solar light review

This article will be of little interest to most.

A few weeks ago I was stepping off of the houseboat onto the dock.  I was carrying a basket of my dirty laundry.  It is a big step and I failed to notice that the dock was covered in black ice.  I fell instantly and got hurt.

I had to lay there for a couple of minutes before I could think of getting up.  At least none of the laundry went into the water.  I could have gone into the water and that could have been life-threatening.

This could happen to a visitor.  I started making plans to change things for additional safety.  First, I purchased a large doormat for the dock.  Next, I put six concrete blocks down to make an additional step.  This made two easy steps instead of one high step.  Then I purchased some reflective tape to fasten on the outer edge to make the steps obvious.

Here you can see the floormat, the six blocks to make a step and the solar light.  The reflective tape around the edge needs to have a certain kind of light to make it show up at night.  I tried the usual solar lights but they were the warm type that we like to see.  The tape didn’t show up as reflective at all.  I needed the cold blue type of light.

From Amazon I ordered

The motion sensor solar light operates in the desired spectrum for showing the reflective tape.  You can see it in the photo as the black thing just above and to the left of the step.  That was just as a test.  It works well, but I need to mount it in a different position for the best results.  It seems to be of high quality.

However, there is a major issue.  The instructions are poorly written.  I rewrote them and had the page laminated.

Solar Light operating instructions

Mode 1. Press Mode button for 3 seconds, the light will blink 3 times, and it will operate in Dim-Bright-Dim Mode.

A dim light will show from dusk to dawn and will turn into full brightness when motion is detected within 5-8 meters.  It will automatically switch to dim light again after 25 seconds.

Mode 2.  Press Mode button again, the light the will blink 3 times and switch to Off-Bright-Off Mode. It will automatically have no dim light in the dark and go to full bright when motion is detected within 5-8 meters, and automatically will turn off again after 25 seconds.

Mode 3. Press Mode button again and the light will blink 3 times and switch to Long Lighting Mode.  It automatically lights up to nearly  ½ brightness from dusk to dawn.

Press Mode button again to shut down the light.  If you want to start again, press the button for 3 seconds and then repeat steps 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Mode 1 in an ideal location with few movements to turn the bright light on will probably last all night long.

Mode 2 will use less electricity than mode 1.

Mode 3 is the largest consumer of electricity and probably useless.

The first night I tried to operate it in Mode 1.  The light would often switch to the bright setting as if there were an intruder triggering the motion sensor.  Nobody was there.  As the boat moves a bit in relation to the dock, the motion sensor was picking that up.  Finally, I changed the mode to #3 but that revealed a new problem.  Even after a clear day for charging, the battery won’t keep the light on all night long.  Twice I checked it around 3 am and it had already drained the battery.

If the light goes off due to a dead battery, the unit automatically goes back to the default setting, which is Mode 1.  You must reset it to your preferred mode.  For the last 3 days, I have used it in Mode 2.  The battery didn’t run down and the next night it came back on in Mode 2 as expected.

Other improvements for safety

I also added 4 of the common and inexpensive solar lights alongside the boat to light the way from the ramp to the step.

I ordered some “grip tape” from Amazon to stick onto the area of the step that doesn’t have the reflective tape.  I installed the grip tape on the blocks.  I had some tape leftover and applied it to the top step, just above the blocks, which is the boat.  I also added grip tape to the rarely used pilot’s door.  The rest I applied to the bottom of the ramp, which is an aluminum strip.  We always avoided it because it would be very slippery when wet.  My landlord loves the grip tape in that spot.

I hope that these measures will improve the safety of visitors and me too.

After more use of this light, I find it to be not nearly as useful as I had hoped.  On a cloudy day, it only charges up enough to last until midnight on mode #3.  My other solar lights stay on all night.

I now have a lot more experience with this solar light.  I removed the solar collector from the light body and moved the solar collector to a place where it gets sun all day long.  I added in the wire supplied with the light that is just for this purpose.  Of course, the two batteries are located in the black box.  The collector is supposed to just slip off of the black light body, but it was really stuck on and required some fiddling around.

Even the full charge of a totally sunny day won’t power the light in Mode 3 all night.  It will power the light in Mode 1 all night if it isn’t windy.  The rain cover over the back door of the houseboat flaps in any wind and makes it come on often.  Mode 2 would work even better, but the whole idea was to have the concrete block steps lit up all of the time.

The two cheap solar lights from Loew’s that I have on the steps stay on all night long, even when charged up on a cloudy day.  They just don’t have the spectrum of light to light up the reflective tape as I would wish.  However, they will do just fine for now.

The rear entrance of the houseboat is a sliding glass door.  Nothing that I can do from inside the boat will trigger the motion sensor.  The sensor is only 3 feet from the door.  As soon as I start sliding the glass door open, it triggers the motion sensor.  Apparently, the glass stops the motion sensor from sensing.

I don’t yet see how this fancy solar light will satisfy my expectations.