Why Are My Solar Lights Not Working?

If you have ever taken the step to beautify your garden and outdoor space with solar lights, you are a testament to the beauty and aesthetic that they add to landscapes. However, like any other light fixture, it is only normal to experience solar lights that don't work from time to time.

Solar lights are typically durable, and they seldom develop faults. Still, there are several things that could go wrong and cause them to stop working. Today, I will share with you some of the probable reasons why your solar lights are not working (whether they are new lights or not) and what you can do to get your lights working again.

Why the Lights Aren't Working?

When I first installed my solar lights, they didn't turn on at night. I did find out later that the switches were not turned on, but other factors could likewise have been the cause of the lights not working. Furthermore, you could have perfectly working solar light, only for them to stop working all of a sudden. This is a rare occurrence with solar lights, but it does happen, and here are some of the factors that could be responsible. 

On/Off Switch

This should not be on this list, but it is a common reason people experience lights that don't work. It is quite common among people who just installed solar lights for the first time to forget to turn on the switch. The switch is typically located on the side or back of the light, but not every solar light comes with a switch. If the lights don't come on at night after turning on the switch, there's another underlying factor responsible for that.

Pull Tab

Just like with the switches, not all solar lights come with pull tabs. Some manufacturers include pull tabs in between the batteries and the terminals to preserve battery life. You need to take out this tab is your solar light comes with one before the light can come on. You certainly can do this by yourself, but if you are not confident in your ability to install the solar lights yourself, a professional will sort it all out quite easily.


It is safe to say that most solar light malfunctions can be traced to batteries. Good rechargeable batteries should last a couple of years at the very least before running out. If your lights stop working after your batteries have shown signs of decline, the most likely cause is dead batteries, and you can simply get the lights going again by changing them.

You can also experience a similar situation with new lights, especially if a pull tab is not included. Batteries may completely lose charge during the period after manufacture before they are purchased. In a case like this, an extensive charging is required before the lights can turn on.

Light Interference

Solar lights feature sensors that react to light and keep them off during the day and turn them on when it is dark. These sensors do not exclusively react to natural light from the sun; they can also sense light from other artificial sources. If light is thrown onto the sensors at night from other light sources, the solar lights will not turn.

It is easy to figure out if light interference is the cause when your lights are not working. All you have to do is cover the sensor properly and check if the light turns on.

Inadequate Sunlight

When you install your solar panels under shades where there is no direct access to sunlight, your solar lights will not work well. You may get some use from the lights, but they will not stay on for nearly as long as they ought to. 

Dirty Solar Panel

In outdoor conditions, dust and debris can easily gather on solar light panels, and prevent light from reaching the cells. Regular cleaning of the panels should prevent this. Nonetheless, it could be one of the reasons why your solar lights are not working.

Troubleshooting Tips

Typically, you should be able to establish why your solar lights are not working. Here are some troubleshooting tips that can help you get to the root of the problem.

  • Make sure the switch is turned on
  • Sure, this sounds too simple, but your lights won't work if you forget to turn the switch on, every other thing being equal. If the light doesn't turn on after switching it on, you know that there is another issue.
  • Remove the pull tabs
  • If your solar lights are new, then they may have pull tabs. All you have to do is pull the tab out, such that the battery can come in full contact with the terminals. Not all new solar lights come with pull tabs.
  • Cover the panel
  • Your lights will not work at night when the sensor can sense light interference. After trying the other troubleshooting tips, you should test if there is light interference by totally covering the solar panels. If light interference is the reason why your lights are not working, the lights should turn will run on when the panels are covered.
  • You may have to move the panels to stop the light interference or get rid of all artificial light sources that are tricking the solar light system.
  • Charge extensively
  • When you get new solar lights, you may have to charge the batteries for a couple of days in direct sunlight to get them going. Batteries tend to lose charge during the time it takes for them to be purchased.
  • Clean solar panel
  • Dirt and debris can accumulate on solar panels in their outdoor location, and prevent the cells from receiving adequate light from the sun, thereby preventing the batteries from charging effectively. If this is the reason why your lights aren't working, wipe the panels clean and wait for the batteries to charge.
  • Change solar panel position
  • If the solar panels are not installed in direct sunlight, your batteries will get little or no charge. A physical appraisal should reveal if shades/shadows are blocking the panels from direct sunlight. Move the panels into direct sunlight, and aloe some charge time for the batteries to strengthen.
  • Change the batteries
  • When you discover that your lights don't last as long as they typically do, it is usually a sign of weakened batteries. Solar light batteries should last for 2-3 years. They don't just stop working; they decline gradually. If you neglect to change the batteries when they become noticeably declined, you will have to deal with lights that don't work eventually.


Solar lights are very durable, and if they are installed properly, they will serve you for a long time. Ever since in installed my solar lights, I've never had issues with them, apart from when I forgot to switch the lights on. Nonetheless, solar lights may stop working for a number of reasons. Any of the factors discussed above could affect your lights' functionality, but the interesting thing is that it is quite easy to find out why the lights aren't working. I hope you found this article sufficiently helpful. Please share it with your friends and family. If you would like to share your thoughts, do so in the comments section below.

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