Monday, October 27, 2014

Adventures in DIY Outdoor Solar Lighting

Outdoor accent lighting has always fascinated me. 
Years ago, when we lived at the ex-funeral home, we got an estimate for outdoor lighting, but before we could make a decision (we mulled it over for a few weeks, as the estimate was pricey), the owners were suddenly impossible to find. They were reputable, too. I never found out what happened to that business. Now, it's gone.
This was before the days of Internet shopping, and I ordered a few solar path lights from a catalog. They were puny little things, barely emitting a glow, no bigger than a firefly.
Fast forward a decade or so. LED and Solar lighting had made a huge leap--best of all, it had become widely available at DIY stores, such as Lowes, Home Depot, and at many online stores, from to Frontgate.

Outdoor accent lighting had become so popular, you couldn't open a design magazine without seeing enchanting dusk and night-time photographs. 
But what if the homeowner isn't keen about messing with electricity? How to illuminate inaccessible places?

Solar lighting was our solution. It's not as bright as low voltage lighting, but it wasn't dangerous to a novice like myself.

There are different lights for different effects. Path lights, solar and battery-operated string lights, and fixtures for "wall washing" and "highlighting."

Below, you can see an example of highlighting. This was achieved by staking three solar lights around the base of a tree (one of two in our front yard) and angling the lights at the trunk and branches. I chose a fixture with a bright 70 lumen output.

An example of battery-operated sting lights. I found these at Home Depot. You can also find them online.

You can see the string lights in the distance--they're bright and warm.
That's another thing--you can choose "warm" or "cool" (colored) solar lighting. 

I was beguiled by Solar Mason Jars. I hung them from little, metal shepherd's hooks.

You can make your own, too.

Solar lights can also be staked in flower pots--don't they make a charming centerpiece?

At night, solar lights add a glow along the driveway. I bought the path lights on sale and had no qualms about mixing finishes or styles.  However, I tried to group the fixtures. The solar "Mason jar" lanterns went along the front walkway. I have two different styles of path lights--the more traditional ones are black and were placed in the flower beds; the "transitional," bronze lights line the driveway.

A Few Tips
* Take advantage of end of season sales.

* Place the fixtures at dusk to achieve the best lighting angle.

*Be creative--a product for "wall washing" can work on anything you wish to highlight, such as shrubbery and statues.

*Take pictures to make sure your lights are evenly spaced.

*Don't be afraid of mixing styles. But you'll probably want to be consistent with cool/warm lighting.

*To extend the use of your fixture, periodically wipe the solar panel.

(Not a sponsored post--just trying to chronicle my adventures in solar lighting.)


  1. We buy our outdoor solar lights at Lowe's. They are expensive ($50 a piece) but they work great!

  2. Thanks for the tips on solar lighting. I'm checking solar out again. I had looked at some, several years ago, before LEDs, and wasn't happy with them. Yours look great. I like the uplighting on your trees. Thanks again.

    1. You are so welcome. Let me know how your project turns out.

  3. Hi Michael Lee! I love how all of your pretty solars look in all of the pretty places. I'd love to have some in the back yard but we have too mush shade! Waa! Hope you've had a nice weekend.
    be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  4. Love the new solar lights. You just gave me an ide to treat myself to some for the holidays. I just have one right now for our flag but now I need to do the driveway and shrubs! Pinned this too....

  5. Your lighting is beautiful. I have 2 topiaries and a line of lights along on a flower bed that all went out at the same time. One of those - Do I want to deal with this situation, so pulled the plug for now. Solar lights don't work well in my courtyard due to limited sun.
    Enjoy your evening!

  6. Thanks so much for this post. We've been thinking of doing some solar lighting and I didn't realize what a long way its come. I well remember putting solar lights on our dock years ago so no one would run into it at night and you are right - they looked like a fire fly in the distance.