Solar Christmas lights not only save money on your electrical bill, they're safer too. These lights can be strung anywhere, without having to worry about access to an electrical outlet. Usually made with LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), they operate on energy generated by the sun, so there's no extra cost to run the lights all night if you want (though most will run out of juice in the wee morning hours).
Advantages of Solar Christmas Lights
A fully charged string of solar Christmas lights can run from six to eight hours, plenty of time to give people a good showing. Because the LED lights used in solar strings generate little or no heat, they're safer as decorations since they carry practically no risk of fire, electrical shorts or overheating.
One of the shortcomings of electrical lights is having to be close to an outlet. With solar power, you can place lights anywhere, and not have to worry about wires showing.
Solar lights pay for themselves over a couple years, and the average LED bulb lasts for 20 to 30 years. This means you won't have to replace your lights for a long, long time. Another advantage to solar lights is you don't have to remember to turn them on. Solar systems usually come with a light sensor that triggers when it begins to get dark. It's like having your own Christmas elf standing by to turn on the evening light display!
Disadvantages of Solar Christmas Lights
If you live in a cloudy or overcast area, or far from the equator, you may not get enough sunlight to fully charge your lights in the shortest days of winter. This means there might be nights your lights are dim are not lit at all. All solar power depends on a rechargeable battery which must be replaced when the battery is depleted.
Things to Consider When Buying Solar Christmas Lights
Buy Solar Christmas lights that have Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries. Unlike NiCd batteries, Lithium Ion batteries don't have "memory effect," a condition in which batteries don't charge fully.
Before buying solar powered lights, make sure the area in which you plan to place them has a direct view of sunlight for at least four to five hours a day. Because one hour of sunlight generally generates one hour of power, five hours of light will give you enough light for the prime viewing hours for Christmas lights. Even though you can place the lights anywhere, the solar panels must have access to direct sunlight. Partial shade can stop or slow charging.
Like all Christmas lights, solar strings come in a variety of colors, and some can twinkle or flash in patterns. If you want a higher intensity light than the average solar Christmas light, pick up a controller that will allow you to regulate the frequency of the twinkling as well as the intensity.