Outdoor Solar Lighting Overview
Outdoor solar lights are popular for a lot of reasons. They're easy to install. Just find a spot and press a spike into the ground. They don't require house electricity, so they don't add to your power bill. That makes them environmentally friendly as well. And you don't have to run any wires out to power them. That means they can be placed anywhere that the sun shines.
Of course, that last advantage can also be a drawback. Solar lights gather sunlight during the day, converting it to electricity that they will use at night. No sunlight means no power. That means solar lights aren't useful in shaded areas such as beneath trees or under steps or decks.
Even areas beside fences, walls, and bushes can be iffy, depending on how the barrier is set up in relation to the sun. You may find the solar light only gets direct sunlight for one or two hours a day, and that may not be enough. (You could install a solar panel in a nearby sunny place and run wires from there to the shady area, but that somewhat defeats the purpose. Still, if the area is far from the nearest outlet, this may be a solution that appeals to you.)
Given adequate daytime sunlight, a solar lamp can provide six to twelve hours of illumination at night. This may not always get you through to the next morning, but they should definitely stay on until long after you're in bed. How long they last depends on how much sunlight they received during the day. Even a solar light in an open space can be caught short by clouds and rain. The solar cell will still collect some energy; but without the direct sunlight, it won't shine as long that night.
Solar lights come with a light sensor that turns the lamp on when it begins to get dark. The lamp remains on until the battery is drained or the sensor detects sunlight again.
Once you've found the place to install the light, it's a simple matter of pushing the spike into the ground. Then you can adjust the angle of the photocell so that it's aimed at the sun for most of the day. That's all there is to it. If you later decide that you'd like to move the lamp elsewhere, just pull it out and repeat the procedure in the new spot.
Unfortunately, this flexibility and ease of movement can also make your solar lights attractive to thieves or vandals. This is something to think about, especially if you're considering solar lighting for your front yard.
You can make these lights more difficult to take by screwing them into a deck or porch railing. They can still be unscrewed, of course. But that takes time which may deter a thief. And it's certainly more work than drive-by vandals care to engage in.
Solar lights come in all sorts of styles. You can buy solar spotlights, hanging lights, even colored lights and pool lights. You can find them quite cheaply, but remember that these are outdoor fixtures. You'll want to select something that's durable enough to withstand the rain and wind without needing to be replaced a year later.