Under normal circumstances, solar lights are an asset to any garden. They’re simple to install, inexpensive, and can be placed at a distance from your house without the need for messy wires. But if your solar lights are weak or flickering, they can become more headache than help. Don’t empty your wallet on a new set of lights without checking your lights for a few common problems.

Step One: Check Your Batteries!

It’s easy for homeowners to confuse “green” with “maintenance-free,” but the batteries that power your lights need to be replaced every two years. You’ll need to be very particular about your choice, as well. If you get a different type of battery, you risk damaging your lights.

The good news is that batteries are usually inexpensive. Finding them is half the trouble. You’ll need to order online or take your batteries to the hardware store you bought them from.

Step Two: Clean The Solar Panel!

The solar panel is the second most likely culprit if the batteries don’t need replacement. The cleaner your glass, the more solar energy your device will absorb.

It’s a good idea to keep your panels clean, but it’s a bad idea to scratch them up inadvertently. Spray the panel down with a hose, and use soft surfaces like a toothbrush or a cotton rag. Don’t clean your panel with bleach or other abrasive cleaners – scratching them will permanently reduce their effectiveness.

Don’t use anything but water if you can help it – and if you must use something stronger, pick a light, organic soap.

Step Three: Look Around!                

The location of your lights has a big impact on their effectiveness. Look around for trees that are blocking light to your device. New buildings like sheds, coops, or houses can all get in the way. Clear them out.

Your problems aren’t always as permanent as structures. If you’ve been having cloudy weather for a few days, the lack of sunlight might be at the root of your problem. Take a close look at your panels and adjust them so that they face the sunlight.

Step Four: Watch For Other Lights!

Most solar powers have built-in sensors that activate when it’s dark out.  Solar products designed to work at night have a sensor that detects darkness, so a stronger light in the area might overpower your device. Look around for newly-installed street lights or new fixtures from your neighbors. In this case, you’ll need to move your light away from the larger fixture.

Step Five: Call A Professional

If you've checked the batteries, the panels, and the location of your lights, it might be time to retire your fixture. Take your lights to the professionals. Call the store you made your purchase from. Check the warranty and get the lights personally inspected if possible – it’s possible that a replacement part will get your lights up and running again.

Of course, in some cases, it’ll be cheaper to buy a new unit. Solar technology is always advancing, and equipment is getting more and more affordable. Even if you’re frustrated with a broken unit, remember why you made your investment in the first place, and don’t be afraid to upgrade to a newer and more durable model.