Outdoor solar lighting is one of the many ways to play our part in the war on our environment. However, extreme weather can take a toll on any outdoor equipment. Can outdoor solar powered lights get wet?
In most cases, outdoor solar-powered lights can withstand moderate rain and snowfall. This is mainly due to the difference between “water resistant” and “waterproof.” Most solar lighting solutions fall into the former category, meaning that their internal electronics can only resist a certain level of water exposure, and for a limited time.
In today’s article, we examine how water affects solar lights, as well as how long you can expect them to last in a downpour. We never want to leave you hanging on the solutions front. That’s why we’ve compiled measures to limit the effects the elements have on your lights.
Can solar powered lights get wet in the rain?
If you’re thinking about solar lighting, you’re obviously thinking long term. This includes changes in season as well as the effects of climate change, which may all lead to increased rainfall (depending on where you live, of course). I know what you’re thinking:
But, aren’t OUTDOOR solar lights made to be waterproof?
My answer to that is yes…and no. You see, there is a common error where people mistake “water resistant” to mean “waterproof.”
This mistake is not only exclusive to outdoor lights; this sneaky marketing trick has convinced customers that this is the case for other products as well. Who knows the number of over-excited iPhone users who have dived headfirst into the ocean, only to resurface with a screen full of futile flickers instead of snaps of “Nemo?”
Are outdoor solar lights water resistant?
Can solar lights get wet? “Water resistance” is how long a device’s internal electronics or mechanics can withstand continuous exposure to water without compromising performance or failing.
This is normally expressed in submersion terms—i.e., water resistant for up to x meters for y minutes. “Waterproof” means that a device’s vital electronics and mechanics are completely impervious to, or completely shielded from water.
Nowadays, aspects of a device’s durability, such as water and dust resistance, are classified and certified by the Ingress Protection (IP) Code, which assigns ratings according to how the device stacks up.
Most solar lights are water resistant
Most outdoor lights are “water resistant.” This means that rain and snowfall won’t usually affect the lights because water runs off them and their panels.
However, if water collects around exposed components for too long, the lighting system might suffer. Also, in flood-prone areas, there is a risk that your solar lighting system might be partially or completely submerged underwater if it is placed low enough. Irreparable damage may ensue, leaving you red in the face…in the dark.
How long do solar powered lights last outside in the rain?
Can solar lights get wet? On average, outdoor lights will last about 15 hours on a full charge, regardless of the weather. The time required for a “full charge” varies depending on the manufacturer, among other factors. But on average, eight hours of direct sunlight ought to do it.
So, essentially, how long your lights will last in the rain depends on their level of charge when it starts raining. It’s no secret that solar-powered devices charge at an extremely slow rate (or not at all) without sunlight. The cloudier it gets, the weaker the sun rays that reach your panels will be, which means that it will take longer for them to reach a full charge.
Of course, where solar is concerned, battery life indicates how long the lights will last. However, the elements present other threats besides impediments to charging. Heavy rains sometimes have strong winds that help them wreak havoc. If you live in an area that is known for hurricanes, your lights may run the risk of being knocked down and blown away.
Can outdoor solar lights work in extreme temperatures?
Extreme temperature changes (such as abrupt thunderstorms during a blazing heatwave) can also harm your outdoor lighting. Extreme heat causes metal components to expand, while cooler temperatures cause them to contract. Depending on the metal, this may cause deformation or even cracking over time.
Thunderstorms can also feature hail, another potentially menacing force of nature. Usually, these are small and more annoying than anything else. However, sometimes they’re not. In some cases, horrified property owners and meteorologists have reported hailstones the size of baseballs. Glass components, such as bulbs and lamp holders, are most at risk from these.
How do I protect solar lights from rain?
Can solar lights get wet? As much as nature is an unstoppable force, human ingenuity continues its steady march towards being the ultimate immovable object.
This is not to say that we can outfox the elements entirely. However, many clever innovators have devised clever protective measures to minimize, or even eliminate, the impact of rain on solar lighting.
To prevent water from seeping into any delicate bits, you can use water resistant silicone caulk to cover any seams or gaps that may lead to such. The first step is to clean the light or lamp holder before applying the caulk.
I would recommend that you use a fairly damp cloth for this, with a special focus on the areas where the caulk is to be applied. Caulking works best if these areas are clean because applying it on a dirty surface might compromise its ability to hold effectively.
Get the right materials
To carry out this process, you will need a drop cloth, a utility knife, a bowl of water, and some paper towels. If your lights are higher up, you will need a step ladder to reach them. After organizing your kit (and steadying your hand there, Shaky) you’re all set to repel mother nature’s tears!
First, place the drop cloth on the floor and stand the step ladder on top of it. This will protect your floor or driveway from spills during the works. Next, load up the caulk into a component adhesive applicator and start caulking.
When caulking, you must be sure of where and how you want to do it. You don’t want to waste the caulk unnecessarily, especially if you have to carry out this task for multiple lights on your property.
Try to get it snugly in the seam and use the utility knife to scrape up any excess caulk. Wherever possible, work from the top down (sealing the highest seams and slowly working your way to the lower ones). Use the knife to neaten the caulk application throughout.
Once you’re done applying the caulk, dip your fingers into the bowl of water and use them to smooth out the sealant. Push the sealant into the desired post to make it waterproof. Afterward, clean up any spilled caulk and enjoy your new waterproof lighting!
Other ways to protect solar lights from rain
Another measure people take to protect their solar lights from the rain is to remove them temporarily. In places where rain (or even hail) is prevalent, taking your lights down might be the best way to prolong their lifetimes. It may also be wise to move any lights that may be in flood-prone areas of your property.
Another protective measure is to install waterproof outdoor lamp holders. These are excellent for shielding bulbs from the rainfall of varying intensity and angles. A good addition to your driveway lights, for example.
A “rain hat” is an invention you might need to introduce to your lighting system. This is a thin sheet of malleable plastic that is secured to the top of flood lamps like a hat.
These contraptions are a clever way to shield large lamps from downpours of all intensities. They are fairly easy to install, and once you do, you will be able to rest easy in the knowledge that your lights are protected from any water-related damage.
The technology behind some of the materials makes rain hats more resilient in the face of strong winds than most other light coverings. The rain hat, while thin, is also surprisingly strong. It can deflect other natural elements like hail and snow to keep your lights in tip-top shape.
Connectors are perhaps the biggest point of failure in the whole lighting setup. Electrical tape is your friend in this situation, as this is the best way to cover exposed connectors. Use appropriately sized pieces to address any potential problem points.
How to care for your solar lights
First, you should create a routine maintenance plan for your solar lights to make sure you get the most life out of them that you can. Maximizing the life of your solar lights mean you will extend the payback period of your initial investment.
With proper maintenance, your lights should last at least five years. If you have had your solar lights for a while and they are getting dim, you can use some tips to make your solar lights brighter.
Eventually, your lights may stop working. This doesn’t mean you need to get new lights. First, learn how to fix solar lights that stop working. Then, check to see if you are getting enough sunlight to the solar panels.
Technically, you can charge solar lights without direct sunlight. But it will eventually lead to dim lights. Then it will lead to lower life expectancy for the lights.