How to Stop Solar Lights from Flashing
Solar lights flicker when they aren’t getting consistent power. This is usually caused by positioning issues, dirt on the solar panel, dying batteries, sensor problems, or faulty wiring. Thankfully, troubleshooting to stop solar lights from flashing is straightforward when you know what to look for.
This guide will walk you through the most common causes of flashing solar lights and provide solutions to restore your solar lighting.
Before we dive into fixes, let’s look at some of the main reasons solar lights flash:
Why Do Solar Lights Flash?
- Dirty Solar Panel – Dust, dirt, and debris can block sunlight from charging outdoor solar lights. This leads to insufficient power and flashing.
- Low Battery – As batteries wear down over time, they lose their ability to hold a charge. Old or dying batteries can cause solar lights to blink or flicker.
- Faulty Wiring – Loose, damaged, or improperly connected wires leading to the solar lights will cause erratic performance like flashing.
- Positioning – If solar panels don’t get enough direct sunlight during the day, the lights won’t charge properly and may blink at night.
- Damaged Solar Cells – Cracks or broken solar cells prevent the panel from absorbing sunlight efficiently, leading to flashing.
- Malfunctioning Light Sensor – These sensors tell solar lights when to turn on at night. If faulty, the lights could blink on and off incorrectly.
- Nearby Light Sources – Bright lights near your solar lights can confuse the light sensor and cause intermittent flashing.
Now that you know what causes the flashing, here are the steps to troubleshoot and stop solar lights from flashing:
Check the Batteries
The first thing to check is the batteries inside the solar lights. Over time, rechargeable batteries lose their ability to hold a full charge. Solar lights blink and flicker at night instead of glowing steadily when power runs low.
Here’s how to check and replace the batteries:
- Locate the battery compartment on each solar light. There is usually a small panel held in place by Phillips-head screws.
- Carefully unscrew the panel and slide out the old batteries. Check for corrosion or damage.
- Insert new rechargeable batteries of the same size and voltage. Common types are AA or AAA NiMH batteries.
- Securely screw the battery compartment shut again.
Allow the solar panels to charge the new batteries for 2-3 sunny days before using the lights. This ensures the batteries are fully charged for optimal performance.
If the flashing stops after inserting new batteries, you’ve found the cause!
Inspect the Solar Panel
If new batteries don’t fix the flashing, next, inspect the solar panel itself. Start by looking for any debris or buildup blocking sunlight from reaching the solar cells inside the panel.
Clean the solar panel with a soft cloth and warm, soapy water. Avoid abrasive materials or scrubbing too hard. Wipe the panel dry with a microfiber cloth when finished.
Also, check for cracks, cloudiness, or broken solar cells on the panel’s surface. Damage to the panel can prevent efficient charging. If the panel is visibly damaged, a replacement will be required.
Proper solar panel cleaning and inspection should help maximize sunlight absorption and steady charging to stop any flashing.
Check the Solar Light Sensor Function
Most solar lights have a built-in light detection sensor that detects when it’s dark enough to turn on. If this sensor is dirty, defective, or obstructed, it can cause solar lights to flash erratically.
Here’s how to check for sensor issues:
- Cover the light sensor with your hand or a piece of tape to block any light.
- The solar light should turn on after about 30 seconds in darkness.
- If the light doesn’t activate or blinks inconsistently, the sensor is likely faulty and should be replaced.
- Try cleaning the sensor lens first with a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol.
Also, check for external light sources like patio torches or streetlights interfering with the sensor. Turn off or reposition these lights as needed.
Improve Solar Panel Positioning
Perhaps the most common cause of insufficient solar charging is poor panel positioning, because of which the solar panels don’t receive enough sunlight.
Solar lights rely on direct, unobstructed sunlight reaching the panels all day.
Here are some tips for optimal solar panel placement:
- Face solar panels south for maximum sun exposure in the northern hemisphere. If south-facing isn’t feasible, east or west is second best.
- Tilt panels between 30-60° for ideal year-round sun angles. Adjust seasonally if possible.
- Place panels in a consistently sunny spot, free from shadows and shade. Move if trees or buildings cast shadows as the sun shifts.
- Mount panels high enough to avoid dirt and debris buildup.
- Space panels apart if placed on the same mounting so they don’t shade each other.
Take the time to check sunlight access throughout the day and move panels to the sunniest location possible. Proper positioning should allow 6-8 hours of direct sun exposure for steady charging.
Check Electrical Connections
Faulty wiring and loose connections can also lead to solar lights blinking and flickering at night.
Carefully inspect the wiring between the solar panel, batteries, LED bulb, and any junction boxes or control units. Watch for:
- Exposed, damaged, or corroded wires. Electrical tape can temporarily repair minor damage.
- Loose wire connections that need to be tightened or re-soldered.
- Moisture in junction boxes or control units that could be shorting circuits.
- Chewed or severed wiring due to pests. Mice, squirrels, or even moles love chewing through wires!
- Bulb connectors that have come loose from vibration.
- Poor wire splices that need to be redone.
Basic tools and electrical know-how can fix most solar light wiring issues. Wiring replacement or entire solar light fixtures may be required for major damage.
Switch to LED Light Bulb
Flashing issues often decrease when switching from incandescent bulbs to LEDs in solar lights. LED light bulbs use much less energy and don’t produce heat that can impact performance.
