There comes a time in the life of any electronic product that its power source, the battery, starts storing less energy. This will hold anything back from performing as well as it should. The same is true for solar lights, which absorb the energy of the sun through their panels and store this energy for future use in batteries.
The batteries within your solar lights will likely come in one of two forms; either an NiMH or an NiCd rechargeable battery. What’s good about this is that both of these can be purchased at your local store or online, so your solar lights’ batteries are very easily replaced or even upgraded!
What follows is a short guide to address the common problem of which batteries you are in fact able to use within your solar lights. While some options, like NiMH and NiCd, are interchangeable, there are a few cautionary tales which show us the dangers of using the wrong battery with your lights.
Corrosion and ultimately failure is the common outcome of using a non-rechargeable Alkaline battery so it is absolutely vital that, when the time comes, you know your lights’ needs and which batteries are appropriate.
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Can You Use Regular Rechargeable Batteries in Solar Lights?
Any rechargeable electronic device needs not just an energy source, like the sun, but also somewhere to store the energy.
This is where your battery comes in; storing your solar power for future use and preventing the waste of this valuable resource. Your solar lights absorb the sun’s energy through their panels, convert it, and store it for later. In the case of a full-home system, batteries are rare so the shared power grid is often the recipient of excess energy. Your lights, though, use rechargeable batteries to store daylight energy for use at night.
When it comes to replacing these batteries, they are surprisingly accessible and offer varying levels of efficiency. The choice of rechargeable battery for your solar lights is far from straightforward, however, and takes careful consideration in making the right choice for your product.
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Replacing your solar lights’ batteries
The very nature of your solar lights, charging during the day and coming on at night, means that there is a constant flow of energy. As your battery charges and drains, this will take a toll on your solar product and can lead to some issues down the road. One of the first issues you may run into is the weakening or death of your lights’ batteries, which requires the purchase of replacement batteries. While some commercial or highly advanced systems may use specialized batteries, the vast majority of solar lights use rechargeable batteries that are readily available for purchase.
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NiMH vs. NiCd Rechargeable Batteries
The preferred batteries to be used in these products are NiMH and NiCd rechargeable batteries, which are largely interchangeable and thus ease the process of identifying a replacement. Either way, these batteries are rechargeable and readily available online or in stores whenever you need them.
All rechargeable batteries are not created equal, however; NiMH are preferred to NiCd wherever possible because they cost the same, are more environmentally-friendly, don’t suffer a ‘memory effect’, and will often last a little bit longer each night. Indeed, while either NiMH or NiCd batteries will work within your solar lights, there has come to be a universal perspective that, where applicable and possible, NiMH should be used to get the best out of your lights.
Rechargeable batteries vs. Non-rechargeable, Alkaline batteries
Don’t let the flexibility in your battery choice fool you, however. Though NiMH or NiCd will both ensure the proper functioning of your solar lights, the installation of non-rechargeable Alkaline batteries can be the absolute worst choice you can make and should be avoided at all costs. While an Alkaline battery will power your lights for a short amount of time, the damage caused by their installation prevents them from suitably being used for these products like NiMH and NiCd batteries.
- The danger of using Alkaline batteries in your solar lights: Where an old rechargeable battery might not retain its charge as well as it used to, an Alkaline battery will only work for a short time and ultimately is capable of severely corroding your lights’ battery terminal. This corrosion will ultimately sever the tie between the battery and its terminal, preventing any power from reaching the light.
- While you can clean the corrosive effects of Alkaline batteries with brushes and baking soda diluted in water, this process itself may pose risks to the light’s inner workings if any excess water seeps through.
- Even with this risk and the intricate effort required to clean corrosion from your battery terminal, the results are often irreversible and will lead to the disposal of your solar light. The lesson, then, is that you can replace your solar lights’ batteries, but you must be sure to use rechargeable, preferably NiMH batteries to ensure the proper function and survival of your product.
Ultimately, then, it is important to be careful about your decision when it comes to choosing new batteries for your solar light. While most batteries that will fit will work, at least for a while, you really should only install NiMH or NiCd rechargeable batteries for the long-term operation of your solar lighting system. Non-rechargeable Alkaline batteries will not work optimally and can corrode your inner mechanisms to the point of requiring a replacement light, rather than just new batteries. With how accessible rechargeable batteries are today and how important your batteries are to the function of these systems, it is well worth taking the time to purchase the appropriate option.
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The capacity of your battery may not seem important now, but will ultimately prove influential in the lifespan and function of your lights. For instance, a rechargeable battery rated at 2450mAh, a measure of its energy capacity, will outperform and outlast one rated at 1800mAh. These small differences can mean an hour more of light at night or a few more months of life, meaning you will get the absolute most out of your lights if you make the right choice.
For more insight into the operation of solar path lights, and the specifications that make the best lights better than the others, including an oftentimes superior battery capacity, check out our buyers’ guide.