Solar Powered Vs. Low-Voltage (LED) Landscape Lighting – Pros and Cons

Tony P

Let’s talk about Solar VS Low Voltage Landscape Lighting (LED).

The reality is… Solar Powered Landscape Lighting Fixtures have and continue to be a popular choice for many Canadian’s. They have and still appeal to Canadians because they are “perceived” to be a “cost-effective” and relatively “easy” way for them to light up their Outdoor Space.

Sorry, but this belief is a “myth” and one that has and continues to be promoted by manufacturers of this type of product. Plus… it could NOT be any farther from the TRUTH!

Contrary to popular belief and what manufacturers and retailers that sell these types of products are telling you, Solar Powered Landscape Lighting Fixtures are NOT as ECO-FRIENDLY and COST EFFECTIVE as most manufacturers and retailers are promoting.

Like most things we buy in this (use and throw away) world that we live in today, the quicker the product FAILS, the quicker the consumer will head down to their local hardware store and replace it. So, the more items a manufacturer can sell you, the more PROFIT they will make. Sad, but so VERY TRUE!

solar vs low voltage landscape lighting

So why your decision to purchase one type of Landscape Lighting Fixture over another may very well be influenced by the “initial” cost, there is more to consider than the “initial” cost.

WHY… because they are really MORE EXPENSIVE in the long run!

As the old saying goes… “you get what you pay for”, and this could not be any further from the truth, and especially when it comes to your choice of Landscape Lighting Fixtures.

I will get into WHY these types of fixtures DON’T LAST and WHY their “Low-Voltage (LED) Landscape Lighting Fixture” counterparts are actually CHEAPER in the long run a bit further along in this article.

So, let’s discuss the point I made earlier about them… “NOT being ECO-FRIENDLY”.

If you are not aware of how Solar Powered Landscape Lighting Fixtures operate, here is a brief “Landscape Lighting 101 Lesson”.  

Solar Powered Landscape Lighting Fixtures operate off of an internal battery that is charged by a solar panel. In many cases the (relatively small) panel is built-in and located on top of the light fixture. The energy of the sun is picked up by the panel which in turn generates an electrical current that charges the built-in (rechargeable) battery. Some (larger more powerful) Solar Powered Landscape Lighting Fixtures have a separate (external) and much larger Solar Panel in order to charge the bigger battery that is required to operate the fixture. These panels are connected to the light fixture with an external (short) power supply cord. This in itself makes this type of Landscape Light Fixture even more inferior to its Low-Voltage Landscape Lighting Fixture counterpart, as it’s another place for moisture to find its way in and render the fixture COMPLETELY USELESS!

As a result of the solar energy that re-charges the internal battery, this type of fixture does not draw power from the electrical grid. This part sounds good, RIGHT? Because it’s in-line with what manufacturers and retailers of this type of product like to promote about them being “ECO-FRIENDLY”.

While this assumption may indeed be “initially” true, Solar Powered Landscape Lighting Fixtures pose an even BIGGER RISK to the environment!

Fact is… most (if not all) manufacturers and retailers fail to embellish on the fact that they have a VERY LIMITED lifespan compared to their Low-Voltage (LED) Landscape Light Fixture counterparts.

Fact is, there is… NO COMPETITION!

So what’s the “ENVIRONMENTAL” issue that I raise you may ask?

Let’s start by taking a closer look at the lifespan of a Solar Powered Landscape Lighting Fixture compared to that of a Low Voltage (LED) Landscape Lighting Fixture.

Fact is… Solar Powered Landscape Lighting Fixtures have a VERY SHORT operating lifespan, and especially if you live in certain geographic regions such as Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where we experience severe swings in weather conditions and temperatures, no matter what season we are in.

So WHY DO THEY ULTIMATELY FAIL you may ask? They typically and in most cases they always FAIL as a direct result of the severe swings in temperatures. Given that these types of Lighting Fixtures do not generate much in the way of heat, they are unable to burn off any moisture that may build-up within the body of the fixture. This moisture is generated as a result of the “warming and cooling” effect that is created by the fixture itself, along with the effects of the ambient (air) temperature. Given that the fixtures are (in most cases) very cheaply made, the rubber seals that protect the bulbs and inner workings from the elements eventually FAIL. Once the seal fails the moisture is then able to enter the body of the fixture. This results in the corrosion of the internal parts, which eventually leads to… the ultimate and inevitable DEATH (lights out) of the fixture altogether!

