Accidents do happen, but most are preventable. This post primarily focuses on damage to your solar lights and other garden products and is based on the most common things customers tell us when they order replacement lights or replacement parts.
Unfortunately, damage caused by poor placement or poor maintenance is not covered by manufacturer's warranties. Often what customers think is a defect often turns out to be a maintenance or placement issue.
Note: while we are focussing on solar products, many things in this post also are applicable to any outdoor or low-voltage lights, any cable or extension cord and any garden or landscape ornament.
And, when we were writing this post, we realized it's not only about being smart in how you place and maintain your solar lights.
To a large degree, the safety of your solar lights depends on making the right purchase to begin with, which will be the subject of our next article. This one covers the need to
- Follow Assembly & Installation Instructions
- Place Cords and Ground-Staked Items Carefully
- Tips to Avoid Trips and Falls
- Lawn Mowers, Rakes, Trimmers and Blowers
- Tips to Avoid Trips and Falls
- Hiring People to Work on Your Property?
- Snow Removal/Winter Storage for Some Items
- Pets and Wild Animals Will Drink from Your Fountain, Pond or Birdbath
Most better lights come with detailed installation instructions on assembly and placement.
Follow them: particularly when it comes to mounting instructions because improperly mounted lights are the most likely to break. Overhead lights and panels that are not mounted properly not only can fall and break during wind, they can also hit people and cause injuries.
|Read (and follow) the User Manual's Instructions and Store It in Safe Place. Don't Understand Something? Call the Dealer!|
Keep the Instructions in a Safe Place
Even the best solar lights will eventually need the rechargeable batteries replaced. User manuals not only tell how to do this safely, they also should include the type of battery the solar light or pump needs to operate properly.
Other solar items should be down at certain points in time such as for safekeeping during home and garden maintenance. More delicate lights and anything that holds water should be taken in during subfreezing temperatures.
Seasonally, some solar panels and lights that work perfectly fine in spring, summer and early fall will work better if the solar panel or fixture is repositioned to get more sunlight.
We often get calls from customers who have lost their manuals and if the item is still manufacturered we can usually get them. But, better lights may be upgraded by the time your item needs new batteries. Having the users manual is a very important way to make sure you don't accidentally damage your product during maintenance.
There are two types of accidents you want to avoid:
- Things being broken because people, landscape work, vehicles, or anything that can and will move hits your things, or becomes tangled in the cord and breaks it, or either the solar panel or pump/lighting fixture attached to either end of the cord
- People being injured because they trip over the cord
Both property owners need to consider who uses your property and when: family, guests, and delivery people/workers. Businesses and property managers also need to consider tenants, customers and others who regularly access the site.
- Don't use discount lights to delineate an area. (Often, solar lights with bargain basement prices have short run-time and short life spans. It's better to choose a different kind of well-made light than junk.)
Make sure the lights' run-time is long-enough to make them visible while it's reasonable for people to use the lights. Most discount solar lights and even well-made decorative lights are not designed for safe illumination.
- Before putting your lights out, watch them for a couple of nights to see that the "run time" is actually what the product description says it is. What works in a garden often is not a good idea for pathways. Why?
- "Dusk to dawn" operation REALLY means the light turns on at dusk and off when the rechargeable battery runs out of energy from the solar panel.
- The operating time noted on solar lights (or any solar product for that matter) assumes the battery is full charged: at least six hours of direct sunlight. Some manufacturer's estimates will not be what you see, depending on the season and your geographic location.
- Never place cords, lights or ornaments directly in a either a designated walkway or an area that is a natural path from one key area of your property to another.
Even if you have a designated pathway, remember that some people will always take the most direct route from Point A to Point B: even if it means crushing plants or lights or whatever. Especially delivery people.
- Make sure that cables for wall-mounted panels and/or solar lights are arranged flush to the wall with as little slack as possible. Secure extra cord so nothing and nobody can reasonably expect to get tangled which can: potentially harming people; rips the cord; or damage the solar panel or light/pump connected to either end of the cable.
- Make sure ground cables between solar panels and either lights or pumps aren't tripping hazards. If possible, put them beneath plants or shrubs so people can't access them. If you have to place them in an area where people may walk, cover them a thick layer of mulch and/or secure them to the ground.
The image shows bobby pins that can be bought at almost any drugstore or supermarket, and wider ones ones are also. The cost: about $1.00 for 100 bobby pins.
Careful placing and securing cables not only reduces the risk of people tripping over them, you'll also help prevent them from being the victims of our next subject: yard maintenance tools.
