Finding Solar Lighting for Column Mailboxes
 

The idea of lighting a curbside mailbox and address plaque used to entail the expensive proposition of running buried electrical cables.Thankfully, solar lighting alleviates that problem. If you are about to dismiss the idea of solar lighting for column mailboxes because of your earliest experience with solar garden lights which lasted only a few short years - it's time to look again. The solar industry continues to make improvements in everything from illumination output to the number of hours lights operate.

What we Envision versus What is Realistic

 

Operation House ID requires address numbers to be visible from the curb at night. While those of us with curbside column mailboxes have the perfect sentinel from which to comply, we face the challenge of locating suitable lighting fixtures that don't inhibit mailbox operation.

 

Toward that end, Plano Column Mailboxes has compiled a collection of solar mailbox lamps and address plaque lights that serve to both embellish our column mailboxes and provide practical solutions for illumination.

What We Need to Know About Solar

(Click on the images to the left to view expanded version)

Solar lights have become commonplace in our outdoor living environments, but the industry is still fairly new and innovations continue to surface that provide enhanced styling, and increased performance. Let's look at recent improvements that have enhanced LED lighting's intensity and battery longevity.

 
 

 

Improvement #1  - Wide Angle LED Lighting 

 

     *First introduced in outdoor Christmas lights, Wide Angle LEDs make use of concave lenses to disburse light in a circular pattern rather than the laser-type focus point common to prior versions.This breakthrough is quickly being applied to all manner of LED products and continues to inspire new ones. This is GREAT NEWS for solar. With these modifications they can now compete with wired lighting's *lumen output. Thus, we are beginning to see brightly lit spotlights, stairway lights, and motion-detection security lights that forego the need to run wiring.

 

(Image courtesy of http://blog.1000bulbs.com/led-christmas-light-guide/)

*Lumen Output indicates the amount of candle-power a light has.

 

 

Improvement #2  - Extended Battery Life

 

 
  *Once limited to 6 or 8 hours of continued operation, today's fully-charged solar lights stay illuminated for 10 hours or more. Manufacturers are coupling the new wide-angle lights with two or three rechargable batteries, extending both the length of illumination and the life of the batteries as a whole.
 
      *Rechargable replacement batteries, (Such as NiMH), are more easily attainable than the watch-type batteries that were installed in early solar lamps. Additionally, manufacturers are making battery compartments easier to access. 

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With proper care and maintenance it is no longer necessary to re-purchase lighting after one or two short years. These care tips will also help extend the life of your solar lamp:

Care of Solar Lamps

 

  • Clean solar collectors with orange spray, glass cleaner, or car cleaning products.
 
  • If after cleaning, the solar collector is still "opaque" it can be "saved" by coating it with either car wax, clear nail polish, or spray laquer intended for outdoor use.
 
  • Seasonally open the light and clean the "glass", lamp, and interior.
 
  • Seal any cracks with clear silicone to prevent moisture, mold, or insects from penetrating the cavity.
 
 
  • ​Check batteries yearly to ensure they are getting a full charge. (If the solar collector is opaque they may not get a full charge. Put them in an electric charger to determine whether they are still viable). If the batteries are not quality products, replace them will rechargable batteries that match the type found in your light. It may be advisable to charge them on a home charger prior to their first use. 
 
  • Make sure that batteries have ample time to charge prior to their first seasonal use.
 
  • Replace lighting when LEDs begin to illuminate at 1/2 their original lumen output after a full charge, (Please check battery viability first).

Slide Show - Click on Image for Larger View & Description

Address Plaque Lighting that Complies with USPS Regulations
 

We checked with the Plano, TX Postal Service and this is their suggested criteria for solar address plaque lamps:

  • Lights should not protrude too deeply toward the curbing. (USPS is concerned that the delivery truck might clip it when approaching the curb).

  • Lights or Solar Panels should not interfere with mailbox operation.

  • Lights should never be deeper than the mailbox lid when opened.

 

Thus, if  your column mailbox is 8" from the curb, a 4" deep light should cause little to no interference. With this in mind, our first stop for solar address plaques was to our reliable mailbox supplier: Budget Mailboxes where we found Whitehall's Solar Address Lamp. 

 

Next, we did a Google image search and located solar address plaque lighting ideas from across the internet. While we didn't discover the variety we hoped for, we did glean some ideas by expanding our search to include security lighting, fence lighting, and wall mount lights. Four companies emerged with the greatest variety, Walmart, Comfort House, Wayfair, and Amazon. We believe that during the upcoming years an even greater variety will begin to surface. Be sure to check our "Mailbox Styles" page for any new products and links we locate. We have included links and a short product description on each image. (Please click on the slideshow to access both the description and link). 

What we Wanted to See in Address Plaque Lighting but Could not Yet Find

 

With the exception of Whitehall, very few manufacturers are creating solar lamps made specifically for illuminating an existing address plaque. Rather, they are including reflective lighting numbers that attach at the bottom of a suitable (but low-powered) lamp. Since 15-bulb LED flashlights can now illuminate at 300 Lumens or more, we are anxious to see wide wedge-style lamps that utilize wide-angle LEDS designed specifically for address plaque lighting. If manufacturers would create these products (designed to illuminate downward instead of outward), there would be a huge market for them. 

 

Toward that end, we are creating a "vote for this image" gallery below. Through the magic of photo-manipulation, we have created images of what we believe are GOOD and BAD address plaque lighting products. Your vote will help us approach manufacturers with this subject.

Click on Image for Larger View & Description

Solar Address Light w/Plaque

We love the size of this address plaque light. (2" Deep by 5" wide). But 4 LED's that are NOT Wide-Angled are decidedly weak and work best by capitalizing on the reflective properties of the attached address sign.

Solar Address Lamp IMAGINED:

If this lamp were created with six wide-angle led lights, it would efficiently light up an existing address plaque - even if the address plaque did NOT have reflective qualities.

Click on Image for Larger View & Description

Solar Address Light w/Plaque

Although LED Quotations has the right idea for this address plaque light - their small solar panel will only charge three directional LED lights.

Our Suggested Revision

By increasing the size of the solar panel and utilizing two rechargeable NiMh batteries, six wide-angle, omni-directional lights ensure that both the top and bottom of an address plaque are adequately lit.

Solar Address Plaque at Wayfair

We found this nice address plaque/light combination at Wayfair; but when we went to retrieve product information it was gone. This lamp is very attractive, but has not incorporated wide-angle LEDs and a sufficiently sized solar panel. .

Slide Show - Click on Image for Larger View & Description

Column Toppers and Side-Platform Solar Lighting

 

In our last blog article we talked about dual-purpose column mailboxes. In this section we will include photos for both the dual-purpose and pillar-style column mailboxes.

 

Solar is a great way to dress up your roadside sentinel. Even solar Welcome Signs are a sure way to get conversations started in your neighborhood!

 

Since this is an industry that is obviously in transition (updating from typical LEDs to their Wide-Angle counterparts); we are anxiously awaiting the announcement of new products from the vendors we frequent. Be assurred that we will share any updated information on our "Mailbox Styles" page!

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