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Can Solar Garden Lights Catch Fire & Can You Prevent It?

Tim Carter
Written by Tim Carter Last Updated: July 16, 2022

Solar lights can look beautiful and add a special atmosphere to your garden, backyard, or pathway. You can use them to add much-needed extra lighting or create a festive mood. However, are they safe? Can solar garden lights catch fire and cause damage to your property?

Solar-powered lights do not provide a significant risk of fire because their energy comes from tiny solar panels that recharge batteries. Because of the use of highly reactive materials and lithium salts during construction, solar lights powered by lithium-ion batteries have the highest risk of catching fire.

Despite the incredibly low risk of fire, there are several things you should know about solar-powered lightning that can extend their lifespan and further reduce the already low risk.

Table of Contents

Can Solar Garden Lights Catch Fire?

Can solar garden lights get so hot that they catch fire?

Actually, yes, solar lighting can catch fire, although it can generate just a little heat, depending on the type of light bulb.

However, this heat is insufficient to ignite your lighting. Usually, the batteries that store the energy from the sun are to blame for fires.

Batteries constructed of flammable or inexpensive materials may emit more heat than they should and melt the housing the lights are housed in. The extreme heat from the melting housing could start a fire if placed next to a brush pile or untreated timber structures.

Whenever solar lights got on fire, each time the batteries were overheating and melted the light’s casing, melted or scorched what they were attached to.

What Batteries Are Used In Solar Lights?

There are a few types of batteries commonly used in solar lighting.

  1. Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) is the least common because it is an older technology that is being phased out gradually. Its ability to function in a wide range of temperatures initially made it popular, but it has a strong memory effect (when a battery loses its full use of capacity over time)
  2.  NiMH batteries came out as a replacement for NiCD batteries. They use nickel metal hydride technology. NiMH batteries lasted about 40% longer than NiCD batteries, although they were not nearly as temperature-tolerant. Although less severe, these batteries also experience the memory effect.
  3. The newest player in battery technology is lithium-ion (Li-Ion). They have greater strength than the other two and do not exhibit the memory effect. Their disadvantage is that they are far more volatile due to the components they are constructed of, which include non-dense metals and lithium salts.

In summary, the usage of lithium-ion batteries, which are very flammable and volatile, causes solar-powered lights to occasionally catch fire.

Although NiMH or Nickel Metal Hydride batteries can operate between loads up to 40% longer than NiCd batteries, they perform less well in extremely hot or cold situations.

Why You Shouldn’t Cheap Out On Solar Powered Lighting?

Many DIYers who are frugal might believe that since solar lighting is external, they should not spend a lot of money on something that will be exposed to rain and snow for half the year.

Even inexpensive lights serve the sole goal of emitting light to illuminate a walkway or a particular area of the yard.

Cheap lighting, however, often means low-cost supplies and cheap labor.

Lithium-Ion solar lighting has safety controllers built in to manage the amount of charge generated so that the batteries don’t overload.

Cheaper items cut corners on these safety measures or completely disregard them.

In the past, a few cell phones and computers “exploded” or caught fire because of lithium-ion batteries.

Cheap safety measures cannot prevent the overloading of the batteries.

What You Can Do To Prevent Your Solar Lights Catching Fire?

Every responsible homeowner should regularly inspect their home for leaks, cracks, or pests. The same ought to occur in your yard. Check your solar illumination by walking around outside every couple of weeks.

We should never ignore the sniff test. If a light seems a little goofy, pick it up, examine it more closely, and give it a quick whiff. It is most likely fine if you smell plastic and grime. Replace it if you detect the scent of burned plastic.

The solar panels that absorb the sun’s energy should be kept clean. The movement of animals and insects in your yard causes dust to float and muck to be thrown around. Your lights’ tops and lenses should occasionally be cleaned.

While keeping lights clean won’t stop a fire, it will keep them more efficient and lengthen their battery life. As you stroll around your yard checking for potential issues, this is something that can be done with ease.

Limit changes to your illumination. Today, it is enjoyable to explore and be a “maker,” but while using equipment that should use and store energy, you must exercise utmost caution.

If you consider adding more lights in the future, get kits with an easy-connect so you can simply “plug-n-play” additional units of the same type.

Solar lights can catch fire if the electrical wiring is not done properly or if it is not fixed by a skilled professional. Solar cells change sunlight into electric currents by interacting with sunlight coming directly from the sun.

A fire pit, an outdoor stove, or any other place where you frequently use open flames should not have them installed there.

Last but not least, remember to sweep up and away from your solar lighting any grass cuttings and dry leaves. It is important to keep in mind that the solar lights themselves don’t start most fires.

Instead, the batteries’ casings melting from too much heat causes nearby objects to catch fire.

Final Thoughts

Depending on the bulb type used, solar lights may occasionally generate a small amount of heat. The bulbs will produce some heat but not nearly as much as a typical lightbulb in your home’s light fixtures.

Your lights will not catch fire at this heat, though. Fires are typically caused by the sun’s energy that has been stored in the batteries.

Batteries constructed of flammable or inexpensive materials have a tendency to generate more heat than they are intended to, which might cause the melting of the light’s housing.

The intense heat from the melting housing could start a fire if it is close to a brush pile or wooden structures.

Most of the fires started by solar lights appeared to have anything in common. Besides melting or scorching anything they were connected to, overheating batteries disintegrated the light’s casing.


Tim Carter
Tim Carter

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