Another savory contribution from Oilman2…

– – –

“I bought solar yard lights about 5 years back, thinking they were a decent investment in not running a transformer and low voltage lighting. Boy, was I disappointed…

Today, the 5 lights I inset into the lattice over my patio are non-functional. I could take pictures, but description will do fine. The protective plastic covering the solar cells has turned white from UV radiation – meaning the lights work for about an hour after sunset as they do not get much of a charge any longer. Trying to remove and polish these covers with headlight polish didn’t work – the UV made them too brittle to work with – they broke like tortilla chips when trying to polish them. All save one of the 9V batteries were shot as well – the housing was just not watertight enough. One of the fixtures broke due to plastic embrittlement as I tried to unscrew the cover of the battery compartment.

Further, Lowes and Home Depot buy lots of clearance inventories – that is why you cannot find the same light fixture or ceiling fan you got last year – they sold them all and there are no more. Same thing for these solar yard lights – cannot find the same model anyway, much less buy a part for something that costs $15. In fact, I used the model number and did find the part (PV cell cover). Problem was that this bit of crappy plastic was $5 and the shipping was $5 – so for $10 bucks I could be the proud owner of a replacement bit of clear plastic, which time had already shown me would go opaque in a couple of years.

I hate the idea of transformers – wasted electricity in any form is just anathema to me now that I understand the luxury that is electricity. So I have been looking at lighting for a week. Then last night, I watched a show on Hulu where there was a night in as clearing and fireflies came out. The light bulb went off in my head – why even use solar power and a 9V battery when chemistry might work better?  I went and used search engine to find (drum roll)….phosphorescent paint.

After doing some reading, what I came up with is simple – use phosphorescent crystals in clear varnish and you can paint light where you want it. The highest output phosphorescent material is doped europium crystals – and they can be mixed into clear lacquer and varnish very easily. Here is one link:

You can also buy europium powders and mix them into clear varnish instead of buying premixed glowing paint:

While everything degrades, it is far easier to repaint something than to repair a thing, at least in most cases. There is no battery, no solar cell, no ugly fixture poking up out of your bushes – you can just paint a rock and pop it along side the path so you know where to walk. You don’t have to trim shrubbery away from the thing or much else. When the glow declines, flip it over and wash the underside of your rock off – it hasn’t been exposed to sunlight and should be good as a fresh coat of glow paint anyway.

You could paint clear varnish next to your front door knob or around the entire frame and it will glow for 12 hours easily after dark. You can paint it around the ignition key of your mower or tractor or around any place where you need to push darkness back. You could even paint your address on your mailbox if you want. You can use it inside and outside the house, It comes in colors as well…

The primary thing is to have a white or light colored background for the varnish or lacquer. The suspended crystals radiate 360 degrees around – a white or light background allows reflection so you get more overall glow effect than a dark surface. If you read the literature, larger crystals exude more lumens – so opt for the larger crystals if you buy them rather than the premixed paints.

All I am trying to do is simplify – reduce maintenance. I also happen to detest everything they currently offer as solar yard lighting – there is nothing but ugly there, and it is 100% cheap Chinese crap in terms of quality.

I will test this when my powder comes in, and send some pictures. But for my money, a few nice white limestone rocks that glow are far more sensible and esthetically pleasing than some Chinese plastic yard lights that look exactly like they were designed for Walmart. Anytime I can reduce complexity and achieve comparable results I feel much more than a Pyrrhic victory.



Forget Solar Yard Lighting — 5 Comments

  1. Curious are you referring to the same type of paint used in night sight paint? After a couple of Trijicon replacements over the years I finally tried some Glow On sight paint rather than fork over another chunk of cash for new sights. Works pretty well so far.

    At $15 per 1/2 ounce you probably won’t be painting many rocks with it. So I will be interested in your results. Like the idea of painting around the door knob.

  2. While I like your idea, there is an aspect to solar lights that you might want to consider. In the event of a total power outage, you have a portable light source that you can leave in the sun to charge up, then move into the house as needed.
    I’ve used this same idea when camping. Leave ’em in the sun during the day, move ’em into the tent at night. Worked so well that I now have a couple of the larger, high output lights in my go bag. Just in case.

  3. Krylon and Seymour make a UV-resistant clear spray paint that does a really good job of protecting anything you coat with it from ultraviolet rays. I made some wooden, decorative sunflowers for my wife a few years ago and sprayed them with the Krylon clear paint – it worked wonders. The bright yellow paint of the sunflower is still as bright today as it was when it was new. The sun’s rays have not faded them at all. Next time I put something out that I want protected, I plan on spraying it with that paint. If it works on paint, it should probably work on the plastic housings and plastic, clear cover for the solar panel.

  4. I like solar lights. I only buy when they cost $1. Throw away when junk. Sad but true. I value my time, and this option works best.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *