How Do Solar Powered Lights Work – A Guide For Dummies

By Kami Turky

Last Updated:

Solar lights are just like ordinary ones, the only difference is that they generate energy from the SUN without the use of any hard wires or complicated hardware.

All you need to do is to put them in a sunny spot and that’s it. They will automatically charge during the day and turn on to illuminate your home at night.

But how do these little wonders actually work?

Well, in this article, we will take a closer look at how solar lights work and what makes them a great choice for sustainable lighting.

So without further ado, let’s jump right into solar lights’ main components.

Related Article: Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Lights

What Are Solar Lights Made Of?

1. Solar Panels (Photovoltaic Cells)

solar panel

This is the most important part of solar light, as it is responsible for converting sunlight into electrical energy using the Photovoltaic effect.

In simple words, sunlight stimulates atoms which causes them to gain and lose electrons and as a result, a flow of electrons occurs AKA electricity.

For more information, check this article on how solar cells work step by step.

2. Diode

diode to prevent reverse current in solar lights

This is the component that ensures that electricity only flows in one direction, from the solar panel to the light bulb.

Without it, energy would be wasted as it would flow back and forth between the solar panel and the light bulb.

Related Article: Are Solar Lights Bright Enough

3. Rechargeable Batteries

solar lights rechargeable battery

You don’t need a full section to teach you how batteries in solar lights work, they are just batteries man, DUH!

Seriously there is nothing to say, all you need to know is that solar lights have rechargeable batteries to store the energy produced by the solar panel during the day.

4. Photoresistor

photoresistor in solar lights

Solar lights contain photoresistors on the top of the panels, which function as a gate between the battery and the LEDs.

Their working concept is pretty easy, they are simply sensors that change their resistance level depending on the amount of light they receive.

In other words, they can be used to predict the presence or absence of sunlight.

When the photoresistor is exposed to light (during the day), the resistance decreases, allowing the solar panel to recharge the battery.

When it’s dark, the photoresistor resistance will increase, allowing the current to flow from the battery to the LEDs.

And that’s how solar lights turn on automatically at night by the way.

Related Article: Why There’s an On/Off Switch on Solar Lights

5. Light Sensors (Optional)

pir sensor in solar lights

In addition to the photoresistor, some solar lights might have additional light sensors such as:

  1. Lux Sensor: This sensor controls how dark it has to be outside before activating the light. In other words, it senses light intensity and you can easily adjust it to your preferred settings.
  2. Passive Infra-Red (PIR): This sensor can be found in motion-detecting and security solar lights and it mainly senses the heat. Without overwhelming you with such technical details, this sensor will activate the light when it detects someone near and its sensitivity levels can be also adjusted.

6. Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

LEDs in solar lights

Our journey to the center of the solar lights ends with the LEDs. Don’t worry they aren’t just white flashy orbs. 

In fact, there are plenty of beautiful colors, types, and light intensities that will suit all your decorative purposes.

They are also very energy efficient and last a long time, which is why they are the most popular light bulbs used in solar lights.

Related Article: Do Solar Lights Attract Bugs

How Do Solar Lights Work Step By Step?

Now that we know what solar lights are made of, it’s time to see how they work step by step.

Step 1: Sunlight Hit The Solar Panel

Sunlight hits the solar panel and starts to stimulate atoms, which causes them to gain and lose electrons, resulting in a flow of electrons AKA electricity.

Step 2: Electricity Flow From The Solar Panel To The Battery

The electrical energy produced by the solar panel flows to the battery, then it’s stored for later use at night.

Step 3: Photoresistor Detects Darkness

As we mentioned, the photoresistor on top of the solar panel works as a gate between the battery and LEDs.

If there is no light detected (darkness), the sensor will connect the circuit path between the battery and LEDs, allowing the battery to power the LEDs.

Step 4: Let There Be Light!

And That’s It!

All you need to do is enjoy your solar lights and feel good knowing that you’re saving money while helping the environment by using renewable energy.

Related Article: Can Solar Lights Catch Fire

Last Words

As promised, we provided you with a full definitive guide on how solar lights work and their components.

In the end, we really hope you enjoyed this article, and stay tuned for more awesome solar tips and tricks from Solar Energy Hackers.

Do you find this guide helpful? Do you have any questions or ideas to make this guide even better?

Please, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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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1 thought on “How Do Solar Powered Lights Work – A Guide For Dummies”

  1. I do not have any idea about solar lights and how it works. So, I happened to find solar lights in the house I have transferred and I brought these lights inside our house and used them in the evening. For two weeks I have used it inside the house, I did not experience bad smell emanating maybe from the light bulb that I have detached from the solar panel because I find it to be disturbing until tonight, after about 3 or 4 hours of the lights on, I smelled something like chemicals where the light bulbs were, so immediately I attached the wires from the solar panel to the light bulb and put it outside our house. My question is, why is that? I am sure the bad smell was due to the detached solar light from the light bulb. Is there any bad effect? Thanks and hope to hear from you. 🙂


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