect the cover from damage from UV light from the sun, and extend the lifetime of your solar panels. Another potential tool for this is 3M-brand clear paint protection film, which can be purchased online from 3M directly.
- After major rain storms, it is best to make sure that water has not collected within your solar lights. The longer the delay between maintenance periods, the greater the chance that damage may occur to your solar lights. Regular maintenance ensures that your solar lights are long lasting, and that they are performing to their optimal level.
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