If you take care of your own lawn, make sure that you remove all ground staked lights, ornaments and panels before the mower, blowers, rakes come out. No matter how careful you are, solar panels and fixtures are easily broken when hit by equipment.
Rakes may be okay, if the person using it is careful.
Power mowers, blowers and trimmers are a different story. All of these can turn turn small pebbles, acorns, twigs and other things into high-speed missiles that can break solar panels, fixtures and panes.
Even lights and solar panels mounted on walls or posts (say an average of 6 to 8 feet) are vulnerable to objects thrown by lawn and garden equipment. Our suggestion is ugly, but effective: move what you can, cover the rest up.
Old comforters, padded pillow shams all make great "hoodies" for lamps and wall mounted fixtures, and any solar panel you can easily reach.
Cover things with glass (including panels) whenever possible to protect them. It may not be the most attractive look while the work is going on, but this is an effective, cheap and easy way to protect lights and solar panels.
Nobody means to break things but it's very easy to do, not just for lawn or garden maintenance but any work, and most times of the year. Whether your hiring painters who often use high-powered spray washer or people to clear off your walkways, protect whatever can't be removed while the work is done.
|Lights with Broken Solar Panels Won't Work For Long.
Once the Panel's Protective Covering is Broken, Moisture Will Reach and Damage Critical Components You Can't See.
|Plastic & Glass Panes Can Be Broken By High Impact Hits. Damage Like this is Not Only Ugly, It Means Exposure to Critical Components.||Feet, Rakes, Mowers, or Strewn Objects Can Shatter Panes, Decorative Lights, such as Gazing Balls or Glass Orbs.|
Another Advantage of Buying Better Solar Lights?
If you want things covered up, make sure they are in a place the workers can easily get them before the power tools comes out. If anyone will be digging near your cables, show them where they are or better yet, remove them until the work is over.
Make sure the workers (and the person who manages them) is provided a list or diagram of what they need to look out for. Better yet, take the time to walk around and show them what they need to be extra careful of when they are working.
If they aren't willing to take the extra time and care to make sure your items are protected, look for somebody else to do the work.
Painters and Power Washers
If someone is going to power wash your house or fence (which good painters often do), cover them up or take them down while the work is done. The extra effort may well mean whether or not the new paint job will be visible at night.
A couple of years back, we had someone power wash and paint our house. Since I was at home at the time, I ASSUMED they would let me know when they reached the deck. Within a minute of when I heard the power washer begin, our grill and deck furniture were covered with bits of paint. A solar spotlight hit with back spray was knocked off its mounting and literally flew 30 feet away and was broken.
Again: if you don't specifically ask that the workers look out for things, there is a very good chance they figure you removed anything you didn't want damage before they arrived.
We cover this every fall: put away what you can and what you probably won't be using during the winter. Delicate ornaments and most accent lights fall into this category. Fountains and non-metal birdbaths can be ruined for freezing temperatures alone.
Equally important: consider where shovels, snow blowers, and plows will be used before you mount solar lights that cannot be removed during the winter.
Unless your yard is completely fenced (which really will only keep out dogs), odds are birds and bees won't be the only creatures attracted to you water features. Along with damage to the fountains and birdbaths themselves, the biggest risk is often that once the water's drained, any any pump without dry-pump protection (meaning it shuts itself off when there is no water) will burn out very quickly.
The animals are doing what comes naturally. We suggest:
- Make sure all fountains and birdbath are on a stable foundation. If it's dirt, consider putting "burying" the first inch of the pedestal for extra protection.
- If you know the pet's owner, talk to them and ask that they control their pets. In most places, this is a law, as is intentionally harming animals.
If any animals regularly are on your property, take the path of least resistance. Spend a couple of bucks and place bowls of clean water near your fountains. Thirsty animals will drink, so a clean and easier place to drink from is often the easiest solution to keep them out of your fountain.
This is Just a Sample
Lots of things can be broken in lots of ways. We can't even begin to cover everything that we've seen and heard.
If you have a question or an idea, feel free to let us know by emailing Info@SolarFlairLighting.com.
The bottom line: take a bit of time to think about where and how you are going to place your low-voltage or solar lights and pumps. Follow the installation instructions properly and think about who, when and how people and things will interact with your items and odds are damage to them and injuries to people will be greatly reduced.
Copyright, 2015, SolarFlairLighting.com. This article may not be used in whole, in part (or paraphrased) without the express written consent of a manager of SolarFlairLighting.com