So what happens next? You either leave the fixture where it is and let it become a “Yard Ornament” until such time that it rots and becomes an eyesore, or you remove it and discard it. If you are a responsible citizen (and I hope you are) and you truly care about our wonderful planet (like I do), you will round up the useless lights and you will dispose of them at your local ECO STATION.

Did you know… these facilities dismantle electronic items and salvage certain components such as Silver and Lead and recycle them.

Now that’s what I call… ECO FRIENDLY and ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE!

The reality is… not all of us are as responsible as we should be. Some people elect to take the easy route and toss the unwanted light fixtures in with their general garbage. As a result, they make their way to the municipal landfill and get buried along with many other items that have no place in our landfills.

Now this is where the BIG PROBLEM really starts. Many of the components that make up the inner workings of a Solar Powered Landscape Lighting Fixture contain many items that are NOT considered as “ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY”. They eventually break down (rot) and leech into the soil. As a result, these VERY TOXIC CONTAMINANTS eventually find their way into our ECO SYSTEM through rivers and streams. NOT GOOD!

Did you know… the State of California is already in the process of enabling a law that will BAN Solar Powered Landscape Lighting Fixtures altogether!

The other big drawback of utilizing Solar Powered Landscape Lighting Fixtures to their Low-Voltage (LED) Landscape Lighting Fixture counterparts… they just do NOT PERFORM as well.

Fact is they… DON’T EVEN COME CLOSE and they are NO MATCH!

Why is this you may ask… right out of the box they have limited power, and as a result they just do not have the capability of producing the same amount of light (lumens) as their Low-Voltage (LED) Landscape Lighting counterparts. I can personally GUARANTEE that you will be restricted and extremely disappointed with respect to what you can illuminate, and how far away you can position the light fixture from the object or objects you would like to illuminate. The other (frustrating and extremely disappointing) problem you will face, is the operating (illumination) time of the fixture.

Fact is… when the rechargeable battery is new it will provide you with much better performance and will illuminate for a much longer period of time, but as the battery ages the length of time the light will illuminate will become drastically reduced.

This is NOT a good thing if you are trying your very best to… “Bring Your Outdoor Space to Life… After the Sun Goes Down”

Another consideration… if you live (like I do) in a geographic region that blankets everything with SNOW and a layer of thick ICE for many months of the year, you are faced with the ongoing and daunting task of clearing the snow and ice off of the fixtures and solar panels (if they are separate from the light fixture), otherwise you will have… NO LIGHTS AT ALL!

Last but not least… let’s discuss “AESTHETICS”. Most Solar Landscape Lighting Fixtures are BULKY (as a result of the built-in solar panel and rechargeable battery), so they are not as easy to hide.

When The Edmonton Landscape Lighting Company Designs and Installs a Low-Voltage (LED) Landscape Lighting System, one of our primary objectives is to hide the light source as much as we can.

One of our core design and installation philosophies at The Edmonton Landscape Lighting Company is… You Should NEVER See the Light… Only the EFFECT!

So as you have probably surmised by now, there are some (but very few) PRO’s, and a whole bunch of CON’s that are directly associated with Solar Powered Landscape Lighting Fixtures, some of which were obvious, but some that were probably not.

If you are considering the idea of investing your hard earned money in a Solar Powered Landscape Lighting System

PLEASE, PLEASE take my professional and honest advice… DON’T DO IT!

So now that I have raised some really negative points about Solar Powered Landscape Lighting Fixtures, how do their Low Voltage (LED) Powered Landscape Lighting Fixture counterparts stack up?

low voltage Kichler landscape light

Given that I have already covered this particular subject in great detail in a number of different articles that we have previously published, I have elected to refrain from covering this particular subject in this article.

If you are interested (and I assume that you must be if you got this far) in learning more about why “Low-Voltage (LED) Landscape Lighting Fixtures” are “FAR SUPERIOR” to that of their “Solar Powered Landscape Lighting Fixture” counterparts, you would probably benefit and enjoy reading some of my other articles…

I hope that this particular article “shed some light” (sorry, but I just had to go there) on Solar VS Low Voltage Landscape Lighting?

Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out to us at The Edmonton Landscape Lighting Company.

Are you interested in letting The Edmonton Landscape Lighting Company show you how they can incorporate today’s smart outdoor lighting system technology and… Improve the Quality of Your Life?

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