The technology is simple. A small photovoltaic cell turns energy derived from sunlight into electrical energy, which charges a battery that powers a small light. Outdoor solar lights are simple to install and relocate (just make sure they always get a sunny spot), because there's no wiring involved.
Many retailers now have solar versions of conventional in-ground walkway or patio lamps, most of which have an auto mode, so the light switches on at dusk and off at dawn. Home Depot ( homedepot.ca ) has a four-light metal set by Hampton Bay for about $30. At Rona , Seaton solar lights are made from stainless steel with a clear plastic lens. A set of eight sells for about $25. For a more classical look, consider an antique solar lantern from Canadian Tire , with deeply scrolled detail. These sell for $33 each.
Canadian Tire also sells solar-powered driveway markers. These metre-long tubes with spikes will stay lit for up to eight hours. They're especially suitable for rural lots with long driveways or to mark the entranceway of a hard-to-spot cottage road. It might also be a good idea to take a set on camping trips to provide light for nighttime trips to the privy. A pack of two sells for $15.
If your taste runs toward the kitschy, Home Hardware has solar lights in the shapes of ladybugs, turtles and birds. Prices start at about $20 for a set of four. Home Hardware also has ornamental solar post caps for decks and fences. They come in two styles - a Mission-inspired design (about $28 per post) and a grape cluster motif that sells for about $40.
Rittenhouse , a St. Catharines-based company that sells garden equipment and accessories online, carries higher-end lanterns with covers made of translucent polyethylene. They come in square or teardrop shapes in moss, pearl and bronze. Cost per lantern is $30, with a 5 per cent discount if you buy three and 10 per cent off on orders of six or more. Rittenhouse also sells waterproof solar-power lights that can float in a pond or water feature. They'd also look cool hung in a tree. They're available in blue, green, red and yellow or a clear globe that changes colours.
Capturing the look of a firefly in a jar, the Sun Jar looks like a squat Mason jar that's magically lit from within. A solar cell charges when the lamp is placed in direct sunlight; the soft glow comes from three small LED lamps. Frosted glass on the jar diffuses the light, which also has a light-sensitive on-off switch. I found two online sources for this item:
Greengadget , which also sells a moodier Moon Jar that throws a pale blue light, and Danna Bananas , which also sells tiny pig-shaped windup flashlights for $16.25. The Sun Jar starts at about $40.
I've also been hearing about patio umbrellas that incorporate solar lights under the canopy to allow you to linger in the garden after dark.
Bed Bath & Beyond has an umbrella with a nine-foot polyester canopy in green or tan and 24 LED lights. When fully charged, the lights will run for about six hours. For dull and overcast days, there's an AC adapter. Cost is $180.
BonaVista LeisureScapes , an outdoor living store at 812 Eglinton Ave. E., has wonderful furniture, barbecues and outdoor accessories, including hanging solar lanterns made by the Outdoor GreatRoom Company . These lanterns are made from powder-coated rust-free aluminum, and a set of two sells for $135. Leisure- Scapes also has some very neat rechargeable outdoor lanterns and lamps.
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