Solar Energy Hackers

How to fix not working solar lights

Why Are My Solar Lights Not Working

There are many reasons why your solar lights are not working such as broken wires, dead batteries, no sufficient sunlight, and many more

Fortunately, fixing solar lights isn’t rocket science and you still can easily do it yourself from home even if you have zero technical skills.

In this article, we will go through all the problems that can cause your solar lights to stop working and how to easily and quickly fix them.

So without further ado, let’s dig in.

Solar Lights Main Components and How they Work

In order to fix your solar lights, first, you need to understand how your solar lights work.

In this section, we will give you a quick idea of the main solar lights components and how they actually work, so let’s dive in.

1. Solar Panel

Needless to say, this is the most important component of your solar lights.

Solar panels are responsible for 3 key operations, which are: 

  1. Capturing the sunlight
  2. Transforming sunlight into electricity
  3. Passing the electricity to the batteries to store

2. Batteries

Every solar light has one or a set of high-quality rechargeable batteries.

Batteries in solar light are responsible for:

  1. Storing the charges (electricity) coming from the solar panel so you can use the stored electricity at night
  2. Powering the LEDs with electricity

3. Sensors

There are different types of sensors, however, there are the 3 commonly used ones:

  1. Light Sensor (photocell): This one is responsible for activating the lights when it’s dark. In other words, when this sensor detects darkness (absence of light), it gives the order to your solar light to automatically turn on at night
  2. Lux Sensor: This one controls how dark it has to be outside before activating the light. In other words, it senses light intensity
  3. Passive Infra-Red (PIR): This one can be found in motion-detecting solar lights and it senses the heat. In simple words, this sensor will activate the light when it senses someone near.

4. LEDs

They are just flashy light orbs that generate light when the current (electricity) passes through them.

For more in-depth information about solar lights and how they work, then check this article on how to choose the best solar lights on the market

Solar light components diagram

For more information on how solar lights work, check the How Solar Lights Work Guide.

Reasons Why Your Solar Lights Stopped Working

There are numerous reasons why your solar light is not working and in this section, we will go through the most common issues and how to fix them.

1. Your Solar Light’s Battery has a Pull Tab

Most newly purchased solar lights will come with a pull tab on the battery. 

A pull tab is an insulator specially designed to prevent batteries and circuits from prior to use energizing, which protects the battery during shipping and storage.

In simple words, your solar light won’t work unless you remove this insulator. 

Solution: Remove the Pull Tab From your Solar Light

Don’t worry, it’s pretty easy. All you need to do is to follow the instruction and pull the tab out from under the battery contact and your solar light will work properly.

Here is a quick video showing you how to properly prepare and install solar lights:

2. Check your Switches and Microprocessor 

This might sound dumb, but you will be shocked by how many people who don’t know that their lights have an on/off switch.

Note: If you can’t find the on/off switch on your solar light, then don’t freak out. As some models don’t have them.

Solution 1: Check your On/Off Switch

Obviously, if the switch is turned off, you need to turn it on. However, if your solar light is still not working then the classic switch on/off trick might fix your problem.

The classic switch your solar light off, wait for 20 seconds, then switch it back on might sound cliché, but it works 90% of the time. So give it a try.

Solution 2: Reset your Device

Sometimes your solar light’s microprocessor (CPU) might get confused, so resetting your solar light might solve this issue.

To reset your solar light settings, kindly check your device’s manual and follow the instructions.

3. Not Enough Direct Sunlight

Needless to say, solar lights need sunlight to operate and one of the main reasons why your solar light is not working is because it receives less than sufficient sunlight.

If your solar lights aren’t getting enough sunlight, then it won’t be able to fully charge the batteries and as a result, your lights will stop working.

Solution 1: Place your Solar Lights in a Sunny Spot 

Solar light in a sunny spot

Make sure there are no large trees or buildings around your solar light, as they will cast shade preventing your solar panels from receiving sufficient sunlight.

Don’t get me wrong, solar lights will still charge in shade, however, they will be way less effective. 

Therefore, if your solar panels are shaded during any period of the day, especially midday.

it’s highly advised to reposition your solar lights or simply adjust the panels.

Solution 2: Adjust your Solar Panel’s Angle

Solar light angle to west

Many don’t know this trick, but in fact, your solar panel’s angle is very important.

The reason behind that is the sun can get covered by many objects such as clouds, rain, or fog, especially in winter.

What is the best angle for solar lights?

