Ten reasons why your solar lights may have stopped working, and how to fix them

Solar energy use is on the rise globally. Advances in technology mean that we are becoming increasingly less reliant on using polluting fossil fuels for energy, and are replacing these dirty fuel sources with clean renewable energy such as solar electricity and wind power.

In fact, we can see solar energy in use all around us everyday. Technology such as residential rooftop solar panels, solar chargers (find out our Top 12V solar battery chargers) for electric vehicles, and solar water heaters can be commonly found in households, and are no longer the rarity they once were.

Among these innovations, solar lights are one of the more popular solar products in use today. Also known as a solar lamps or solar lanterns, these convenient lights are attached to their own solar panels and battery, allowing the light to shine even without being connected to a power outlet.

Read here: Best Solar Flagpole lights.

Some of these solar lights might even come with motion sensors attached, only turning on when movement is detected. By relying exclusively on completely free solar power, these lights allow you to save big on your electricity bills.

However, solar lights are not infallible – they can occasionally stop functioning, and it might be confusing to figure out what went wrong. We’ll run through some of the more common scenarios below which might cause your solar light to fail, and how to get them up and running again.

Fortunately, most of these issues have a simple fix, and only require small re-adjustments to address!

Solar Lights

So without further ado, here are some methods which might be able to get your solar light working again.

1. Shade Your Light Sensor

Yes, we know that this sounds counter-intuitive. Since the solar panel attached to your solar light needs to receive sunlight in order to generate electricity, why should shading your solar light get it working again?

The answer lies in how your solar light is programmed to work. Some solar lights, like solar gutter lights, are configured to turn themselves off during the day, and only turn on when lighting levels are low. Electricity produced from its solar panel when the sky is bright is sent to the battery, instead of being used to power the light.

If your solar light’s sunlight detection is overly-sensitive, it might be mistakenly turning off the light even when you want it to shine. This can also happen if there are nearby light sources which make the environment overly-bright at night. By shading your solar panel, you force your solar light to recognize that lighting levels are low and that it needs to give off light, allowing your light to start working again.

2. Check Your Batteries

Batteries attached to your solar light should charge up during the day, using power generated by the attached solar panel. These batteries usually have a lifetime of around two years, after which they can break down and need to be replaced.

When your solar battery breaks down, it means that energy generated during the day is not stored properly. Your solar light would have no electricity to draw on when it becomes dark, and it simply won’t turn on. Most of the time, all you’ll need is a screwdriver to open up the battery slot on your solar light, and slot in some fresh re-chargeable batteries (make sure that they’re of the same size and capacity) to get your light working again.

3. Avoid Shadows

Sometimes, the problem might be as simple as an unexpected piece of shade blocking your solar panel from the Sun. Check if some object is preventing sunlight from reaching your solar panel during the day, and stopping it from generating the electricity that your light needs.

Keep in mind that as the Sun moves across the sky during the day, the shadows cast by nearby objects will change accordingly. The Sun’s position in the sky also changes based on the season. Solar lights can still function during the winter, even though the sun shines for less time throughout the day. Make sure that your solar panels are in the best spot possible to receive the most sunlight each day!

4. Position Your Solar Panels at the Best Angle

The angle of your solar panels is also key to allowing it to generate enough solar energy to power your light. Finding the right angle can be tricky at times, however, since the optimum angle depends on both the time of year and on where you are in the world.

If you just want to set your solar panels at a specific angle and leave it untouched afterwards, we recommend tilting your solar panels between 30 and 50 degrees if possible. This angle ensures that your solar panels should receive adequate sunlight year-round.

Otherwise, one approximate calculation method for the optimum angle in winter is to add 15 degrees to your latitude, and re-adjust your panels in the summer to have a tilt of 15 degrees lower than your latitude.

5. Face Your Panels Towards the South

Generally, solar panels can receive the most sunlight if they’re faced towards the South, but only if you live in the Northern hemisphere. This is because the Sun is mostly present in the Southern part of the sky as it moves from East to West everyday.

If insufficient energy production is causing your solar lights to fail, re-positioning your panels to face the South might help.

