Solar Fairy lights – are they worth it?

How to use the sun to power your solar fairy lights

The most wonderful time of the year has arrived. It’s time to roll on the festive cheer, unravel your extension cords and string up those fairy lights. They may not look like much, but they do use electricity. If you plan on keeping your festive lights up for several weeks, you may end up with a surprisingly high electricity bill after all those presents have been unwrapped.

Fortunately, solar energy isn’t just for business or traditional home use. It also offers a renewable alternative to conventional holiday lights. Solar fairy lights are a great option for energy-conscious holiday decorators. Not only will they reduce your electricity bill, but you’ll be generating less carbon emissions in the process. Furthermore, you’ll get to know that your festive décor is less vulnerable to load-shedding.

Solar Fairy lights

Solar fairy lights  – how do they work?

Solar fairy  lights are like normal decorative Christmas lights, except that they are powered by the sun. Solar technologies convert sunlight into electrical energy either through photovoltaic (PV) panels or through mirrors that concentrate solar radiation. The resulting direct current (DC) electricity is then converted into Alternating Current (AC) electricity, which can be used in your home.

Typical festive lights use power from the electrical grid to light up your home, which means you need to run an extension cord from the nearest plug to where you’ve hung your lights. However, with solar-powered lights, you can forget the extension cord. Instead, your lights attach to a small solar panel at the end of the string, which uses the sun’s energy to charge an attached battery during the day.

What’s more, in our sunny climate in Summer, generally radiation levels are high, which is great news. When the sun sets, a light sensor will automatically turn your solar lights on using the rechargeable battery. It’s as easy as that!

Solar fairy lights – bits and bulbs

Solar fairy lights usually use LEDs instead of incandescent bulbs. LEDs are slightly less bright than traditional incandescent’s but are far more energy efficient and can be run on just a few hours of sunlight stored in a battery. They create the magical, pretty effect that people are after at this time of year, when decorating their homes and gardens. Some come on copper cables, while others have differently shaped bulbs… all contributing to a festive ambience in different ways.

The most important component of your solar fairy lights is the small solar panel that is attached to the end of the string. This element  is usually connected to a stake or grip. Place this in a sunny spot in your garden or on your roof to charge up the battery during the day. Be sure to place this in a position where it will not be shaded or obstructed by things like tree branches, chimneys or satellite dishes.

Solar fairy lights – the costs

In the past, solar fairy lights were difficult to come by. However, just like solar technology in general, these have become more widely accessible, and the costs have reduced. Solar festive lights are now affordable in all shapes and sizes, with strings starting at 10 metres, going all the way up to 100 metres and more.

Because fairy lights are not a very expensive item to begin with, smaller sets are now available for as little as R 150. Pricing varies depending on the length of the string, the kinds of bulbs used, the size of the solar panel and the battery. Most sets do come with a warranty, and this information is generally indicated on the website where you buy it, or on the packaging.

Solar fairy lights – where to buy them

Investing in some strings of solar powered Christmas lights is a great way to do your part in supporting energy-saving technologies during this holiday. While they may cost slightly more than standard lights up front, depending on where you buy them, you may see small savings on your electricity bill which is always a bonus.

Takealot, Loot and  Makro all have solar-powered Christmas light options, including sets with coloured and white bulbs. Everyone loves a vibrant Christmas, but with a set of solar fairy lights, this year’s holiday season might just become a little bit more sustainable.

Happy holidays!