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4-Piece Solar Light Set

09/07/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Outdoor Living, Lighting, Solar Power


Solar Light
Item: 4-Piece Solar Light Set
Item number: 93863
Retail price: $14.99
Frequent sale price: $12.99
Target price: $9.99
Item Link

We've tested quite a few of these solar-powered lights over the past few years and until recently have been quite happy with them. They seemed to cruise through the first Buffalo Winter Test, survive the second, and begin to drop-off rapidly during the third and fourth summers into our testing. The current failure rate (even with battery replacements) is acceptable but disappointing considering their very strong start. Perhaps we're expecting too much out of an inexpensive (cheap?) set of solar-powered yard lights, but it's our money and we demand what we demand, and we didn't expect to have to replace them all within 4 or 5 years' use.

The good news is that about half of these solar-powered lights have survived their first three Buffalo Winter Tests providing strong lighting throughout the night after a moderately good day of sunshine. The bad news is that around half of the remaining lights fail to come back to life even with battery replacements and that those which do only provide modest lighting after a bright sunny day and have at best a faint flickering light by morning. The actual number of replacement batteries in the lights that are still working well has not yet been tabulated. It seems that at least a few are still on their original factor-supplied batteries, but we need to tally up all of the five 4-piece sets to be certain. We do note and have come to expect that they run much longer than their advertised 8 hours even during the winter months, although at this point it is difficult to recollect if they performed this well on their original batteries (our replacement batteries are rated at 2500 [Chinese] mAh, while the factory-supplied batteries are 600 mAh).

We've mounted most of these solar-powered lights about 2 1/2 feet about the ground along a fence every 8 to 10 feet for the perimeter of our backyard plus a mid-line intersection. This gives the lights plenty of access to sunshine throughout most of the year including the winter months and times the grass seems a little longer than it should be during the hot summer months (actually, it's never really all that high, imo :-/). With an couple of color-changing solar-powered LED lights (one 15 feet and another around 7 feet off the ground) and the addition of a string of 50 flashing blue LED lights stretching across a gate which intersects the area, the backyard has been quite brightly illuminated for the first several years deeming it affectionately "the puppy airport" in honor of Sasha (it's her backyard; see our "Pet Stake" review for a picture of her) and the occasional stray airplane flying overhead en-route to the Buffalo airport. The effect was quite attractive year round but particularly stunning in the quiet winter nights after a light snowfall which reflects the LED lighting brightly illuminating the entire area.

The lens protecting the photocells seemed very fogged after two or three years' use. The lights themselves are a favorite perch for Robbins and other birds and that might expose the lenses to a different type of 'raining acid.' Also, moths and other cocoon-forming insects love the inside compartment around the battery and electronic circuit, probably because it's a warmer (dark colored) protective housing for them too. The problems that we have with these solar-power lights might be related in part to the combined bird and insect attacks, but then we don't live in a desert. At least part of the lens clouding seems to be from the use of UV-reactive plastic for the clear cover protecting the photocell because it won't clean off with soap and water but does scrape off with a razor blade along with a thin film of plastic. (Or maybe it's a reaction to bird-acid, but we aren't planning on running any tests to explore this possibility without the support of a large government grant!)

Bottom line: If you can find them at our low target price, we still consider these solar-powered yard lights to be a good bargain. We've just damped our enthusiasm from the first two years when they seems to work flawlessly except for a few battery replacements. By the end of the second Buffalo Winter Test, they're definitely a mixed lot of the good, the bad, and the shine-only-after-a-bright-day (every with replacement batteries!) lights.

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