I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas. Well, maybe not all the rushing around and shopping-on-steroids (which I don’t do much of anymore, ha!), but I definitely love the season. As much as I enjoy outdoor Christmas light displays, however, a tiny voice in the back of my head always pipes up to say, “Gee, what a waste of energy!” My husband and I have never used outdoor holiday lights, mostly for that reason. When I read about solar powered Christmas lights, I was sure that I had found the perfect solution. But, do they work? I decided to do a little nosing around the internet and see what others thought about these solar yuletide wonders.
Types of Solar Christmas Lights
Almost exclusively, the solar lights I found were for outdoor holiday decorating, not for lighting an indoor tree. They work just like any other outdoor solar light, using a small solar panel or two to charge batteries during the day. At dusk, the lights go on and radiate holiday cheer. Battery-operated Christmas lights are nothing new, of course, but are usually used inside the home where electrical wiring would be inconvenient. Battery-sourced candlesticks come to mind, since they can be place on windowsills without heavy cords causing them to tip over. The difference is that those batteries are not constantly being recharged, as is the case with the solar lights, which means that they should last longer. Anyway, the idea is that these solar charged battery-powered Christmas lights glow from dusk ’til dawn, after sucking up all that solar energy during the daylight hours.
Many of these lights are rope or string lights, meant to be strung on outdoor trees, bushes, deck and stoop railings, etc. Solar spotlights are also available for highlighting that gargantuan wreath that Aunt Millie made in crafts class. Solar hanging icicles are also popular, although I don’t see that they are any more attractive than the conventionally powered ones! Another common style is the light net, which looks a little strange but is probably easier to drape on bushes than the string lights. All these lights appear to be LED, which use a lot less electricity than traditional bulbs and are cool to the touch. LEDs have more of a muted glow, however.
Are Solar Powered Christmas Lights Reliable?
Now that we know what is available, the next question is: do they really work? Well, I read quite a few customer reviews, and they were mostly positive. As is usual when perusing user ratings, some customers obviously got a lemon, but when those were weeded out, most were very satisfied. Only five reviewers rated some solar string lights purchased at Home Depot, but all were unwaveringly positive. A larger contingent of 39 rated the same type of product at Taylor Gifts, imparting a 4.5 out of 5 star rating. On Amazon, several types of solar Christmas lights are reviewed. For the most part, reviews are positive, particularly for a 35-light LED string of solar lights manufactured by GudCraft. Walmart also stocks solar Christmas lights, but no reviews were available. Though the item was out of stock, Target had eight reviews of the Phillips 50 light LED string, the majority of which were stellar.
The negative aspects centered around the fact that the LED lights had a bluish glow, unlike conventional lights, though most people said that they got used to them. Others noted that even a string of 35 lights doesn’t go very far in the real world, and thought full-on decorating could get a bit expensive. Almost all noted the convenience of not having to drag extension cords around to reach an outside outlet, or being forced to snake cords out a window from inside the house during cold weather. A handful had product failures after only a couple of years, but they were in the minority.
Solar Christmas lights seem to be as reliable as any other type of outdoor light, albeit a bit more expensive. Don’t forget–you’ll need to figure in your savings on your electric bill to get a good idea of the real cost of these lights. At least six hours of sunlight seems necessary to get a few hours of glow, and most customers seemed pleased with that. After all, after the family goes to bed, who cares if the Christmas lights are still on?