Do you Need Special Batteries for Solar Lights?
Solar lights are not only stylish and easy to use, but they are also eco-friendly. The lights use a process called the photovoltaic effect, which takes light from the sun and filters it into a rechargeable battery.
But what happens when you need to change the battery? Do you need a special battery for solar lights? Most models come with one of two batteries – NiMH or NiCd. These options are easy to find and can also be upgraded.
So let’s take a look at everything you need to know about the batteries in your solar lights.
Batteries – Which One Should I Use?
The fact is that the two types of rechargeable batteries that can be used in your solar lights are all but interchangeable. That being said, each has advantages and disadvantages, so let’s take a look at the batteries individually.
This is the preferred option when choosing a battery for your solar lights. If you want to get the most energy efficiency and power, NiMH batteries are the right option; however, they do have advantages and disadvantages just like with anything. Here is a look at those.
- High capacity
- Nice overcharging/discharging resistance
- Limited to no memory effect
- More eco-friendly materials used in production
- Temperature range is wide
- Take longer to charge
- Doesn’t work well in high-temperature climates
- High self-discharge rate
This type of battery is less environmentally sound and may show memory effect (this reduces the capacity to charge fully and decreases the battery life and power).
There are still some factors that can be deemed advantages and disadvantages with this variety of battery.
- Charges fast
- High cycle count and durable
- Excellent load performance
- Works well with low temperatures
- Comes in a variety of sizes
- Toxic metals used in production
- High-level self-discharge
- Battery voltage is low
Why Do I Need to Replace the Batteries?
All batteries, whether they are traditional or rechargeable, will eventually need to be replaced. However, solar lights use their batteries pretty consecutive, and this puts more stress on the battery. These batteries charge during the day and then turn on at night, so the current is a continual cycle 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
This continual use will result in a decrease of power or the death of the solar light itself. There are also other things that could cause the problems (i.e., loose wires), but most of the time, this will be the main reason you need to replace even those high quality, long-lasting rechargeable batteries. Most of these tend to have a cycle life of anywhere from 1.5 – 3 years.
Regular Vs. Rechargeable
So why can’t you use a regular battery? Your solar lights have a lot of versatility when it comes to batteries, but for proper functioning, you will want to stay with the rechargeable options we have mentioned already. Traditional alkaline batteries will cause more harm than good in the long run. They may work for a little while, but there will be damage caused by installing them in your solar lights.
There are some major dangers like corrosion to the battery terminal to worry about. This corrosion will eventually come between the terminal and the battery and halt any energy from reaching the light.
You can clean the corrosion, but doing this may damage the inner wiring and components of the battery terminal and light itself. Even if you do manage to get the corrosion cleaned, there may still be some underlying and irreversible damage done. So it is best to stick with rechargeable batteries.
High Capacity Batteries? Why Not Use Them?
What about high capacity batteries? Many people will think the higher the capacity, the better and longer the battery will work for their solar lights. This may be the case in normal electronics, but when dealing with solar-powered lights, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
High capacity batteries often need currents that are higher than standard capacity batteries to charge. Solar energy doesn’t quite produce a high enough charge to meet the requirements needed for a strong and steady charge.
Tips to Maintain Your Solar Powered Lights Efficiency
The life cycle of your battery is affected by more than just your battery choice. Here are a few tips that can help lengthen your battery and solar lights lives:
- They need direct sunlight to charge. So make sure to keep them clean of dirt, dust, and other debris so that they get the most sun and charge.
- In winter months or when the weather is cloudy, you may want to take them indoors and use a battery charger to keep the batteries at full capacity.
- Make sure to switch them off when not being used and always store them in a dark place.
- They can be damaged easily, so keep them out of major wind or rainstorms.
- If you notice your lights unable to illuminate their area for 8 hours, then replace the battery.
Replacement Batteries – How to Charge Them
You will find that your solar lights most likely have a built-in on/off switch. When you are dealing with new lights, you will want to make sure they are fully charged. Experts suggest leaving them off but placing them in direct sunlight for a few days.
Leaving them in the sun will give the batteries a chance to charge fully. This is better for your solar lights and will help decrease any chance of battery discharge while in use.
Solar lights can add an element of charm and change your whole exterior garden or yard design. They are also a great way to save money and be more environmentally friendly. But you need them to work, and that means having the right power source.
So do you need special batteries for solar lights? You should be fine as long as you stick with the right size and rechargeable NiMH or NiCd batteries. You will want to stay away from traditional alkaline batteries as they tend to corrode and may leave you needing to replace more than just your batteries.