6. Check for Water Damage

This issue is usually rare if your solar light comes from a well-known or highly-rated manufacturer, but it can nevertheless be an occasional cause of solar light failure. Luckily, water damage is not always permanent, and your solar light can sometimes start working again once it dries out.

To properly dry out your solar light, make sure to check for and remove any sources of liquid that could have leaked onto the equipment. This includes the light itself along with the attached battery and solar panel. Once the light becomes completely dry under the Sun, it should start working again.

However, most solar lights are only water-resistant, and not completely water-proof. If water has completely seeped into the inner electrical wiring of your light multiple times, it might not be repairable. It’s inevitable for your solar light to become become exposed to rain, but do not allow any part of your solar light to get completely submerged in water.

7. Restart Your Solar Light

The time-honored method of fixing any electronic device. Sometimes, all it takes to get your light working again is to turn it off and turn it back on.

8. Clean Your Solar Panel

A dirty or dusty solar panel can also prevent your solar light from receiving enough electricity to work. Dirt and grime on the outer glass covering of a solar panel blocks sunlight from reaching the inner solar cells, which in turn may prevent them from generating enough electricity to power your light.

Usually, a simple wash with water and a solar-panel cleaning solution every three months is more than enough to keep your panels clean. There are however more specifically-tailored solar panel cleaning products out there if you prefer.

9. Don’t Charge your Solar Light Through Glass

Your glass windows might appear to be completely transparent, but its a known fact that solar panels work much less efficiently if they can only receive sunlight through a glass window. Unless absolutely necessary, always place your solar light outdoors and allow it to receive direct sunlight.

10. Reset or Replace Your Lux Sensor

The Lux Sensor is a vital part of your solar light, and it controls when your light switches on. By changing it’s settings, you can make your solar light turn on once it detects light levels dropping below a certain threshold.

Sometimes, an overly-sensitive Lux sensor might be turning your solar light off, even when it becomes dark. This can be fixed by simply adjusting your sensor’s settings.

Other times, your Lux sensor might have broken down completely, resulting in your solar light never turning itself on. If you block all light completely from your light sensor and your light still doesn’t turn on, that’s likely the case. When that happens, the sensor needs to be replaced by a new one to get your lights working again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are my solar lights flashing on and off?

Flashing solar lights is often an indication that your LED light isn’t receiving enough electricity. For example, the electrical wiring of your light might be loose, or your solar battery might be almost out of electricity, leading to your lights not working as they should.

How long does a solar light last?

The batteries of a solar light is often the first component to give out, and unfortunately the re-chargeable batteries equipped on a solar light generally only last for one to two years. Fortunately, these batteries are easily replaceable – as long as you can buy new batteries with the same size and capacity to replace your old ones, the other components of your solar light can theoretically last for 20 to 30 years.

Can solar lights be used indoors?

Yes, as long as you have a spot indoors which receives enough sunlight to charge your solar light. Note that solar panels work much less efficiently indoors, however, especially if it is only receiving light through a glass window.

Can my solar light catch fire?

While rare, there have been reports of solar lights over-heating and catching fire. Most of the time, these fires have been a result of overheating solar batteries coming into contact with flammable material. Make sure that you use high-quality batteries with good safety controls that shut off the battery before it overheats, and place your solar light away from any materials that can easily catch fire.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Alora Bopray

Alora Bopray

Staff Writer

Alora Bopray is a digital content producer for the home warranty, HVAC, and plumbing categories at Today's Homeowner. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of St. Scholastica and her master's degree from the University of Denver. Before becoming a writer for Today's Homeowner, Alora wrote as a freelance writer for dozens of home improvement clients and informed homeowners about the solar industry as a writer for EcoWatch. When she's not writing, Alora can be found planning her next DIY home improvement project or plotting her next novel.

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Roxanne Downer


Roxanne Downer is a commerce editor at Today’s Homeowner, where she tackles everything from foundation repair to solar panel installation. She brings more than 15 years of writing and editing experience to bear in her meticulous approach to ensuring accurate, up-to-date, and engaging content. She’s previously edited for outlets including MSN, Architectural Digest, and Better Homes & Gardens. An alumna of the University of Pennsylvania, Roxanne is now an Oklahoma homeowner, DIY enthusiast, and the proud parent of a playful pug.

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