Solar Lamp-Post Lights: Modern Technology for a Classic Look
Solar lamp post lights provide your home with a Victorian look while saving on energy and installation costs.
Solar lamp-post lights are one of the best ways of providing attractive, classic lighting to your home. On the one hand, their appearance provides your home with a very classic feel, evoking the era of Victorian London by imitating the gas lights of old. On the other hand, solar lamp posts provide a great deal of flexibility to your lighting, allowing you to place them anywhere without the costly installation usually involved in installing larger outdoor lighting fixtures.
There are still a couple of pitfalls, however, that should be avoided. Solar lamp posts can provide a “glare bomb” if used improperly, since they can be so much brighter than their surroundings. They must be augmented with other light sources or they will simply make everything look dark.
The Classic Look
One of the nicest aspects of solar lamp post lights is their appearance. Lamp post lights are usually around six to seven feet tall, just like one might have seen a century ago. While current street lights are much higher, because their metal halide bulbs are much brighter and can therefore illuminate the street from a greater distance, traditionally, lamp posts were much closer to the street, as they were lit by incandescent bulbs or by gas.
Therefore, by using solar lamp posts, you are not simply putting up your own modern street lights. Rather, you are putting up lights that are designed to illuminate the ground from a much closer distance and in a much more subtle way. The light quality that comes from them is not as harsh as it is from contemporary lights, but instead provides a more even, less focused light.
The effect is to produce the kind of lighting that we attribute to the Victorian era or perhaps to Nineteenth-Century American cities. Numerous points of light provide the area with a soft light that is pleasant to look at and flatters not only the architecture but also the faces of people who walk by.
Most posts themselves are designed to look like Nineteenth Century street lamps, completing the effect. They look like gas lamps, and therefore will look especially at home with classic architecture in the home. Conversely, in a modern looking home, the lamps might look somewhat out-of-place, so you may need to look carefully for lamp posts that will fit with your more modern style.
Charge and Weather
Many solar lights have the problem of not holding their charge very well in the winter. This is because sub-freezing temperatures both prevent solar panels from charging very well and also cause them to lose that charge more quickly. As a result, many people who live in colder and temperate climates have had a bad experience with solar lighting.
However, this is not a problem with solar lamp post lights. Unlike many solar lights, they are designed to hold several days’ worth of charge at once. As a result, the normal limitations from weather do not apply to them. While it is true that they will not charge as quickly nor hold the charge as well, they will still be able to hold a sufficient amount of charge, even in cold weather.
Uses for Lamp Post Lights
There are a few standard uses for solar lamp post lights, and paradoxically, none of them are the original purpose of street lighting. The first is as a decorative light on the front lawn or directly in front of the house itself. This has the advantage of providing an attractive, decorative light that can be appreciated by you and your neighbors. In addition, it will provide a large amount of light to your front yard, allowing you to use it even at night.
Second, lamp posts may be used for driveway lighting. They are generally placed along the edges of a longer driveway, providing safety when driving at night. Such use will require the use of multiple lamp posts, usually at least two, often put near the street, but often more if the driveway is longer. Such a use also evokes the sense of multiple points of light that made classic street lighting so attractive and makes it still evoke an emotional reaction today.
Third, lamp post lights may be used in the backyard to provide general illumination. While this is far from their original use, perhaps the lamp post from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has given us a certain nostalgia for the lone lamp post. Such a lamp post serves as a part of one’s overall outdoor lighting strategy, providing general ambient lighting that may be augmented by other outdoor sources.
Finally, lamp post lights may be used for the lighting of foliage. In general, it shouldn’t be obvious that this is what you are doing, but placing a lamp post near foliage will illuminate the leaves from below, by far the most attractive way of lighting it. There is one thing to note about foliage lighting, though. Using a warmer, yellowish or reddish light on foliage makes trees look dried out and dead. Instead, choose a lamp that provides a cooler light, either white or bluish.
Brightness and Pitfalls
There are several pitfalls involved in using solar lamp post lights, all of which are connected to their relative brightness. Most outdoor lighting is actually fairly dim, and the best way to increase light is to increase the number of sources, not increase their brightness. However, the solar lamp post lights are actually very bright, brighter even than most indoor lighting.
As a result, it is possible to create some very harsh contrasts when using solar lamp post lights. We don’t actually perceive brightness very well. We perceive contrast. When we perceive lights, our irises contract and we see the brightest light at the same level no matter how bright it actually is. What stands out then is not the absolute brightness of each light, but the brightness of lights relative to the brightest visible light.
Therefore, when using a solar lamp post light, it is very easy to create what is called a “glare bomb”. This is a light that is much brighter than everything else. It contracts our irises and actually makes it harder to see, not easier. Therefore, if solar lamp post lights are improperly used, they will actually make it difficult to see, which can even be dangerous when used for driveways.
To offset this problem, solar lamp post lights should always be augmented by other sources of lighting, even on a driveway. This can be done using smaller solar lights, architectural lighting, fence lighting or other forms of foliage lighting. While they don’t need to be as bright as the lamp post lights, they do need to compete with it or else the only thing we will be able to see are the lamp posts and everything else will simply appear dark.
Putting It All Together
Solar lamp post lights provide some of the most interesting and attractive forms of outdoor solar lighting:
- They evoke the classic style of early street lighting, providing an even and attractive ambient light.
- They have a number of uses from driveways to yard.
- They are fairly bright, so caution must be taken not to produce a “light bomb”.
Using solar lamp post lights can therefore be an important part of your overall outdoor lighting strategy.