Do Solar Lights Work in Winter?

By Kami Turky

Last Updated:

Winter is coming!

It’s the season of hot cocoa, cozy blankets, and shorter days.

It’s also the time when many people wonder about the effectiveness of their solar light.

After all, it’s dark for so much of the day, and it seems like there’s not enough sunlight to power them.

However, solar lights work in winter, you just have to know how to make solar lights operate properly!

In this blog post, we will discuss the best conditions to use solar light in the winter time.

We’ll also give you some tips on how to keep your solar light working well even during the cold months.

How Do Solar Lights Work in Winter?

Solar lights work by converting sunlight into electricity through a photovoltaic cell.

This means that as long as there is sunlight, even on a cloudy day, the solar lights will still be able to absorb some energy and work at night.

During the winter, there may be fewer hours of sunlight, but as long as the solar light is placed in a spot where it can still work some sunlight during the day, it will continue to charge and work effectively at night.

However, it is extremely important to note that colder weather can impact the best performance of solar lighting.

First of all, unlike popular belief, solar panels actually work best in colder temperatures because they lose less energy through heat.

However, the weather conditions can slow down the battery’s chemical reaction, so the lights may not shine as brightly or even work at all.

Cold temperatures also make the batteries discharge faster, so your lights won’t last as long in the winter time as they do in the summer months.

But if that’s your problem, you can always replace your solar light batteries with a higher mAh one.

Do Solar Lights Charge on Cloudy Days?

The solar light can still charge on cloudy or overcast days, although it will not be able to charge as efficiently as it would on a sunny day.

This is because clouds can scatter sunlight, so your solar light gets less direct sunlight.

However, as long as there is some daylight and the solar panels are clean, they will still be able to charge and function without direct sunlight.

In fact, there are even some ways to charge your solar lights without the sun!

Should You Bring Solar Lights in During Winter?

It’s advised to bring your solar lights in during winter but this doesn’t mean that they can’t stand harsh weather.

In fact, most solar lights are made of higher quality solar panel weatherproof materials that can withstand rain, snow, and wind easily.

But not all solar lights have the same level of weatherproofing.

Some are better than others, so you need to check the new products’ specifications before leaving them outside all winter.

Here is a list of the most common solar lights’ weatherproof ratings:

  • IPX4: Solar lights with this rating are only resistant to water splashes, so it’s not recommended to leave them out in winter
  • IPX5: These solar lights can withstand low-pressure water jets, so they can handle moderate rain.
  • IPX6:  Solar lights with this rating can withstand strong, high-pressure water jets, so they can handle heavy rain and snow.
  • IPX7:  These solar lights can be fully charge in up to 3ft of water for 30 minutes, making them a great option if you live in a snowy area with heavy rain.

For more information, check this article on how to improve solar light’s water sealing.

It’s important to note that even if your solar lights can handle winter weather, it’s not always worth it to leave them outside.

If they aren’t getting enough sunlight, they won’t be able to charge properly.

And in this case, bringing them inside is more beneficial because it’ll prolong their lifespan and reduce wear and tear.

How Long Do Solar Lights Last in Winter?

Solar lights can last about 4-6 hours in winter, but this depends on the amount of sunlight they receive during the day.

As you know, in winter months the days are shorter and there are many clouds in the sky that can block and scatter sunlight.

This means less sunlight for your solar lights to absorb and convert into energy, so their runtime will be shorter than in the summer.

But don’t worry, there are a few things you can do to maximize your solar lights’ runtime during the winter months.

How to Charge Solar Lights in Winter?

In winter, there aren’t as many daylight hours to charge solar lights.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t be charged at all!

It just means that we need to maximize the sunlight they do receive in order to charge them properly.

Here are some tips for charging solar lights in winter:

1. Clean Your Solar Panels

The first and best step to take is to make sure the solar panel is clean and free of any dirt or debris.

Snow, leaves, and dirt can block the solar panel, preventing it from absorbing sunlight effectively, and as a result, decreasing its charging efficiency.

Simply using a damp cloth or a soft brush to clean off the solar lights.

If there are any stubborn spots, try using a mixture of water and a mild detergent like dish soap.

Just make sure to not scratch or damage the solar panels while cleaning them.

2. Place in Direct Sunlight

The second tip is to make sure the solar lights are placed in direct sunlight during the day.

While solar lights can charge in shade, they will charge much more efficiently in direct sunlight.

This means placing them in an area where they won’t be blocked by trees or buildings during the day.

3. Use a Reflector

If solar lights do not direct sunlight, try using a reflector like a mirror or a metal sheet to amplify the sunlight and increase their charging efficiency.

Simply place the reflector behind or next to the solar lights during the day, and it will reflect additional sunlight onto the solar panels.

4. Face your Solar Panels South with a 60° Tilt

Solar panels work best when they are perpendicular to the sunbeam, meaning they should face toward the equator and be tilted at an angle that matches your latitude.

For most locations in North America, this means facing the solar panel south and tilting them at a 60-degree angle.

This orientation maximizes the amount of sunlight that is hitting the solar panel and therefore, the solar lights’ charging efficiency.

How to Store Outdoor Solar Lights for Winter?

Although solar lights can stay out in winter, some prefer to store energy to prolong their lifespan.

If so, then here are a few tips to help you properly store your solar lights in winter and prevent battery damage:

  1. Clean your solar lights, then switch them off
  2. Charge the batteries to 40%, so they can gradually discharge when stored
  3. Remove the batteries from your solar lights
  4. Keep them in a cool, dark, and dry location
  5. Save them in a battery storage box to prevent leaking and rupturing

FAQs

Does Temperature Affect Solar Lights?

Temperature does affect solar lights, as colder temperatures can decrease their runtime and charging capabilities, while hotter temperatures can cause the batteries to overheat and the solar panel to lose its efficiency.

Can You Leave Solar Lights Out in the Rain?

You can leave your solar lights out in the rain, but it is always the easy way to bring them inside during a heavy thunderstorm or harsh winter months storm.

Conclusion

Solar lights work in winter conditions, but their runtime and charging efficiency may be decreased due to shorter daylight hours and colder temperatures. However, with a few simple steps like cleaning the solar panel and facing them toward the sun, you can maximize their efficiency.

When it comes to storage, removing the rechargeable batteries and keeping them in a cool, dry place can help prevent damage.

With a little extra care, you can enjoy the convenience and eco-friendliness of solar lights all year round.

Kami Turky

Kami is a solar engineer with nearly a decade of experience in researching, testing, and reviewing various solar products. He has also provided technical consultation to several organizations on the best ways to incorporate solar energy into their operations. When he’s not busy helping others find the best solar solutions, Kami enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, camping, and exploring the natural wonders of his home state.

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