One of the most useful applications for solar lighting is to illuminate or mark your walkway and driveway. Solar path lights usually direct or reflect light down, lighting the ground around them, though they can also be used as indicators to mark the edge, and they can be embedded in the walk itself.
As the the most practical and popular use for solar lights, path lighting is available in many styles, shapes and materials to provide safety for your visitors and enhance your home’s appeal.
Benefits of using solar walkway and driveway lights
Solar walkway lights share the benefits of solar outside lights generally. Most path lights have no wires, so installation is simple — just pushing their stakes into the ground where you want them. You can easily mark the entrance to your driveway without having a long run of wires.
By lighting the edges of the driveway, you lessen the chance that a driver will run off into your landscaping or hit a tree. By lighting the path to the front door, you enhance your visitors’ safety, and the light will make your walkway appealing as visitors approach your front door.
Maintenance is minimal, requiring only that you change the rechargeable batteries every 6 months to 2 years and wipe clean the photovoltaic panel on top of the unit once in a while. The lamps (bulbs) int solar fixtures are LEDs, which will last for years.
Advantages and disadvantages of solar path lights
The benefits cited above cannot be matched by low-voltage or line-voltage lighting, which require wiring and occasionaly bulb replacement. Since solar lights use electricity converted from the sun’s energy, the power cost is free. Free is good. They include a photo-resistor, which automatically turns them on at dusk, so there is no need to turn them on or off each night — though higher-end light fixtures may include a manual on-off switch as well.
While LED lamps are not as bright as incandescents, new designs in solar walkway lighting make constant brightness unnecessary. Some designs incorporate a second set of LEDs that are turned on by an infrared motion detector, resulting in greater brightness when it is needed, without significantly draining the batteries. Even solar path lights that do not have this feature are effective at marking the edge of the walkway. After all, the purpose is not to enable you to read a magazine.
Driveway lighting is another story. To be effective it should illuminate the edge well. The solution here is to use several LEDs in each fixture, together with two or more batteries. These are more expensive but they still offer a reasonable alternative to less-convenient wired low-voltage lighting.
The many styles of solar path lights
Stake lights are most common, topped by tiered “pagodas”, low-to-the-ground mushroom caps, or modern-looking canopies. Several new designs are available including contemporary square-sided low posts and round-sided cylinders (bollards), shepherd’s hooks with hanging globes, and whimsical lollipops, stars and ladybugs.
Landscape designers suggest alternating stake lights on either side of the walkway to avoid the runway effect of having them all in a row on one side.
Post lights lend a traditional look to the landscape. These can be used at the end of a walk or staggered along it, depending on how high they are.
There are also lighted ropes that can be hung between stakes, tubes that can be laid along a walkway, and lighted flat stepping-stones for garden paths. A new design that can be used in partial shade is a set of bollards wired to a single large photovoltaic panel that can be placed up to 10 feet away in a spot where it will get a good supply of sunlight. New styles and styles are offered weekly, so you can find just the look you want.
While bright-white LEDs are generally preferred for path lighting, you can also find colored LEDs that will give you a party effect. Usually these will be used around your patio or in your backyard rather than by your front walk, but the choice is yours.
Solar driveway lights
Driveway lights are available in several shapes too: as spotlights, which are ideally hidden a foot off the pavement and aimed at the pavement so they don’t shine in a driver’s eyes; post or pole lights that spread their light over the driveway; 4×4-inch pavers that can be embedded in the pavement; and low-profile cast-aluminum runway-style markers that can be bolted to the pavement.
Prices of solar path lights vary considerably depending on where you buy them, the quality of construction, and their components and materials. Stainless steel and solid copper are more expensive than plastic and resin, but will last longer. Solar fixtures that have multiple LEDs and batteries will be brighter and will cost more.
The convenience, low running cost and wide variety of styles of solar lights gives them a edge over wired lights for path lighting to light your walkway and driveway.