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Step-by-Step DIY Guide for Cleaning Solar Lights Outdoor

Society as a whole has been moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable sources of energy. Solar lights have been a major part of this process. Solar lights function automatically, requiring no manual intervention after being installed. While solar lights are efficient and need nearly no maintenance, proper maintenance and care can extend their lifespan by a lot. Before jumping to the ‘how to clean solar lights outdoor’ section let’s see the importance of cleaning and maintenance.

Why is Regular Solar Light Maintenance Important?

Solar lights do not have many movable parts. Thus, they need low maintenance to function properly. That said, regular maintenance can greatly increase the longevity of a solar light.

1. Blocked Sunlight

Over time, dirt and debris cover the solar panel blocking any sunlight it receives. This can lead to a loss in the efficiency of the solar panel. Be it snow, bird droppings, or sand, all of them will greatly affect the efficiency of solar light. While there are no rules on when to clear the solar panel, it is best to clean the panel at least once every 3 months. This cleaning ensures that the light continues to charge efficiently. A properly maintained solar panel has a lifespan of 25-30 years. A soft cloth can be used to clean the solzar panel on the light properly. You can also spray water on the panel to remove dirt and debris. While cleaning, it is important to avoid scratching/damaging the panel.

2. Battery Life

To extend the lifespan of a solar light’s battery, it is important not to keep them idle and not shut them down. This happens because it completely discharges when the battery is kept inside for longer durations. The lifespan and efficiency of batteries are higher if they are regularly charged and discharged. If properly maintained, the lithium-ion battery of a solar light can last upwards of 3 years.

3. LED Dimming

LED lights have a lifespan of about 50,000 hours. After this period, the lights don’t stop working. Instead, it dims down past that point. These lights need to be changed only after this period. If the light dims before this period, there might be problems with the charge controller. The luminaire could also have gathered dust leading to the light becoming dim. Proper maintenance of solar light ensures that these problems do not occur.

Solar lights require low maintenance. However, if regular maintenance is provided, these lights have a long lifespan. Usually, maintenance can be limited to removing dirt and debris from the solar panel.

How to Clean Solar Panels on Garden Lights?

The proper maintenance of solar lighting has many benefits. That said, some people might hesitate to clean their solar panels in fear of damaging these costly tools. However, cleaning a solar panel, especially garden lights, is straightforward. The following few methods can help you clean your solar garden lights:

Method 1: Cleaning Solar Light Panels and Bulbs

  1. You can use a damp cloth to wipe off the dust and debris of the solar panel. The cloth used should not be dripping wet, which might damage the electrical circuits. If done monthly, this should remove any buildup dust without the need for any other steps.
  2. If there is still dust left after wiping with a wet cloth, then it needs more cleaning. Drip a wet cloth or the softer side of a wet sponge with a small drop of dishwashing soap. Scrubbing the panel with this cloth/sponge should remove any buildup grime.
  3. After scrubbing the panel, it is best to use a clean cloth that has not been dipped in soap to clean the solar panel. This will ensure that any soap left behind is removed. Removing the soap is important as the left-off particles will attract more dust.
  4. Cleaning the panels once every 3 months should keep them functioning efficiently. If the region has too much dust, cleaning the panel every 2 months might be more suitable.

Method 2: Dealing with Battery Corrosion

  1. Batteries corrode over time when faced with harsh weather conditions like rain, heat, and cold. They get covered in white sand like solid on the terminals on both sides of the battery when they corrode. 
  2. If corrosion is found on the batteries, it is best to remove them using gloves. In the garden light, putting a few drops of vinegar on the corroded area will help dissolve corrosion.
  3. A small brush (e.g., toothbrush) is used to scrub the corroded areas of the garden light. If this does not remove the corrosion, 400-grit paper can also be rubbed on the affected areas. The grit paper is rubbed in a circular motion to remove the corrosion.
  4. Alkaline batteries are prone to corrosion. It is best to use rechargeable batteries that were designed for solar lights.

Not only batteries, cleaning solar panels with vinegar is also another effective method if done properly. For this, just mix 1/2 teaspoon of non-abrasive detergent with 1/4 cup of vinegar and 2 cups of water. Use this mix on your solar panels or lights using spray bottle to remove the dust.

Method 3: Fixing the Cloudy Panels

  1. Before cleaning the cloudy panel, cover the plastic areas of the solar light with tape. This will protect the plastic from staining. Leave only the solar panel visible when covering the solar light with tape.
  2. After making sure that there are no leakages, clean the solar panel using soap and water. When cleaning, use a soft hand and make sure to get all the dust and debris. If debris is left over, it might get trapped inside the lacquer finish and damage the light.
  3. Spraying a thin layer of lacquer after cleaning counters the fading. After spraying the lacquer, wait for about half an hour before removing the tape. The lacquer should have dried in this period.

Cleaning solar panels makes them more efficient and increases their longevity. That said, solar panels are designed to deal with all kinds of harsh weather conditions. As a result, they are not that needy and can perform well even with low maintenance.

How Often Do you Need to Clean Solar Light?

All outdoor equipment requires cleaning and maintenance to function properly in the long run. Solar lights are no exception to this rule. The solar panel of the solar lights is delicate and requires more care. Some solar light parts need regular cleaning, while others can be cleaned once every few months.

  • Pruning trees and shrubs: Trees and shrubs in the solar lights can block sun rays from hitting the panel. That is why it is important to prune all the shrubs and trees in its surroundings regularly.
  • Cleaning the Solar Panel: Dust and debris can block the solar panel from functioning properly. As such, the panel needs to remain clean. In most places, this can be done once every 3 months. A place with a lot of dust might need to clean the panel once every month at worst.
  • Batteries: Only check the batteries if the garden lights don’t function properly as they might have been corrupted. Corroded batteries need to be replaced, and any corrosion in the solar light needs to be removed. To escape this entirely, it is best to avoid alkaline batteries. Using rechargeable batteries specially designed for solar use also helps. Batteries intended for solar use have a lifespan of 1-3 years.

Solar lights as a whole don’t require that much maintenance. However, doing a proper cleaning once every 2-3 months should keep them functioning for a long time.

How to Minimize Solar Lights Maintenance?

Cleaning a solar light every few months might seem a grueling task to some. However, to minimize the maintenance required of the solar lights, a few things can be done.

  • Rechargeable Batteries: As mentioned before, using rechargeable batteries can help reduce the amount of maintenance required. Alkaline batteries are prone to corrosion and might need to be replaced more quickly. Rechargeable batteries made for solar lights have a longer lifespan lasting upwards of 3 years in ideal cases.
  • Regular Checks: Discovering problems early, if any, can help in reducing maintenance requirements. Early detection of cloudy panels, corrosive batteries, wire damages, etc., can help avoid lengthy and costly repairs.
  • Storage of Lights: When storing solar lights for long periods, it is best to remove batteries from the light. It helps avoid the buildup of corrosion in the interior of the morning. This will make sure that they work properly when used again.

The solar panel part of the solar light has very few maintenance requirements to function properly. The light and its interior, on the other hand, require a bit more maintenance. However, this maintenance too can be reduced if proper steps are taken.

Conclusion

Solar lights are a clean, efficient, and long-lasting source of light. While they require a tad more maintenance than normal light, it is not that higher. A solar light can function properly for 2-3 months in ideal conditions without any maintenance. This period is reduced depending upon the climatic conditions of the region.