Solar lighting for sheds is becoming increasingly popular. Besides being good for the environment and providing free lighting after the initial expense, it’s really handy if your shed doesn’t have electricity run to it. Who wants to go through all the hassle of getting a permit, running the electricity to the shed, having an inspector sign off on the work, and all that?
You might only need one light or two, and the cost of the solar lighting probably won’t be any more than the cost of the permit and the materials and work involved in running the electricity. Then you’re paying for the electricity.
In this article I’m going to look at 4 tips when it comes to choosing a solar shed light. They are light requirements, number of lights needed, how bright the lights need to be and the type of solar shed light you need.
4 Tips for Choosing a Solar Shed Light
1] How Much Light Do You Need? This is an important consideration. Basically, there are two main types of solar lights. There are those with separate solar panels and those with integrated panels, meaning that the light and panel are one piece. If you have a large shed, you may need to get more than one light. In that case, you will probably want a setup with one solar panel mounted outside that will power more than one light inside.
If you only need to use the light when you need to go out and find something in the shed, you may only need one light unless your shed is really large. If you use part of your shed as a sort of workshop, you may need more lighting so that you can finish that project that’s almost done as the sun goes down.
If you only want to light the outside, most people choose one light over the doorway to enable you to easily unlock your shed without having to hold a flashlight. This also provides a measure of security, as potential burglars don’t like to be seen.
2] How Many Solar Shed Lights Do You Need? This depends on your shed’s size and shape, and your usual usage of the shed after dark or on cloudy days. If you need a lot of light in your shed at night, especially if you plan to work in your shed into the evening hours, you will need more light than you would if you just make the occasional foray into the shed to look for something.
Your shed may also be partially shaded for at least part of the day. This helps keep the shed cooler, but it also may dim any light you get from a window, making it hard to do work inside.
If your shed has no window, you really will need good lighting available day and night to do any kind of precision work, such as woodworking or metalworking. Even fixing your child’s bike can be infinitely frustrating if you don’t have enough light to see where you dropped that bolt.
If your shed is large or rather long, you may need more than one light inside, having one on each end. If your shed has an attic that sees plenty of use, you may want another light there. You may also want to light your shed on the inside along with putting a light outside over the doorway. Whether the lights are inside or out or both, they can all be powered by solar energy. You cab also use a solar lantern, check out my article Will Outdoor Solar Lanterns Work in a Shed? for more information.
3] What Lumens Do I Need? A lumen is an international measurement. The official definition probably won’t give you any better understanding after you have read it. The more understandable one is that lumens are a measure of the brightness of a light. Some people mistakenly assume that wattage does this, but wattage measures energy use, not necessarily the light that’s output by the lamp.
To work out how many lumens solar shed light will need, multiply the length by the width of your shed, then multiply that number by 10 to 20. The final number should be a good estimate of the total lumens you will need.
If you can picture in your mind the light that the bulbs in your house put out, you can estimate what you will need that way. A 40-watt incandescent light bulb usually puts out 450 lumens, a 60-watt bulb provides 800, a 75-watt bulb 1100, and a 100-watt bulb 1600.
4] What Type of Solar Shed Light Do I Need? Once you figure out how much light you’ll need and where you’ll need it, you can start investigating the various types of lights that are available. Picture each type in various places and see what fits your needs. Don’t hesitate to ask your supplier for his recommendations.
For instance, if you only want a light over the shed doorway at night, you probably will opt for an integrated light that has the solar panel mounted over the light fixture itself. If your shed doorway won’t get enough sunlight to power this type of light, you will need one with a separate panel. If you want more than one light, you can get a kit with two lights that connect to one solar panel.
Solar-powered lights also come in different forms. Some can be mounted on the outside wall to provide light; some turn on automatically when the sun goes down by way of a photoelectric cell that senses the light, and some include remote controls so that you can turn on the shed light before you get there.
The assortment of features can be confusing if you just dive into the world of solar-powered shed lights without at least some idea of what you need and what features you would like. You can check out Amazons line of solar shed lights here.
The Different Types of Solar Shed Lights
Wall Mounted – These lights are usually the integrated type. They come in attractive forms with the light on the bottom and the solar panel on top. The cost varies greatly with the model. They can run from as little as $20 to as much as $125 or more.
- Pros: They make an attractive addition to your shed. Some even look like old-fashioned coach lights. Installing them is easy, and they come with everything you need. Many will run all night. Some come with sensors that turn them on at dusk. They’re waterproof for use outside. Some include a ground stake so they can be mounted on the wall they can be mounted as a path light.
- Cons: They do need the sun to run, so they can’t be mounted close up to a roof overhang or on the shady side of the shed.
Hanging – These have a hanging fixture that usually comes with remote control but may also have a chain to allow turning the light on at the fixture. They have a separate solar panel that mounts outside. They are great for sheds that don’t have a ceiling, as they can be suspended close to the center of the shed from a rafter. Kits can run anywhere from $20 to over $150, but some kits also come with two lights.
- Pros: They allow easy placement of the light in your shed, especially if you don’t have a ceiling. The kits may also include more than one light fixture. Many come with remote controls.
- Cons: You have to know ahead of time what distance you’ll need between the solar panel and light fixture to make sure you get a model with a long enough cable. Even with a long cable, if you have a really large shed, you still may not be able to hang your fixture where you need it. If you have vermin problems, you may have trouble keeping your cable from getting chewed.
Spotlights – These offer a more concentrated light beam aimed at a particular place. They are usually mounted on a wall, such as over your shed door, but some are available that can be pole mounted. Prices vary from around $35 to $100.
- Pros: They offer a bright light to illuminate your shed door, making nighttime entrance easier for you but not for burglars. The limited light profile will be less likely to shine where it will bother a neighbor.
- Cons: The concentrated light means that the rest of your shed is in the dark. If you plan to use the light at least partly for security reasons, this may not be the best choice.
Photoelectric Solar Lights – These have built-in light sensors that automatically turn your outside shed lights on at dusk. Some have adjustable sensors to adjust the sensitivity of the sensor. These vary widely in price according to style and uses, running from $20 to over $250.
- Pros: They are convenient, turning on your shed light even when you are not home to help deter thieves. They usually are made to run all night.
- Cons: If they don’t get enough sun during the day, they won’t run all night. They may also turn on if the sky gets really dark during a storm, using precious battery life.
Remote Controlled Solar Lights – These are convenient, letting you turn on the light inside your shed before you get in so you’re not fishing around for the light switch. Prices range from around $30 to $100 for the higher-powered outdoor lights.
- Pros: You can turn on the outdoor light over your shed door from your house if you hear an unusual noise outside without risking going out. You can also turn on the light before running out there in the rain.
- Cons: Some remote controls cover rather short distances. You may end up with one that only works from one place inside your house. Of course, you don’t want to misplace that remote or leave it in the shed in the case of indoor shed lights.
Pros and Cons of Integrated Solar Lights
These solar lights usually feature LED lights, which are quite bright. They also have the solar panel and battery all encased in one unit. Most are waterproof, as they are perfect for providing lighting outside of your shed. They may include motion detection features or remote control.
Some have brightness settings and sensitivity settings for the light sensor. The brighter the light setting, the more drain on the battery. The same goes for the sensitivity setting on the light sensor.
- Pros: Most of these units can store enough energy to run all night, providing security for your shed when you’re sleeping. They are usually waterproof and can light up a fairly large area. They are easy to install and usually provide all the fasteners you’ll need.
- Cons: The bright light may be a bit blinding, especially if your model won’t allow you to turn down the brightness. If you need to mount it over your shed door, which happens to be on the north side of the shed or in the shade, your unit won’t get the sun it needs to charge.
Pros and Cons of Separated Solar Light
This type of solar shed light has the light fixture or fixtures separate, allowing you to mount the solar panel where it will get plenty of sun while placing the lights where you need them. It’s a good idea to figure out where you need the light fixtures and where you’ll mount the panel ahead of time.
The various models offer different lengths of cord running between the panel and the light, so you want to make sure you get one with a cord that’s long enough for your needs. The light fixtures come in many forms, such as hanging fixtures or even light bars that attach to your ceiling or wall.
- Pros: They usually can store enough energy for two to six hours of use. They are easy to install, only requiring a 1/4-inch hole in the wall to run the cable from the solar panel. Some kits include two light fixtures.
- Cons: These lights don’t usually have the long lighting time that integrated units do. If you need more running time, you can get a kit that includes a battery backup. These batteries often can charge work and garden tool batteries as well. The lights often aren’t as bright as those on integrated units. If you have a problem with mice or squirrels around your shed, they can chew into the wires running between the panel and the light fixture.
Motion Sensor Solar Lights – These lights include a motion sensor, turning the light on when something moves within a certain area. They are particularly handy for lighting the outside of your shed. The prices run from around $20 to $45.
- Pros: Your light will turn on as you approach the shed, making unlocking it easy without carrying a flashlight. They also will turn on in case some would-be burglar starts looking at your shed too closely. Many people rely on them for security. Since the lights don’t run all night, they don’t need to store a great deal of power during the day to work effectively.
- Cons: These lights will turn on when motion is detected, but turn off after a preset time if no other motion is detected. Some will turn off a bit too soon, such as if you have a tricky lock on your shed and it takes a while to get it open. They also may be too sensitive and will turn on if an animal runs by or even if a breeze sways a nearby tree branch. This can get on your nerves after a while, especially if you jump up to see what’s there every time it turns on.
There are other variations in solar lights for your shed. One is the type of bulb. Most integrated systems use LED lights, but some separated systems may give you a choice, such as using halogen for an outdoor floodlight or if you need One other consideration is the warranty length of each model you consider.
The battery type is another factor. It may be lithium-ion, NiMH, lead-acid or NiCad. Lithium-ion batteries are usually the favored type, as they have higher capacities while still staying small.
Even the solar panels themselves come in various choices. They come in three different types, amorphous, monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Monocrystalline is considered to be the most efficient but it is also the most expensive of the three. The other two are less expensive but also less efficient.
Another thing to check is how many hours of direct sun each model needs each day in order to fully charge. Some take as many as ten hours to charge, especially if they are the kind that comes on at dusk and goes off at dawn. They will charge on cloudy days but at a much slower rate. Of course, the shorter days in winter will also have an impact.
You’ll also need to inspect your solar panels every so often, whether they are separate from the lights or integrated. You’ll need to keep leaves, bird droppings and snow off your larger solar panel and inspect it for any damage periodically. Rain and wind can create a dirty film over even small solar panels.
Even air pollution, dust and pollen can create a film that blocks the charging efficiency, sometimes as much as 30 percent. While rain can clean the panels somewhat, rain often deposits dust or pollen in the air onto surfaces. Your panels should be cleaned once or twice a year, depending on the conditions in your area.
Use a soft sponge and soapy water to clean the panels, then make sure they are rinsed with clean water thoroughly. Power or pressure washers should not be used, as they can damage the panels. Read my article Top 5 Best Outdoor Shed Lighting Ideas and Solutions for more shed lighting options.
Once you’ve made your choice, installation is usually fairly simple, whatever the model and type you choose. Fasteners are usually included with any system. Once you’ve got your lights where you need them, it’s just a matter of sitting back and enjoying free energy, with the occasional cleaning.