Tags: garden

4-Piece Solar Light Set

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

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com/HFRreviews.html

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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Unfinished Adirondack Chair #97458

07/09/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Outdoor Living

Link: http://www.HarborFreightReviews.com

Adirondack Chair
Item: Unfinished Fir Adirondack Chair
Item number: 97458
Retail price: $49.99
Target price: $29.99
With an extra 20% discount: $23.99
Item Link (currently unavailable)

Although assembling can be a nuisance (e.g., typical Chinese instructions, hole misalignment), the outcome is well worth the effort. This Adirondack chair has withstood its first Buffalo winter, emerging from under the snow in the spring looking like new. Solid construction, simple design, and generously contoured seat and arms make the chair not only substantially built, but very comfortable as well. It's rated for 250 lbs. but has been field tested by Harbor Freight Reviews to hold nearly 260 lbs with ease. And it fits the over-sized, middle-aged body quite well with its generously proportioned seat and back!

The chair requires finishing with either wood stain or paint. Our test product received four (yes four) coats of exterior latex paint after a primer coat and shows no signs of wear. The extra time in painting four coats is probably not necessary, but this chair is destined to remain outdoors throughout its life cycle. The wood seems very 'porous' and therefore needs a good priming coat before painting with regular paint. Similarly, a sealer should be used before staining.

Other online reviewers have been similarly pleased, two mentioning the chair has lasted several years without much wear. The price is unbeatable and the quality rivals that of chairs costing several times this amount. Harbor Freight also offers a matching rocking chair (item #97460), for those that just can't sit still. This chair goes on sale several times throughout the year, so the target price is not hard to hit if one is patient. And with an additional 20% discount obtained by using the widely available Harbor Freight coupons (The chair sale price does not require a coupon and therefore Harbor Freight allows the use a another coupon to discount their product further.), the chair is even cheaper than cheap.

Update: Buy-em if you can find-em! Our two Buffalo, New York Harbor Freight outlets have been sold out since the early part (before? as in lost loss leader) of their recent sale, and they're not expecting anymore shipments this season! Kiss those rain checks good-by.

Bottom line: Another great buy if you're willing to invest the time in assembly and finishing, but watch out for those Chinese holes.;)

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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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