It’s very important to adjust your panels to the best possible angle which is 30-degrees in summer and 45-degrees in winter.

Adjusting your solar light’s panel to these angels will ensure your panels are absorbing more sunlight resulting in more energy, which will help to fix your solar lights.

Solution 3: West is the Way to Go

Compass heading west

Another small hack, but will make a great difference is adjusting your panel to the west.

Why should your solar light’s panel face west?

Well, think of this, every morning the sun rises in the east, then sets in the west for most of the day.

Now it all makes sense, facing your solar panels to the west will make sure that your lights are getting the most possible amount of direct sunlight during the day.

You don’t have to own a compass to know where is west, you can simply download an online compass app on your mobile and you are all set to go.

Solution 4: Avoid Glass

This one is a bit tricky, but SOLAR PANELS HATE GLASS.

Can solar lights charge through glass?

Interestingly, solar panels don’t function well around the glass, as the glass will reflect the sunlight away from the panels resulting in less sunlight consumption. Thus, less electricity production. 

So, make sure to keep the environment around your solar lights glass-free.

Solution 5: Use the Energy Saving Mode

Sometimes, during extreme weather, there might not be enough sunlight, so your solar lights will stop working. 

Therefore, some solar lights come with a low/economy lighting mode that will produce a dimmer illumination for a longer duration.

Solution 6: Clean your Solar Panels

clean your solar panel with a damp piece of cloth

Dirt and other obstacles can build up on your solar panel preventing it from absorbing direct sunlight.

Therefore, you need to frequently and gently clean your solar lights to make sure there is nothing in the way between the solar panel and direct sunlight.

Note: Clean your panels with a slightly damp piece of clothing without using any random chemicals or additions, as randomly used chemicals can significantly harm your device.

If your solar lights are so dirty that it feels like a lost cause, then check this amazing video on how to clean solar lights within a minute:

4. Check your Solar Panel Cables

Some solar lights have a remote solar panel that’s separated from the lamp and connected with a cable or two.

If the cables between the solar panel and the batteries are not firmly plugged in, then the panel won’t be able to charge the batteries resulting in a disappointing light show.

Also, you might think I am making this up, but wildlife can be really annoying. 

Hungry squirrels might treat themselves with a quick nutritious wire from your solar lights.

Don’t worry, unlike ordinary lights, solar lights are very safe and the electric shock won’t kill any poor hungry squirrels.

Solution: Fix Broken Wire on Solar Lights

There is nothing a good electrical tape won’t fix. However, sometimes the damage can’t be repaired and the whole wire needs to be replaced.

For more information on how to fix your solar light, check this article on how to fix solar lights broken wire

If you don’t have the technical skills, tools, or even the time, then it’s about time to contact your manufacturer and use your warranty.

5. Nearby Light Sources at Night

Nearby light sources

As mentioned before, solar lights have sensors that detect the light, which is the component responsible for automatically switching on the light at night.

When these sensors detect (sense) no lights they give the order to the bulb to work.

Here comes the problem, having other nearby light sources at night will fool the sensors making them think we are still in the morning. 

As a result, the sensors won’t allow the lights to function and your solar lights will not work.

Solution 1: Adjust the Lux Sensor Sensitivity

The Lux sensor is another photocell that determines how dark it has to be outside before activating the light.

This can be really helpful, especially if there are other sources of light like neighbor’s lamps tricking your solar light into thinking that it’s still daytime, which will prevent your solar lights from working.

How to adjust the Lux Sensor Sensitivity?

Well, Lux sensors will have a picture of the sun and the moon. 

  • Sun: Turning the knob towards the sun picture means that your lights should work when it’s brighter outside
  • Moon: Turning the knob towards the moon picture means that your light should work when it’s darker outside

Now, all you need to do is to adjust the sensitivity by fully turning the knob towards the moon picture and then turn it slowly towards the sun picture till the light works.

Note: It’s important to carefully adjust the sensitivity because if you fully turn the knob towards the sun picture, then your light might start working from 5 PM and this will highly drain your batteries.

Solution 2: Eliminate Competition

Make sure there are no other light sources such as street lights, neighbors’ lights, or even other solar bulbs around your solar light.

Further, you can simply cover or rotate the solar panel away from the lighting source and you will be just fine.

6. The Passive Infra-Red (PIR) Dials (Motion Detector)

Most motion-detecting solar security lights will work if a cat or squirrel passes by them. However, the most advanced security lights have adjustable knobs that control the motion-detection sensitivity.

