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10 Piece Stainless Steel Solar Light Set (#66249)

07/14/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Outdoor Living, Lighting

Link: http://www.HarborFreightReviews.com

Stainless Steel Solar Lights
Item: 10-Piece Stainless Steel Solar Light Set
Item number: 66249
Retail price: $39.99
Target price: $24.99 or less
Best price: $19.99
Item Link

Their stainless steel construction with a dull copper finish compliments most yard/entryway decor. The light output is from a white LED bulb (13,000 micro candelas) powered by a single rechargeable 1.2 volt (600 mAh) AAA NiCd battery located in each fixture. This puts off a nice, soft, bluish-tint illumination characteristic of this type of LED light. The output seems somewhat lower than that found with some of the more expensive solar lights, but they are perfectly adequate for most path/entryway markers and for soft accent lighting.

Price warning: With the summer fully underway, our local Harbor Freight outlet is again pushing these solar lights for the FULL retail price of $39.99. At this price we do NOT recommend purchase of this light set because of its high failure rate noted in the review which continues below. Buy at the target price or below, and they're a good deal; otherwise, hold-off purchase until they go on sale for $25 or less later in the season.

The solar lights have a convenient auto/off/on switch easily reachable underneath their caps. This is especially important for charging the NiCd batteries to their full capacity before allowing them to discharge through their normal cycle (NiCd batteries have a 'memory effect'). We typically allow our batteries to charge via the solar cells for two to three days before using them in their normal function, or we remove the batteries and charge them directly with a NiCd battery charger to insure maximum charge before first-use. Most of the lights work throughout the night until morning during a typical Buffalo summer and last at least half-way through the night during our overcast winters. Be careful with the plastic stakes that break-off rather easily in hard or frozen soil (don't try to straighten them during the winter). Otherwise, they are physically sound except for the lens fogging issue noted below. (Hint: if you find that the lighting duration has become unacceptably short after use and you don't have a battery charger, you can switch the lights "off" and let the solar cells recharge them for a couple of days to regain a full cycle if the batteries are still good. Running through a few fully discharged/fully charged cycles often rejuvenates the battery's capacity.)

The lenses covering the solar cells on many of our test lights clouded-up after only a year and some of the rechargeable batteries failed prematurely (batteries should last two or three years with solar lights). In fact, of the several sets we purchased at a local Harbor Freight retail outlet about 20% have failed right-out-of-the-box and nearly 40% have various problems by the second season. At the low sale price of under $25, we simply purchase additional sets for replacement rather than return the lot for another batch which may have the same failure rate. And the replacement batteries we buy directly from China are inexpensive and boast a higher mAh capacity (e.g., typical nominal value of 2,000 mAh but actually 1,000 mAh or less) than that originally supplied with the lights.

Other online reviewers have been uniformly pleased with these solar lights, a few noting problems but most asserting they were trouble-free. It's interesting to note that many of the people that haven't had problems are from California. Perhaps the drier climate and the milder winters prolong the life of these lights. The low humidity could be a factor in why others haven't seen the lens fogging, or perhaps the outdoor air quality is just better than what we experience here in Buffalo, New York (EPA Air Quality Rating of 3 out of 10 being the best). Overall for the cost, these solar lights are the best value around if they fit your need. The quality control issue is somewhat frustrating, but the value remains in the low purchase price which allows economical replacement of defective units.

Bottom line: Not a bad buy but not the best Harbor Freight has to offer. Aesthetically pleasing the first year but reliability falters after only one season outdoors. We still recommend their purchase because of their low price (only when on sale) and their aesthetic appeal. You won't find a better value on a stainless steel solar light anywhere.

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This review and discussion forum was created for those of us who love Harbor Freight(tm). It's well known to those who frequent the store that the prices are always cycling up and down, and most of us usually accept it as a personal challenge to get the lowest price possible. It's also well appreciated that some products at Harbor Freight are good, even very good, but that many others are also substandard, yes, even junk. This review and discussion forum is dedicated to the savvy Harbor Freight shopper and is intended to provide some guidance to the best and the worse buys. Similar products from other retailers will also be reviewed from time-to-time. Please be advised that everyone's experience is unique, and what works well (or doesn't work at all) for the reviewers here may or may not suit your personal needs. With this caveat and with notification that Harbor Freight Reviews assumes no liability for the accuracy of information provided here for educational purposes, enjoy the forum and good 'sa(i)ling' at Harbor Freight!

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