- Check if your solar lights use standard screw-in bulbs or integrated diode bulbs.
- For replaceable bulbs, swap out old incandescent for new LED bulbs of the same shape and wattage.
- If the LEDs are integrated, you’ll need to replace the entire solar light fixture to upgrade to LEDs.
Higher quality LEDs may cost more upfront but last much longer, putting less strain on solar charging systems. The long-term savings are worth it!
Add Supplemental Batteries
For solar lights in shadier locations, adding supplemental AA or AAA batteries can help provide backup power to prevent flashing.
- Use NiMH rechargeable batteries, so they recharge from the solar panel daily.
- Insert batteries into an external battery pack that plugs into the light.
- Hide the battery pack on the underside of the fixture or solar panel.
- Only use this temporarily until you can improve sunlight access for solar charging.
Supplemental batteries provide a quick band-aid when solar charging alone isn’t enough to keep the lights steady. Improving the panel positioning is still advised for a permanent solution.
Invest in Higher Quality Solar Lights
Sometimes flashing issues persist despite troubleshooting solar panel alignment, wiring, batteries, and sensors. This indicates an overall low-quality solar light that wasn’t built to withstand the elements.
Upgrading to commercial-grade solar lighting engineered for durability and performance is the best long-term solution.
What makes a quality solar light? Things to look for include:
- Anodized aluminum housing for weather resistance.
- Integrated LED diode bulbs that last up to 50,000 hours.
- Optimal solar cell efficiency and wattage for the application.
- Sealed batteries and wiring for outdoor use.
- Dual charging options from solar and AC power.
- Motion sensors and adjustable brightness settings.
- Robust mounting hardware for secure installation.
- At least 2 years, ideally 5+ years of warranty coverage.
While more expensive initially, commercial solar pathway lights, spotlights, and lamp post systems will provide years of uninterrupted illumination with minimal maintenance required.
Review reviews and shop carefully to find solar lighting that fits your budget and performance needs.
Contact the Manufacturer
If you’ve systematically tried every troubleshooting step and the solar lights still flash, contacting the manufacturer is the next logical step. Most quality solar lights come with at least a 1-year warranty.
When you contact them, have the following information ready:
- Product name and model number
- Date of purchase and receipt, if available
- Detailed description of the flashing issue
- Steps you’ve already taken to attempt fixing the problem
- Photos or videos documenting the flashing lights
With any warranty, the company will provide free troubleshooting support, replacement parts, or entirely new solar light fixtures. This ensures you receive the product performance you paid for.
The manufacturer can still provide paid troubleshooting or replacement for lights past the warranty period at a discount. It’s worth contacting them either way before discarding flashing solar lights.
When to Call an Electrician
If you’ve worked through all troubleshooting steps and the manufacturer’s suggestions to no avail, calling an electrician is the next step.
A solar lighting specialist can identify issues you may have overlooked.
Signs it’s time to call a pro include:
- Entire sections of lights are out, not just flashing.
- You’ve been shocked by touching wires or fixtures.
- There’s smoke, burnt smells, or melted wires.
- The solar panel or junction box feels extremely hot.
- Water leakage is present inside light housings or wiring boxes.
- You lack the technical skills for complex electrical repairs.
- The lighting is inaccessible on a rooftop or tall pole.
While expenses add up, electricians have the proper tools, testing equipment, and expertise to diagnose and correct any solar lighting issues you can’t resolve.
Safety should also be the top priority when dealing with electrical problems.
Prevent Future Flashing Issues
Once you have stopped your solar lights from flashing, you can take proactive steps to help prevent flashing issues from recurring in the future:
- Clean solar lights and panels regularly with a soft brush before dirt builds up.
- Replace rechargeable batteries every 1-2 years for optimal performance.
- Check wiring connections intermittently for corrosion and damage.
- Position lights in optimal sun exposure away from obstructing trees and structures.
- Avoid positioning near other exterior lighting fixtures.
- Bring solar lights in during winter if less than 6 hours of sunlight.
- Upgrade to higher quality solar lights with weather-resistant components.
With consistent maintenance and proper solar light positioning, you can minimize flashing issues with your solar lights in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do My Solar Lights Work for a While and Then Start Flashing?
This often occurs when the batteries are wearing out and can no longer hold a full charge. Solar lights work fine for the first few nights until the battery capacity diminishes and flashing kicks in.
Replacing the batteries restores normal function.
How Can I Make My Solar Lights Charge Faster?
Faster charging comes down to proper positioning. Place panels in direct south-facing sunlight, angled 30-60° from horizontal.
Clean panels frequently and avoid any shade or obstruction throughout the day.
Higher-wattage panels also charge faster.
Do Solar Lights Work on Cloudy Days?
Solar panels can still absorb sunlight and generate some charge even on cloudy or rainy days, just at reduced efficiency.
But lights may flash at night since cloudy weather blocks the full charging needed.
Why Are My Solar Lights Dim?
Insufficient charging leads to dim solar lights at night. Check for dirty panels, dead batteries, shade on the solar panels, or improper angle/positioning.
Higher-wattage lights also naturally shine brighter than low-wattage models.
Can I Use Rechargeable Batteries in Solar Lights?
Yes, you should use rechargeable NiMH AA or AAA batteries in solar lights rather than regular alkaline batteries.
Rechargeable batteries continually charge from the solar panel each day to last for years. They’re more cost-effective long-term.
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