With more and more people deciding to clean up their backyards to create a relaxing or exciting space, you may wonder what would take your space to that next level. Lighting has remained an important element added to any space to not only keep the activities active once the sun has begun to set, but to alter and create an environment to fit your style or mood.
When considering outdoor lighting, you must first think about where you want your lights to be mounted. While lights mounted on the outside of the house have remained a popular and simple option with set fixtures, path, gazebo, porch, and deck lighting have continued to grow in popularity as they create a simple, yet visually appealing display to any outdoor area.
Yet we are forgetting a surface which surrounds us. The fence.
You may find yourself surrounded by fending in many backyards, which become large flat surfaces to utilize for lighting. Lights mounted on fences often aim down toward the ground, lighting the area from the outside and creating a visual effect similar to pillars or stanchions.
One issue with running lights on a fence is power. When deciding to run lights around your property, you may not like the idea of running an electrical line around the fence, meaning you need to bury the line.
With this dilemma, most fence lights found on the market are solar powered.
Solar power involves capturing the ultraviolet rays within photovoltaic cells found in the solar panel, and converting them to electrons. These electrons are then stored within an internal battery until they are utilized by the small light emitting diodes (LED) used in the lights. These LEDs use a very small amount of electricity, which allows the small internal battery to power them through the night.
With the stand alone power of solar lighting, they have become a great option for outdoor areas, for both entertaining and for times of potential power outages, remaining on when the power is off so you don’t get left in the dark.
Once the battery has been charged through the day, a small photodiode or photoresistor communicates with the lighting system to activate the lights. This is similar to the system found atop many street lamps to turn on as the sun goes down, creating a self-sufficient system.
These lights are great near your driveway or walkways as well--since they activate on their own, you are able to come home to a visibly lit area.
Solar powers require minimal maintenance, ensuring the solar panels remain clear of any debris. It is a good idea to occasionally wipe each panel top off to remove dirt or other contaminants as well. You should also clean and inspect your lighting lenses from time to time to ensure they are not beginning to crack or discolor.
With so many active and working parts found within solar power lighting, you should always buy these lighting fixtures from a reputable company to ensure you have chosen a quality solar power product.
One downfall to solar lighting is they require direct sunlight and ultraviolet rays to produce power, meaning a solar panel under a tree or in the shade of your home may not be as bright or effective as one in the sun. This is one advantage to solar fence lights, as they are mounted toward the top of the fence and are generally more than able to collect light throughout the day.
With solar powered lights being a stand alone unit, meaning they require no additional wiring or linking between lights, they become an extremely simple system to install.
The following instructions work great for wall or fence mounted solar lights, with similar methods being used for any wall mounted keyhole slot holes.
Keyhole slots refer to mountings which have a large hole for a screw or nail head to fit through, which then slides down or sideways into a slot which the screw or nail head can not all back out of, which creates an invisible mounting point which is more secure than a tooth or wire mount.
For this method you will need the following:
A drill is optional and may assist you in installing the lights mounting screws. A ruler can be used to measure the light height only if the light is mounted at the very top of the post, otherwise a tape measure will be appropriate.
The first thing you should do before ever picking up a drill or hammer is decide just how high you would like your lights mounted.
Some lights are brighter than others, and you may not want to see the light directly at eyesight and may decide to mount them higher or lower; on the other hand, more decorative or warmer lights may be less strainful on the eyes and you may choose to mount them at eye height.
As evening approaches, have a friend hold the light at the desired height and ensure it turns on--many lights have a manual “on” position, so this may help. If your light does not have a manual “on” you can cover the photodiode with your finger or tape.
Walk or sit in the areas you think you may find yourself and ensure the lights are positioned where you want them. If your friends are busy, painters tape could be used as well, but be sure to not wrap over the light.
Move the light up and down, you may find a position you like even better.
Once you have your desired height, it’s important to use some sort of measurement to ensure all of your lights are mounted at the same height.
One option is to put a line of painter’s tape vertically down the post near the light; holding the light to the post. draw a line across the tape at the bottom of the light. Once you remove the light, you now have a visual representation of where the bottom of the light will sit, which could be measured with the ruler or tape measure if you’d like.
For well constructed fences which are visibly level across the top, this measurement could be made from the top down. For fences which are not perfectly level, this could be made from the ground up. For fences and ground which are not level, consider running a piece of string from the first fence post to the last, and using this as your level line mounting all lights on top of the string.
When using a light with a keyhole slot pattern, it's important to understand exactly where these screws should sit. If you insert a screw in the wrong position, the light will sit uneven or the screw won’t reach the hole.
Place the light face down with the holes facing toward you. Lay the piece of paper over the lights and draw a small dot at the very end of the slot, away from the hole. Do this with all the slots. Also be sure to draw a line at the very bottom of the light, as this is your light height measurement reference.
If you are only doing 1 mounting, this can be done with painters tape. Once you add the dots, place the tape on the wall and drill your screws into the dots. Remove the tape and you’re good to go. BUT, because we are mounting multiple lights, this template will need to be used more than once which is why we are using paper.
Cut or fold the bottom straight line to create an easy to use reference. Hold the template against the fence center against your post, and mark the left and right edge of the post on your paper. This will allow you to center each light.
Just like when you marked your light height, add a small piece of tape to the fence to avoid drawing on the fence directly. Measure down to your desired height and mark the tape.
Remember, this is the bottom of your light.
Hold your template up to the post, ensuring your bottom line is lined up with your mark, and your side lines are lined up with the sides of the post. Some wood may not be perfectly straight, so do your best to ensure the lights are level.
Using a pointed object, such as a nail or phillips screwdriver tip, push in precisely on each dot and slightly rotate. Be cautious to not ruin your template, as you need it for the remaining lights. This should create small visible dots on your fence. Insert your mounting screws at these dots.
Your screw depth is different from each item you mount, and is a trial and error situation for the first mounting.
Screw the screw a majority of the way in, keeping all screws at the same depth, and install your light ensuring you push the screws into the hole, and to the end of the slots.
Gently push and pull the light to determine how loose it is mounted to the post. If the light is loose, slightly tighten the screws. Continue this until your lights are mounted relatively firm.
Now that your lights are firmly mounted, be sure to check with your manufacturer's instructions to better understand the operation of your specific light.
Some lights are only activated by the sun, while others may be activated manually by an “on” switch or by motion sensors. Some lights come with the option to have two light settings, the first one being solar activated which is dimmer (such as 50%) and a second setting which is motion sensored to become brighter when people are nearby.
When considering lighting options for the outdoor areas of your home, you are no longer limited to power availability and complex installation.
Solar power has created a wonderful, easy to install lighting option that won’t add a single dollar to your electric bill.