How do Solar Stepping Stones Work?
Are you looking for an elegant and economical, way to illuminate your pathway, walkway, or garden?
You should consider installing solar stepping stones.
Solar stepping stones have an integrated solar panel that collects sunlight and converts it to DC power. The solar energy is stored in a rechargeable battery and later availed to an LED for illumination at night.
Solar-powered stepping stones enhance a garden’s look by lighting it up at night. During the day, they add warmth and lift the ambiance of the space.
In this post, we'll discuss what solar stepping stones are, how they work, and how to purchase and install them.
What are Solar Stepping Stones?
Solar stepping stones are a form of exterior lighting that you can install on your garden, pathway, or walkway. As the name suggests, solar-powered stepping stones also form a walking platform that's way more functional than solid pathways.
Unlike conventional stepping stones, solar stepping stones come in a wide variety of design options and LED colors.
Additionally, solar stepping stones have no operating costs since they leverage free energy from the sun.
Components of a Solar-Powered Stepping Stones
Solar panel- Collect sunlight and convert it to DC power. The solar panel can be integrated into the solar stone's structure or detachable.
Solar rechargeable batteries- Like in a conventional solar PV system, a battery is needed to store energy produced by the solar panel. Nickel-cadmium and Nickel Metal Hydride are the most commonly used solar rechargeable batteries in solar lighted stepping stones.
LEDs- Solar stepping stones come integrated with LED lights that are powered with solar power. LEDs illuminate your pathway at night as long as the solar panel harnesses enough solar energy. The LED technology used in solar stepping stones may vary from one brand to another.
Magnifier- The magnifier disperses the light produced by the LEDs, adding to the illumination of solar stepping stones. Note that this component is not available in all solar stepping stones brands.
Photosensors – Light sensors turn on and off the LEDs automatically. Usually, the sensors turn on the LED lights at dawn and off when night strikes.
Solar Stepping Stones vs. a Solid Pathway
If outdoor projects are a new thing to you, it can be tricky to figure out what option you should go with between a stepping stone and a solid pathway.
To make the right decision, you need to know what each of these options offers.
Solar stepping stones are suitable for a pathway leading to a house. They create a soft pathway that is perfect for a front garden. Additionally, they have the advantage of LED lighting that not only illuminates but also adds a welcoming aesthetic feature to a property.
A solid pathway can be done anywhere else on your property. A solid path may look too paved, especially when installed near a house. In comparison with stepping stones, solid pathways don't make a significant visual impact; hence many homeowners prefer the latter.
Factors to Consider when Choosing Solar-Powered Stepping Stones
Solar-powered stepping stones come in a wide variety of colors. Picking the color to go with depends entirely on your preference.
You can get solar stepping stones in colors such as gray, brown, green, etc. The same case applies to the LED colors that the stepping stones come integrated with.
Shape and design
Solar-powered stepping stones are available in designs such as hexagons, circles, and squares.
The LEDs are also shaped in numerous ways (including natural themes such as flowers), so this purchase is a taste decision.
Number of LEDs
The more LEDs a stepping stone has, the more it’ll illuminate your pathway. It’s advisable to test the stepping stones before buying them to know how the number of LEDs impacts illumination.
Similar to color, solar-powered stepping stones come in various dimensions. Here, you should refer to the scope of the area you want to install the solar pavers and how you want to lay them.
Large solar stepping stones are economical and aesthetically suitable for smaller pathways, while smaller ones are perfect for extensive pathways. Here, it’s all about creating contrast.
This is the maximum weight the stepping stones can withstand. The choice here depends on the kind of foot traffic on your pathway. The support weight of good stepping stones should match the average weight that’s usually subjected to your pathway.
A stepping stone is an outdoor fitting that’s obviously exposed to harsh conditions. The build material should therefore be sturdy enough and resistant to outdoor elements. Polyresin is a perfect build material for solar stepping stones.
This is the time your solar stepping stones stay on when fully charged. A good stepping stone should have a running time of 8-12 hours.
As with any other outdoor fitting, you should get a warranty for your solar stepping stones. A 6 months’ warranty should be the least you should settle for in this purchase.
How much do solar stepping stones cost?
So many design modifications go into designing solar stepping stones so they definitely come at a higher price tag than conventional pavers.
A set of 3 good solar stepping stones with LED lights should cost you around $100.
This means that the average price of a solar stepping stone is $30-$40. You can purchase your solar stepping stones online or from a local outdoor lighting fixture store.
How to Install Solar Stepping Stones?
After selecting and actually purchasing the right solar stepping stones for your pathway, the next question that comes to your mind is:
How will I install them in the designated area?
We’ll explore this in a few, but let’s first answer this one:
Can a solar stepping stones installation be a DIY?
Solar stepping stones are straightforward to install and can be done as a DIY project.
