Solar Lighting – A Review
I am used to retailing solar lighting, and all too familiar with the vast range of products available off the shelf. I can never quite believe the volume that is sold; I can only imagine that the expectations of the buyer are considerably higher than the reality.
I am also amazed by the popularity of those little birds with glowing breasts, and frogs that radiate a glimmer, powered by a panel on the back of the head.
I must admit I bought my son a solar powered owl when he was at Uni. It was an instant hit with his mates and the next time I went to Bristol I had to take a case of glowing owls to satisfy demand.
By now you’ve probably gathered that I don’t take solar lighting very seriously. So when I was asked to trial some and write an honest review I thought The Solar Centre were taking a risk.
They said they would send me some samples to try in the garden. I thanked them, explaining that I live in the country and have a naturalistic garden. I hoped this might deter them from sending those gaudy, tasteless plastic creations that are sometimes offered in the guise of solar lighting.
When the parcel arrived I was pleasantly surprised. Designs looked simple and the packaging conveyed quality. Also the weight was different; these lights were heavier and immediately felt more substantial than anything I’d come across before.
The claims are impressive “up to 10 hours run time”, “works in winter”, “Silverlight standard” – I didn’t know what that meant, and still don’t, but it sounded good.
The first one I set up was the Albany Premium Solar Spotlight. A heavy stainless steel spotlight that can be mounted on a wall or on a ground spike and stuck in the border. It has a separate solar panel, much bigger than anything I’ve come across before.
The two are connected by a lead; so you can site the panel in the sun and the light where you need it. I positioned mine on opposite sides of the border. Having set it up, I read the instructions. “Leave for 3 days before turning on”. Get real, I’m impatient. I want to see it lit up tonight; so I ignored that and turned it on.
The packaging states that it turns on and off automatically at dusk and dawn respectively. You can override this function with the switch. It has 2 x 600mAh NiMH batteries (I suppose that’s good, it sounds impressive!).
Anyway that night the light turned on; amazing effect from one small light. I am impressed. I am even more impressed when I get up very early the next morning and the light is still on. This is a quality bit of kit!
Next I set up the Flexalite Solar Spotlight. This is mostly lacquered metal construction with an oval solar panel on the post. It is neat, incredibly easy to put together and just as efficient. I really like this light and want more of them.
I head to the website to look at the cost and am very pleasantly surprised. It costs the same as the usual flimsy useless ones that are sold everywhere. Again it runs efficiently on the first night after only a few hours exposure on a fairly sunny afternoon.
The London Stainless Steel Post Lights come as a pack of 2. These are really nice looking lights, but a tad contemporary for my garden on first sight. In a modern setting they would be great but I was a little unsure.
These have what appears to be a small solar panel in to stainless top of each light and claim to light up even in dull weather and partially shaded by plant material. As my borders are pretty well packed with plants they would have their work cut out.
What I didn’t like was the stark white of the lantern. This promised hard blue light like those terrifying Christmas tree lights you can easily make the mistake of buying.
However these lights have a switch tucked away inside for full power (harsh white light) or power saving mode: softer light. Needless to say I chose the latter and this means longer run time. The light is still quite bright, they run all night and cope with shade from growing plants and curious cats.
They don’t look too out of place in the border and I can certainly live with them. For a more contemporary setting I think they would be excellent around a patio or along a path.
The Canterbury Stainless Steel Wall Light is similar in design. I liked it sufficiently to drill the wall and put it up on the front of the house at the top of the drive. It is neat, gives off a good light and copes well with shade from the eaves. Not having to worry about a power supply or having to wait months for an electrician to turn up is an enormous bonus!
Finally the Curve Motion Light is a neat little solar light which works in low light and winter and is activated by a motion sensor. I mounted it on the fascia above the back door.
It works with up to 250 triggers a night which my wife says should be enough for the cats. This could be a really handy piece of kit as a deer or animal deterrent if mounted on a post along a boundary – I might experiment.
Anyway, I have to say these solar lights did change my views about solar lighting. I should point out that I haven’t used them through winter yet, but have no reason to think that they won’t work really well. Thinking about a little garden lighting, they are definitely worth a look.