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Sun Lights

Q – I need outdoor security and landscaping lights, but I hate
to run wiring because of the sidewalk and damage to my gardens.
Has solar light brightness improved to the point where they are
usable?—Ann K.

A – New designs of brighter solar-powered lights are a perfect
match with your security and landscaping needs. With no wiring
required, you will have to dig through any of your gardens and
landscaping.

  Solar-powered yard lights are simple devices. They have three
basic components: a light bulb, a rechargeable battery, and a
small solar cell panel built into the top of the light. Since they
use no electricity, they operate for free and create no air
pollution. To install one, just attach it to your house wall, a
deck rail or steps, or push a mounting post into the ground.

  Generally, it is a good idea to let the sun charge it up
for a couple of days first and then switch it on. All models have
electric eyes that switch on automatically from dusk to dawn.

  If you tried older solar lights before and were
dissatisfied, you will be surprised at the much brighter light
output, styles, and features of the new ones. The older dim
incandescent bulbs have been replaced with high-tech white LEDs
(light-emitting diodes), fluorescent, and halogen bulbs. Not only
are they brighter, but their higher efficiency provides more hours
of light at night on a single day’s recharge from the sun.

  Although not for your garden, the newest designs are
solar-powered street number lights. One design that I use is a
solar mailbox with my lighted red street numbers on each side. I
also have another solar address locator, with 4-inch amber LED
numerals up closer to my front door. The numbers are visible up to
about 100 feet away.

  These not only ensure that the pizza delivery person finds
your house before the pizza gets cold, but it enhances security.
If you ever make a 911 call, the life squad or fire department can
find your house immediately. From what paramedics say, finding the
proper house quickly can make the difference between life and
death.

  Solar-powered lights that use LED bulbs provide the most
efficient and most hours of light at night. After a sunny day,
eight to 10 hours of light is possible the following night. LEDs
are most effective for landscaping ac-cent lighting and marking
pathways and steps up to a deck. As a reference, they are
generally not bright enough to read by at night.

  The brightest solar-powered lights use small compact
fluorescent bulbs. These actually produce some usable light that
you can work or read near. They typically use four- or five-watt
bulbs. This may not sound like much light, but at night with no
other lights on, it is quite bright. The fluorescent bulbs, like
LEDs, last a very long time.

For a combination of security and landscaping lighting, select an
LED/halogen motion-sensing model. At dusk, the electric eye
automatically switches on a dim amber LED for accent or pathway
lighting. When motion is detected within 20 feet of the light, a
bright halogen bulb comes on for three minutes. This will provide
enough light for guests to safely walk to your door and it will
definitely scare away prowlers.

  Other solar-powered lighting options are flashlights and
bright lanterns. Some have a fluorescent and torch light on one
side for camping or car emergencies, and a warning flashing light
on the other side. A solar panel is built into the side. The
flasher will operate up to 40 hours and the torch light up to 8
hours on a single charge.

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