These pavers are easy to install, and the project should take you a day or two. Since they come pre-cut and shaped, you just need to prepare the area where they’ll be installed.
The basic materials needed for this project are the following:
- Building string
- 4 garden poles
- Sand dust
- Rubber mallet
Solar stepping stones installation (A step by step process)
How to Install Solar Stepping Stones
1. String your pavement
To reference the area you want to work on, install 2 poles on each side of the pathway and string the side outlines.
2. Determine the spacing between holes and the desired pattern
3. Determine the shape and depth of the holes
Put one of the solar stepping stones where you want the paver to start and cut out the outline on the ground using the shovel.
This should sort out the hole shape factor. Measure the height of a stepping stone then add 2 inches for the base pad to the figure. Use the total as the reference depth for the holes.
4. Dig out the holes
If you have grass on your pathway, you can start by cutting out the sod, then go ahead to dig out the soil beneath with the shovel. Keep the reference depth mentioned above in mind so as not to go too deep.
5. Prepare and add the base pad to the holes
The base pad is very crucial as it provides support to the solar stepping stones. To prepare the base pad, mix stone dust and water to a batter consistency.
Add the stone dust mix to the holes up to 2 inches from the bottom. The space left after this should be enough to bring the solar stepping stones to ground level.
6. Lay the solar stepping stones on the base
Install the solar stepping stones on the base with the LED side facing up. Use the level to ensure that adjacent solar stepping stone is on the same level.
Crucially, if you’re installing solar stepping stones on a lawn or a garden that’ll need mowing at some time, ensure you leave the top surface of the solar stones on ground level.
7. Set the solar stepping stones
At this point, you’re done with the installation, and all that remains is to eliminate any air or space left beneath the stones. You should use a rubber mallet to pound the stones to ensure they’re firmly fixed and don’t rock when stepped on.
If the solar-powered stepping stones are installed near a house, you should pound them more on one side to form an incline that’ll direct rainwater away from the house.
Additional tip: If your pathway does not receive enough foot traffic, you can ask your family to have a few minutes’ strolls across the solar stepping stones to fix them firmly on the base.
Do you need to put anything between the Solar Stepping Stones?
This depends on where you installed the solar stones. If the solar pavers are done in an already established lawn, there's no need to put anything in between them.
On the other hand, a bare pathway may need some filler materials such as natural rocks to be placed between the stones.
While you’re not limited to what you can add in between solar stepping stones, you should choose a material that brings a nice contrast.
Tip: To optimally lift the ambiance of your space, install complementary garden solar lights along with the solar stepping stones.
Can you lay solar stepping stones on soil?
This is not advisable as soil alone won't provide the solar stepping stones the support they need.
If the soil profile changes over time, the solar stepping stones may start sinking when you walk on them. So, it's advisable to always have a base beneath your solar pavers.
Can solar stepping stones be installed on slopy paths?
Solar stepping stones don't work well on slopy areas. They'll either slide down when you step on them, especially during wet conditions.
It's not even safe to walk on solar stepping stones installed on slopy paths. Unless you have a very shallow slope, it's recommended to install solar stepping stones on flat surfaces.
Pros of Solar Stepping Stones
Easy to install
As evident in the installation process discussed above, nothing is complicated about installing solar stepping lights. Most equipment needed for this project is readily available in your home, and it should take you 2 days–utmost– to lay the solar stepping stones.
Makes it safer walking at night
Lighted pathways make walking at night safe and secure. As long as the integrated solar panels in your stepping stones harness enough sunlight during the day, you'll have an illuminated pathway all night long.
Needs free energy of the sun to work
Solar stepping stones leverage the sun’s energy, and you don’t need to worry about installing them near an electrical source. Note that this gives you the freedom to install them anywhere in your home.
An elegant way to illuminate your garden
No cords, wires, or cables are needed in the installation process of solar-powered stepping stones. This not only simplifies the process but also makes these pavers a neat way to illuminate your home.
No operating cost
While the initial cost of acquiring solar stepping stones may be high, they have no operating costs. Once you perfectly install the solar pavers, no more charges will be incurred.
Cons of Solar Stepping Stones
Pricier than other stepping stones
You'll definitely spend less than $30 for a piece of non-solar stepping stones. However, you won't enjoy the lighting feature as well as the wide variety of design options that come with solar stepping stones.
Limited to flat pathways
Solar stepping stones are not a safe paving option if you have a pathway with lowered and raised areas. You can do mulching in such regions or level the ground before installing the solar stepping stones.
Add Light and Ambiance to your Walkway with Solar Stepping Stones
Solar-powered lighted stepping stones are an elegant way to illuminate and revamp your pathway, garden, or walkway at night. By day, they add a beautiful accent to your garden.
Solar stepping stones may seem like a pricey investment, but the transformation they bring to your space makes them worth the money.
The fact that they don't require additional operational costs after installation makes them even more worthwhile to invest in.