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How to Repair A Solar Walkway Light

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How to troubleshoot a solar light fixture and replace the batteries or photo cell.

Many homeowners have installed economical solar powered lights to illuminate their front entrance walkway. Besides the low initial costs, the lights are easily relocated or removed and stored away for the winter. This article will describe how to repair or replace the solar light fixture.

LED light (on), battery, and control board

Close up of the photo cell

There are several solar cells on the top of the light fixture, typically 2 or 4. As light hits the solar cells, a DC electric current is produced and charges the rechargeable batteries. A photo cell senses the ambient light level and automatically switches the LED on when the light level drops below the setting. The control board regulates the direction of the current to either charge or discharge the battery.

Troubleshooting

Access is often obtained to the inside of the fixture by twisting the top of the lamp counterclockwise while holding the base. There maybe a few small screws to remove. The batteries are often protected by a cover which is screwed in place.

Batteries

To determine if you solar light is working properly make sure that it is receiving at least 4 hours of full sunlight to charge the batteries. Verify that the light is not on in the daytime; if it is the photo cell is bad and the batteries are being drained during the day.

It may be necessary to remove the solar cell assembly from the post, usually by rotating the solar cell assembly counter clockwise for part of a turn and lifting the solar cell assembly away from the post.

If the solar light is not on during the day, then the light sensor may be working but the battery or batteries may be dead.

Cover the photo cell on top of the solar cell assembly and near the solar cell with your finger. If the light comes on the sensor is working properly however the battery may not be able to hold a charge. You may also use a piece of electrical tape to cover the sensor.

Most solar lights have 1 or 2 AA size rechargeable batteries, typically nickel cadmium NiCad.

Replace the battery or batteries with similar AA size rechargeable batteries. Nickel metal hydride NiMH batteries will last longer than NiCad batteries. NiMH batteries are available at home centers, electrical supply houses, and hardware stores. The old batteries can be removed by hand or with a small screwdriver to gently pry out one end of the battery. Replace with a new rechargeable battery taking note of the proper orientation.

Never install regular AA batteries in a rechargeable system, a fire could result and chemicals can leak out of the battery and damage skin or surrounding materials.

Sensor

If the solar light is on during the day, the solar cell is working and the batteries are probably ok, but the light sensor is not working.

Sometimes the plastic cover that protects the sensor becomes cloudy or scratched. Remove the plastic covering the sensor a utility knife. Remove the plastic by carefully cutting away the plastic around the sensor to avoid damaging it.

Test the operation of the sensor by observing if the solar light now goes out when the solar cell assembly is in bright sunlight, and the light goes on when in darkness.

To protect the photo cell from rain dirt you will need to cover the hole that you made with a piece of clear tape.

If the light does not light in light or darkness even with fresh batteries, the sensor may need to be replaced.

Photo cell

You can attempt to replace the photo cell is you have a soldering iron and want to go through the trouble of ordering a new cell. They are available at electronic stores such as Radio Shack, on Ebay, or other electronic distributors online. They are also called LDR which is a cadmium sulfide light dependent resistor. You will need to remove the old LDR by heating up the solder on the control board and soldering the new photo cell in place. If the photo cell has wires that are long enough you may be able to splice the wires onto the new photo cell and mount it into place with some hot glue.

After repairing the light fixture it will be necessary to fully charge the batteries to verify its operation. Place the fixture in the desired location and re-inspect the light after several sunny days to see if the solar cell recharges the battery.

6 comments

Donata L.
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Posted on Apr 4, 2011
Jerry Walch
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Posted on Apr 4, 2011
Sandy James
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Posted on Apr 3, 2011
Daniel Snyder
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Posted on Apr 3, 2011
Christopher McPhail
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Posted on Apr 3, 2011
Abdel-moniem El-Shorbagy
0
Posted on Apr 3, 2011

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Daniel Snyder

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