Yes, most solar lights are waterproof and so can be left outside in the rain. You’ll want to check the waterproof rating to make sure that they are suitably rated to be left outside.
Outdoor lights will have an IP rating. This stands for ingress protection and consists of two digits. The first digit tells you how it ranks for intrusion protection. In other words, it tells you if it can be poked or pierced by different objects.
The second digit is the one we are interested in. This digit tells you what level of water protection the lights have and is called the moisture protection rating.
The scale runs from 0 to 9 with 0 being no protection from water at all and 9 meaning it can withstand pressure jets, steam treatments, and high temperatures.
For your outdoor solar lights, you’re looking for a moisture rating of at least 5. This means that the light would be able to withstand splashes from all directions as well as low pressure jets.
Lights with this rating will be more than capable of handling rain no matter how wet and windy it is. They will also be ok with garden hoses, sprinklers, and condensation.
It’s important to note that while rain won’t damage your solar lights, it can limit the amount of energy they are able to generate. The rain drops on the solar panels can reflect and refract the sunlight making it difficult for the panels to work effectively.
If it has rained, it’s a good idea to go and wipe off your solar panels so that they can benefit from the sun that follows the rain.
Can Solar Lights be Left Outside in Winter?
It depends on what winter means in your area. The main concern with leaving your lights out over winter is what the cold weather can do to the different parts of your lights.
If you live in an area where the mercury dips below freezing, you’ll want to bring in any lights that have glass panels or components. Frequent or rapid changes in temperature can cause glass to try to flex. Naturally, glass is not very flexible, and this causes it to shatter.
The other thing to consider about the cold weather is that it can severely limit the life of your batteries.
The cold slows down the chemical processes within the battery. This means that batteries used at lower temperatures produce less current and are less effective at powering the lights.
Frequently using batteries at a low temperature means that they run down far more quickly. Over time, this reduces the battery’s ability to refill itself and its charge. If you don’t want to ruin your batteries over winter, you’re better off packing up the lights and removing the batteries till spring.
Before deciding whether or not to bring your solar lights inside over winter, think about how much you are going to use the lights. If you don’t plan on being outside during the winter nights, it doesn’t really make sense to keep your lights out where they risk being damaged.
If you do use the light over winter, for example a security or driveway light, just be aware of the fact that it may not charge as much as it does in the summer. This means that the light may come on earlier and lose its charge earlier than you’d like.
It is advisable to have another source of light over the winter or buy winter specific solar lights. These tend to have more powerful solar cells that can more effectively convert light to energy.
Should you Turn Off Solar Lights in Winter?
You may not need to turn off your solar lights in the winter if they are good quality or designed for winter.
Some solar lights can effectively charge throughout winter. These lights tend to have more effective, expensive, and advanced solar panels.
If the panels can charge through the winter, you don’t have to worry about turning the lights off over winter. This is because the lights will go through the charge and discharge cycles throughout the day.
The issue is with cheap lights with low quality solar panels. These panels will struggle to convert the weak winter light into power for the batteries. This means that you’ll only get a fraction of the full charge each day.
When rechargeable batteries don’t fully recharge before they discharge, it can forever limit the maximum battery capacity. This means that come spring, your batteries will be ruined.
The other thing to be aware of is that snow can prevent your lights from charging. If you live in a place where you get lots of snow, it’s best to turn off your solar lights unless you want to go out and clean them off every day.
A light dusting of snow won’t block out sunlight but more than an inch or so definitely will. If you don’t clear the snow off the solar panels then they won’t be able to fully recharge, and the battery life will be significantly reduced.
All in all, you don’t need to turn your lights off over winter unless you suspect that they are going to really struggle to generate enough power to recharge. Cheap lights with ineffective solar cells generally don’t cope well over the winter, more expensive lights can usually manage.
Will Solar Lights Charge on a Cloudy Day?
One of the biggest misconceptions about solar lights is the idea that they can’t charge on cloudy days. This worries a lot of people, especially if they live in less sun-soaked states.
The truth is more complicated than you might think.
The first thing you should know is that direct sunlight is not necessary for solar panels to work. The clouds might dim and diffuse the sunlight, but they don’t block it entirely. Think of it like a lampshade. The lampshade makes the light less bright, but it doesn’t stop it from brightening the room.
Cloudy days do, however, greatly reduce the efficiency of the solar panels. This is especially true of cheap solar lights with polycrystalline solar panels. These are the cheapest and least effective solar panels on the market. They just don’t have the strength to make big gains on cloudy days.
Monocrystalline panels are slightly more effective, but they too will struggle to get more than a few hours of decent charge on cloudy days.
The most effective kind of solar panels are amorphous panels. They are more expensive and need double the surface area, but they are incredibly effective. Amorphous panels squeeze every little bit of energy out of those cloudy days.
What you’ll notice with cheaper, more ineffective panels is that the lights will fade and shut off earlier on cloudy days. This is because they haven’t had enough time to charge and so the battery runs out sooner.
With more expensive and effective panels, you won’t really notice a difference in the battery life. You should be able to get a full night of light out of your batteries the same as if they had been charging through a sunny day.