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Archive for the ‘solar lights’ Category

Solar lights and the angle of the sun

Peter ScargillHi! You might find this interesting.. it’s not rocket science but plenty of people would argue otherwise.

Have you noticed that NEARLY all garden solar lights have the solar cell FLAT on the top – i.e. not angled to the sun but level. I can only imagine this is for ease of manufacture or style or they’re mainly sold in hot countries where the sun gets high up in the sky.

Either way, not good! You hear people say “ah yes these solar cells work in the shade as well”. The technical term for that is bollocks.

So, here’s the test. I took a typical solar cell (I just happen to have them lying around all over the place) out into the garden this afternoon – just after lunch. Being March in the UK the sun was down near the ankles.

I made sure there were no obstructions and the solar cell was naked – i.e. no glass to add to the confusion. I stuck a meter on the cell and moved it into three positions – firstly JUST out of the sun, secondly in the sun and flat level with the ground and thirdly at 90% to the sun – i.e. pointing at the sun.

solar cell test

Well there it is in plain English… 16ma from the device in the shade, 60ma from the flat device and 100ma from the device when pointing to the sun. The difference is clear and unambiguous.

Put another way… assuming you managed to get the garden light to shine, given the more favourable lighting (3) for, oh, 4 hours at night….. the version with the flat top would only give you 2.4 hours and the one in the shade (only just mind you – I reckon I could have made it give a lot less) would give you 38 minutes at best. Pile more solar cells you get more power – but the ratio remains the same.

I hope that puts that one to rest – there will be minor differences depending on the cell type. Look for garden lights who’s solar cells you can point at typical British sun – set them to the position the sun will be at mid-day – and that’s the best you’re going to get.

Wet and Ruined Solar Lights

After buying another set of solar lights from B&Q only to throw two of them away today because the rain got into them – I’ve sent a letter off to them to complain – first time I’ve ever done that to B&Q. No doubt I’ll get a response back along the lines of "”very few customers ever complain” – which is probably true – it’s taken me years to get around to complaining about the cheap Chinese rubbish they import..

Anyway, here it is – if you have the same problem – feel free to pinch any information from this letter.


B&Q Customer Services
Torrance House

Dear Sirs

Over many years I’ve purchased solar garden lamps of one sort of another from B&Q and over the years I’ve noticed they are getting LESS reliable, not more.

Just a couple of months ago we had so many part-working sets in our garden we decided to buy a brand new set – you’ve only had them in a while, stainless steel set of 10 solar lamps with remote control (this is the first time I’ve seen a remote control on solar powered lights).

They look like the real thing – stainless steel, good construction, work straight out of the box, SPECIALLY MADE FOR B&Q in China….

The problem is like all the REST of the solar lights you’ve sold over the years, THEY’RE NOT WATERPROOF.

I don’t know what instructions you sent when you have these specially made but could you please add the instruction that it RAIN in Britain.

The set of 10 is already down to a set of 8 and this is typical, I expect half of them will last the winter.

The TWO things that stop these lights from lasting years (this applies to all but a few of your solar lights are:

1. NOT WATERPROOF. The water gets into the circuitry and rusts the boards or the LED leads – and they fail

2. The cover for the photocell is plastic, not glass – and it frosts up in the sun, dramatically reducing the life of the units.

I would willingly pay more for a set of lights that would last 5 years instead of one or two and I’m sure so would others. This is just BAD DESIGN – no other way of putting it. The cost of a little silicon seal and a piece of glass (the latter IS found on some of the solar cells you’ve sold in the past) would make a DRAMATIC difference to these products.

I hope this does not fall on deaf ears, forget refund offers, I don’t have the receipts and I’ve binned the broken units – over the years I must’ve bought at least a dozen different sets – if only they lasted I’d put a lot more in and have them ALL working.

We also bought a couple of the sets with the separate solar cell and a lead – nice glass front on the large solar cell but EXACTLY the same issue – they get soaking wet inside over the winter – and the circuits corrode – there really is no excuse for this.


Peter Scargill