Question: I need outdoor accent and security lights, but I do not want to run any wiring because of walkways and damage to my gardens. Have solar yard lights improved to the point where they are usable?
Answer: Solar-powered lights are a perfect match with your needs. With no wiring, you will not have to tear up your landscaping. Trying to get even a low-voltage wire under or around walkways can be a hassle.
Many styles of the new solar-powered accent and security lights have gone contemporary. For versatility, select ones that can be mounted either on a post or against a wall. With advances in solar cell technology, the smaller solar cells are better integrated into the design and hidden.
If you've tried older solar lights and were perhaps dissatisfied, you will be surprised at the light output, styles and features of the new ones. The old dim incandescent bulbs have been replaced with high-tech bright LEDs (light-emitting diode), fluorescent and halogen bulbs.
Although not for your garden, the newest designs are solar-powered street number lights. I use a solar mailbox with my lighted street number on the side. There are also separate street number models with 4-inch numerals.
These not only ensure that the pizza delivery person finds your house before the pizza gets cold, but it enhances security. If you ever make a 911 call, the life squad or fire department can find your house immediately. Finding the house quickly can make a difference between life and death.
Solar-powered lights that use LED bulbs provide the most efficient and most hours of light at night. After a sunny day, eight to 10 hours of light is possible the following night. LEDs are most effective for accent lighting and marking pathways. You would not be able to read by one.
The brightest solar-powered lights use fluorescent bulbs. These actually produce some usable light. They use four- or five-watt bulbs. This may not sound like much, but at night it is quite bright. The fluorescent bulbs, such as LEDs, last a very long time.
For combination security and landscaping lighting, select an LED/halogen model. At dusk, the electric eye automatically switches on an accent amber LED. When motion is detected within 20 feet, a bright halogen bulb comes on for three minutes to scare away unwanted guests.
Security-only very bright solar lights are also effective. These typically use small remote solar panels so that the light itself can be located in a shady area, such as under a roof overhang. Solar flashlights and bright lanterns with emergency flashers are great for camping or in your car.
Write for (or instantly download http://www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 756, a buyer's guide to new high-tech solar-powered accent, security and specialty lights, styles, maximum on-times, bulb types and prices. Please include $3 and a business-size self-addressed stamped envelope and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.
Replace Microwave Rather Than Repair
Q: I have an older microwave oven and it has started getting noisier lately. It sounds like a fan or motor. Should I have the microwave repaired or just buy a new one? This one still works.
A: What you are probably hearing in an older microwave (I still have a 25-year-old one in my office) is a rotating device in the top of the oven. It is used to distribute the microwave energy more evenly inside.
You are probably better off just buying a new one. The prices have dropped so much that it would most likely cost more to repair the old one. The newer one, although more lightweight, will have more power and features.
ames Dulley has written a new 224-page book, "Affordable Efficient Houses," which includes 235 floor plan layouts and exterior diagrams and 195 house manufacturers. Included in the nine chapters are: timber-framed, geodesic dome, modular, circular, log, steel-framed, panelized, post and beam, and cedar houses. You can order this book for $14.95 (includes delivery) with check payable to James Dulley. Mail to James Dulley, Houses, P.O. Box 54987, Cincinnati, OH 45254 or visit http://www.dulley.com/houses.htm.