CHOICE membership

Solar lights - outdoor - with rechargeable batteries

We have used solar lights as a cheap alternative to wired-in outdoor lights. On the whole, they disappoint, particularly failing within a year, unable to get parts and ending up in the rubbish (we don’t have a bin service, so that means our junk pile).

Had 2 solar lights in a French lamppost (Bunnings) which cost about $80. One light globe failed, went back to Bunnings and even though we had not bought it (gift) they trashed a new one to give us the light fitting incl globe as they don’t carry spares. About 3 months later the other globe went, by that time I had found the supplier and bought 2 spares. Then both solar chargers died. We can recharge the batteries ourselves, but the solar panel no longer does this. I did maintenance, regular clean of solar panel etc. Pulled apart to check - not charging.

Other mid priced $15-$30 solars have failed within a year

  • 2 floating pool lights (which were disappointingly dim to start with),
  • solar 100 tiny lights (used several times - then not for months - then didn’t work)
  • an assortment of ‘garden’ lights - single light, single battery - solar chargers died

Cheap $2+ usually sealed - non removable battery
All died except one $2 Cheap shop which is still going bright & strong - spike broke so it sits on a rock.

All solars died within a year (except one $2 cheap shop & one $6 floating pool light). This defeats the idea that I am saving the planet by using rechargeable batteries and renewable energy. The other is that I can’t find higher wattage (higher lumens) in outdoor solar lights. The industry seems to have gone backwards.

Are there any recommendations for reliable outdoor solar lights? We don’t have solar power, our SWER line give us power fluctuations that regularly blow light globes, hence the liking for stand-alone units.

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These things seem to be the unusual example of the saying that you get what you pay for (which is by no means always true). I’ve had various cheap path lights, hardly any of which have lasted beyond a month or two, but the more expensive ones I’ve had have been very good. Some have lasted for years and are still going strong.

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I have also bought very cheap ones and replaced the low capacity batteries it came with with my own rechargeable batteries…these have lasted for years We have found that mostly the batteries are the weakest link.

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Hi @zackarii

You could try this retailer and see if they have what you need

I have no idea of what they are like but worth asking I guess.

Also for a read on a simple Solar system

The batteries in most cheap units are just soldered to the wiring and are easily replaced with a small soldering iron and some fluxed solder (Jaycar and others sell cheap units). The batteries are easy to purchase at many stores just buy like for like in the rechargeable range. AAA and AA are most commonly used in the cheap lights but avoid buying the Lithium ones as they are more expensive for similar performance and I have found they don’t tolerate the heat so well.

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Hi @zackarii

My experience is the same in terms of the solar outdoor lights not lasting more than about a year.

I have replaced the rechargeable battery on some, but many are too rusty to take apart by the time the battery needs replacing. Tried prying some open, but the brittle plastic shatters, ruining them.

Now, I just buy cheap ones knowing I will have to replace them.

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I agree with just about everything said. I have purchased a few different ones over the years both higher cost and cheapie on special and they have all quickly failed usually between1-2 years old, except for one lonely lamp that is now about 10 years old now. It still comes on around dusk every evening but it batteries have lost capacity and are now depleted around 2-3 hours later. i think it was a cheapy but it is that old I don’t remember.
Needless to say if the manufacturer knew it was still going all these years later somebody would get the sack i’m sure.

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I bought solar lights for their “environmental” credentials, but the failure rates mean they are more likely a waste plastic headed for landfill within the year. Maybe Choice could look at the life and/or components (batteries, electronics) brightness etc.

The champion (which has just died) lasted over 10 years outdoors, was on a plastic spike with a glass dome (the plastic no longer held it in place) which sat on ground level. The next was a floating pool light that only died after 3 years. The rest, including some expensive ones died within a year, some after only a couple of uses. Brand names and purchase price are no predictors of reliability or longevity.

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I agree that the quality of many of the solar lights are terrible…even the plastic degrades quickly under UV light and seals let water in.

If the battery is the issue, these usually can be replaced with ‘off the shelf’ AAA or AA rechargeable batteries. The ones placed at the point of manufacture have low capacity and replacing them increases their capacity and the time they are illuminated after the sun goes down.

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It is usually the solar charger or light that fails.
The previous owners had purchased a French Lamp-post style double light, where one globe failed. Bunnings replaced the light fitting as they did not have a replacement globe, we sourced two, but the controller failed in both lamps a few months later. A $50 one designed to have the solar panel outside and the light, with switch, inside, had the LEDs failing within two months.

Purchased a string of 100 coloured lights (to replace non-working) and we got one month out of them, they failed in January. I now use a $2 (non-solar) set powered by 2 AA batteries which has outlasted the solars.

We have a cache of ex-solar batteries still with charge.

It is probably a big ask for Choice to test, as there is so much variety. Some use them occasionally - switched on to briefly illuminate an area, or left to constantly charge & discharge - such as garden lights. So the most I can hope for is a Buyer’s Guide. But would like to know if there are any out there that actually last more than a year.

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I replace the batteries as soon as they approach failure. Doing so at this point avoid corrosion and the replacement batteries are fairly cheap, even more cheaply purchased if done through EBay.

The LEDs typically for us last a lot longer than the batteries, we get around 4 years out of them, and only once has the charger failed (water ingress into the circuit board). Of coure there may be failures sooner than this of the LEDs but our luck has held, we more often see the LED failures in the house as we have to buy a brand and type as it is the only available replacement. It is not our preferred brand but we have no other choice these days.

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