In other words, this knob can be adjusted to stop cats, birds, squirrels, or any other wild animal from triggering the light.

Sometimes, your knob might be on minimum sensitivity by default so you need to fix that.

Note: 

  • High sensitivity: This means your sensor is hypersensitive and it will detect the smallest of objects such as birds and squirrels
  • Low sensitivity: This means your sensor is clumsy and it will only detect big objects like humans, bears, and sometimes big dogs

Solution: Adjust the Sensitivity

There is no such thing as the perfect sensitivity level, it all depends on the distance you wish your lights to detect.

You can simply figure out the best sensitivity by using the good old trial and error.

Start with maximum sensitivity, then work back from there till you find the most convenient sensitivity for you.

7. Faulty Lights Sensor

If your solar lights are not working at night, then it’s very likely that your light sensor is the problem.

To test your sensor, simply cover the photocell with your hands or use a dark piece of clothing. 

If the light turns on, then your sensor is just fine, if not then it’s either your batteries or your sensor need to be fixed.

Solution: Replace your Sensor

First, clean the sensor carefully and test it again. If your solar light sensor is still not working, then it’s about time to call the manufacturer and see if they offer replacements.

Don’t worry, they are very cheap.

8. Dead Batteries

how to fix solar lights battery

People tend to forget that their solar light’s rechargeable batteries have a lifespan of 1000 charges (roughly 3 years).

During this period your batteries’ charging capability will gradually decrease till they become totally faulty.

How to know if your solar light’s battery is losing its capability?

Well, you can easily tell if you notice a big decrease in your solar light’s runtime. 

For example, if the first time you operate your solar light it used to work for 10 hours and now it can only work for 5 hours even after a good sunny day.

Then that’s a sign that your batteries are losing their charging capacity.

Therefore, if your solar lights are not working or it’s not performing as it used to be and all the previous methods didn’t work out, then it’s very likely that you need to replace your batteries.

Solution 1: Try the Deep Charge Technique

Sometimes, your batteries just don’t have enough charge to power the light. Therefore, trying the 72 hours charging technique might be worth the shot.

This technique is all about helping your batteries to reach the full charge point by turning off your lights and allowing your solar panel to fully charge your batteries.

All you need to do is:

  1. Switch your solar light off
  2. Place it in a sunny spot
  3. Wait a couple of days
  4. Try your lights

Note: We recommend you to do this more regularly, even if your solar lights are just fine. As this technique helps your lights to get a full charge, which highly increases your battery life.

Solution 2: Replace your Batteries

First, test your solar lights with normal batteries (same voltage). 

If the light works, then it’s clear that the problem is either your batteries can’t hold the charge (faulty), or the solar panel is broken -hopefully not-.

You can also test your rechargeable batteries by using them in any battery-powered device if applicable such as your wall watch or something.

For now, it’s about time to replace your batteries and see how it goes.

Note: You have to make sure your new rechargeable batteries have the same voltage and capacity as the old ones.

9. Water and Residue Buildup

solar light with water buildup

Yes, your solar lights are water and weatherproof, yet, they are not invincible.

Sometimes, water or residue might build up inside your solar lights resulting in displacement or even ware of wires.

Although, it’s very unlikely when you have an IP of 65 or above, it’s still possible, especially if you live in a tough weather area.

Solution: Dry your Solar Lights

  1. Open your solar light and gently clean it from all the residue
  2. Re-assemble your light and switch it off
  3. Keep it under in hot temperature (sunny spot or something) and give it time to dry off all the wetness

10. Your LEDs are Faulty

It’s very unlikely, as LEDs tend to have a very high life span and can last for up to 50,000 hours (6 years) but it’s worth testing.

Solution: Replace your LEDs

As usual, you need to test your old LEDs first. If it’s not working, then buying new LEDs might be a good idea. 

Your Last Resort

Different brands have different designs and it can be impossible to cover all the solar lights brands and their functions -unless you want to read a 50,000 words article-.

Therefore, if none of the previously mentioned tips seems to work, then you should contact your manufacturer and ask them for help or even use the “warranty card”.

Last Words

Whether it’s your panel, batteries, wires, or even sensors, you still can fix your not working solar lights and bring it to life by yourself.

As promised, in this article, we provided you with 10 things that can cause your solar lights to stop working and their fixes.

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

Did you find this article helpful? Did you try any of these tips? Do you have any tips you wish to share with us?

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

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