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Exterior Lighting with Solar Umbrella Lights

by Geoff Richards on June 5, 2010

in Outdoor Lighting and Heating

With the help of solar umbrella lights, patio umbrellas can serve the dual purpose of providing shade and lighting. If Solar Umbrella Lightsyou currently own a trusty patio umbrella, you know how helpful it can be with cooling off a porch or outdoor dining area. Adding lights to your umbrella can make it useful at night too, providing generous illumination to the area below it. Nighttime activities such as dining, conversing and eating a meal can be done with plenty of light to spare. The trick is finding the right umbrella lighting for you. Fortunately, many of these systems are universal and can be installed onto any umbrella. The solar powered ones require no external power source, using only a solar panel on top of the umbrella for power.

Pre-Lit Umbrellas

If you have not yet purchased a patio umbrella or are looking to buy a second, consider one with lights already built in. Buying a pre lit solar light umbrella can save you time because you don't have to seek out a separate light fixture and install it. Pre lit models usually have a series of LED light bulbs lining the umbrella veins. A cool looking solar panel sits at the very tip of the umbrella, capturing the sun's rays during the day and storing the energy in a rechargeable battery pack. These battery packs only need to be replaced every 1-2 years. After you place the umbrella into its mount, whether that be a table or freestanding frame, the solar panel needs a full day or two to charge up the battery. The solar technology is housed within a weatherproof plastic mount which is safe to use outdoors. At night, the lights on the veins turn on automatically, lighting up the area below. No maintenance or upkeep is necessary to use these lights, making them very easy to use. Although pre-lit solar umbrella lights are the easiest way to get started, they aren't very customizable. Lights discussed in the next section are added after you purchase your umbrella, allowing you to pick and choose a lighting option for your tastes.

Attachable Solar Umbrella Lights

If you have already purchased your patio umbrella, never fear- there is a wide array of attachable umbrella lights on the market that you can use. In fact, the large selection allows for higher customization than the pre-lit varieties. There are three basic types of attachable solar umbrella lights- pole-mount, vein-mount and candle. Specifics on each will be discussed shortly. Regardless of which you choose, installation is a snap. In just a few minutes time, these solar lights attach to your existing umbrella no matter the size or shape. Since solar light systems run on lower voltage than wired models, they generally use energy-efficient LED light bulbs. These lights come in many colors, with white being most common and functional.

Light Pods

Umbrella light pods consist of a disc-shaped light module with LED lights bordering the edge or bundled in sections. These types of solar powered umbrella lights mount directly to your umbrella's pole. Many models are capable of adjusting to different pole diameters, since poles vary in size from umbrella to umbrella. Some units consist of two halves which clip on the the pole at any desired height. Others require you to remove the umbrella from the mount and slide onto it. These fixtures provide light 360 degrees around themselves, perfect for lighting up a circular or even rectangular table below. Some of the more advanced solar umbrella lights have many LED lights packed into several modules on the mount which can be adjusted individually, customizing exactly where the beams shine.

Umbrella Vein Clip-Ons

Considered to be more decorative than functional, clip-on lights are  bit different in nature than their pod counterparts. These systems look a lot like lights you see around the holidays, with many LED light bulbs on a set of strings. Each light string clips on to your umbrella's veins for an impressive light display. They come in many colors, ranging from classic white to multi-colored. Each light string connects to a central power terminal at the base of the umbrella. The terminal then connects to your solar panel mounted on top of the umbrella.

Candle Patio Umbrella Lights

If you enjoy being in the presence of 100% natural light, then candle lights are the way to go. Candle lights for umbrellas typically consist of many tea-light holders attached to a pole-mounted decorative frame. To keep the wind from blowing the candles out, you will commonly see these units equipped with clear tubes that are placed over each candle. The tubes, or "wind breakers", can be easily removed to light or replace the candles.

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