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From pools, patios and gardens you are bound to see solar lights Be it for practical lighting or aesthetics they are a nice addition to any home. The question of whether solar lights can electrocute you will come up though, especially if you want to install them near a pool.
The power generated by most solar lights is too low to cause electrocution. Installing solar lights also does not require you to handle live wires, and the bulb is encased in weatherproof material.
Why Solar Light Electrocution is Unlikely
To better understand why the chances of electrocution by solar is very low, you need to know how these lights work.
Solar lights function similarly to solar panels. Each light has a cell containing chemicals that convert sunlight into electric current. The current is passed into a battery where it is stored.
What the solar cell does is charge the light battery. A built in sensor detects when it is night time and uses the stored solar energy to illuminate the light. The process repeats itself: during the day sunlight charges the solar battery, and in the evening the energy is used to power the light.
Almost all solar lights have a battery storage and cells. Each cell generates only half an amp of power, very safe considering it takes 15 times that to produce muscle contractions. Even if you accidentally touch one of these it will not hurt.
And since the light is encased in solid material, you have to break it open to actually touch the bulb. In terms of safety, solar lights are as safe to use as a typical light fixture.
Most of us don’t think twice about opening, closing or replacing a light bulb. You can take the same approach with solar powered lighting. The only thing you need to be sure of is the installation. Once the light is in place, you can leave it there, just turning the switch on at night (or it might even turn on automatically).
It also helps to buy quality products. The Linkage Garden Solar Lights for example, are waterproof and built with safety in mind. As long as the lights are properly set up, the risk is minimal.
The larger the solar panels the higher the amps and the risk. But even large PV arrays are safe as the cell is covered in tempered glass, and these systems also have safety mechanisms built in.
Solar Pool Lights – Safe or Not?
The chances of getting electrocuted by solar is very minimal because of the low current. The wires are insulated to prevent water seeping through, and the light encasing is waterproof.
Are solar lights 100% electrocution proof? No, anything that involves electricity carries some risk. But for solar lighting devices it is very low. Most are LED, and they are known for being energy efficient and using very little power.
If your solar lights drop into a body of water by accident, the encasing will prevent electrocution. Just disconnect the lights from the power source and let it dry. Then it is ready for use again.
This does not mean you should get careless with the lights or dip it in water. If the light is labeled waterproof, it means the casing can handle splashing water and some rain. But if you leave it submerge in water, the protective cover might weaken.
As long as the lights are installed and maintained properly there will be little risk of being electrocuted. It is no different from any electrical appliance in your home, and given the low current is even safer.
Can Solar Lights Catch Fire?
Anytime the subject of electrocution comes up, you have to also consider the risk of fire. So what are the chances of solar lights starting a fire?
Solar lights have at least one battery which gets charged by a PV panel. Any device that involves charging a battery always carries a risk of fire. The odds of it happening are low, but the possibility is always there.
As explained earlier, the PV panel in the solar light charges the battery. Usually the panel is connected to the light. The light and panel are attached to the battery by solar cables. The panel uses the energy of the sun to charge the battery and fill it with current.
The current remains in the battery until it is ready to use. These lights also have a controller that keeps the battery from overcharging or overloading. Once the current passes the controller it goes into the battery and lights the bulb.
Which Batteries are Most Likely to Catch Fire?
Solar lights typically use NiMH, lithium ion or NiCd. NiCd is based on old technology and is rarely found in modern solar lights. NiMH is probably the most common, though lithium ion is fast catching up in popularity.
NiCd can be used in extreme temperatures (hot and cold), but this battery has fallen out of favor because it does not use its full capacity. NiMH can run for longer periods between charges. However they cannot run in extreme temperatures, so it is more vulnerable to overheating.
Lithium ion is the most powerful battery for solar lights. However it is the most vulnerable to fire due to the chemical composition. But if you have a controller (and you should), it will monitor the battery to prevent overheating.
The best way to avoid solar light fires is to buy a high quality solar light. If you purchase from a reputable manufacturer you are assured the light has a built in controller to protect the battery.
Should Solar Lights be Turned off at Night?
Some solar lights have an on/off switch but others do not. Does it really make a difference in terms of safety if you turn it off?
If the solar light does not have an on/off switch, you can leave it on all night. If there is a switch, you can turn it off to save energy. It really has no effect in terms of safety, only on longevity. If the lights are correctly installed and charging, the device will run smoothly.
Leaving lights on all night might be concerning for some. However solar lighting uses very little power. 15 watts, 10 watts and even lower powered devices are available. Add the fact that these systems are LED and you get the idea of how efficient they are.
Solar Light Safety Tips
The best way to avoid solar light electrocution and fire is to follow safety procedures and practices.
Inspect the lights regularly. Check the wiring for any signs of damage. Replace any wiring that has been frayed or exposed. Examine the bulbs and replace any that has cracks.
Do not touch exposed wire. Especially if the wire is wet. The odds of being electrocuted are low, but it is better to be safe. The bigger issue is if the faulty wiring might cause the battery to overheat. This is one reason why home solar panel wiring should always be grounded.
Install the lights in a safe location. Meaning, the light should be far away from combustible material. If the light is installed at the garden walkway, that is a safe location. In case of a faulty wire or other malfunction, only the light gets affected. But if the lighting catches fire near a wooden panel, it could spread quickly.
Store the lights during winter. Heavy snow and freezing temperatures might damage the light bulb encasing. Most solar lights are built to withstand cold, but it is better to be safe. You won’t be able to use them anyway during the snow so might as well put them in storage.
Buy quality solar lights. This is the best way to avoid potential risks. Buy solar lights only from reputable manufacturers. You can be assured of quality control and a comprehensive warranty.
Use the lights only as directed. Follow the instructions in the product guide for its usage. Use the lights according to the directions. If the manual says use the light in a specific place, do it. If it is pool safe, then you can use it in the pool. If not, do not install the lights there.
Use 12V lights for the pool. These are designed for specifically for swimming pools and much safer than 120V.
Solar lights are among the safest outdoor lighting devices that you can use. Their design and efficiency make it a good choice for almost any home, and the different style options are a plus. As long as the lights are well maintained, there should be no worries about electrocution.