Every once in a while, products amaze even the engineers that created the design. So it is with some of our bollard lights. Outdoor site furniture should make it through precipitation, rain, and human contact—but sites have different needs for durability. Even ultra-durable products are designed for the range of normal conditions. When they’re tested in extreme circumstances, withstanding much more than intended, it is a pleasant surprise.
How long do solar lights last?
The expected use-life of solar lights depends on design, quality of materials, and manufacturing processes used. Outdoor site fixtures have to deal with UV, water, water vapor, salt, de-icing chemicals, available sunlight, graffiti, and vandalism. A solar lighting system also has to have a long-lasting battery that won’t fail after six months. Therefore, not all site fixtures are constructed with equal use-life. Some may last decades while others might not make it through a single winter.
UV resistance is important to a solar fixture, as gathering sunlight is one of its functions. Electric components need to be tamper and moisture proof, and batteries need to be operational in all weather conditions. The fixture must be made of materials that can withstand outdoor hazards. Steel is often prized in these situations, as it is strong enough to stand up to vandals and falling or blown debris. Steel, however, is rust prone. A durable solar light therefore also needs all steel surfaces to be well sealed to prevent corrosion from setting in.
The bollard lights that survived Barron River
But they were not designed to go swimming, and never tested in the pool.
In Australia, the Department of Transport and Roads chose this bollard model to illuminate a pontoon on the Barron River. Using solar was much less dangerous than trying to wire the pontoon to provide AC bollard lights.
Then, in March 2012, the Barron River experienced extreme flooding.
Floodwaters rose for three days. For many of those days, the R-9811 bollards were completely submerged.
Floating debris brought by roiling floodwaters pounded against the immersed bollards.
Even ruggedized solar bollards are not intended to go underwater. All of this bollard line, including the bike rack and flanged options, are built to be water-resistant for extreme weather—but that’s different than full submersion. Battery packs are designed to vent, so that moisture does not build up.
Yet after examining how the bollards survived, the engineers saw how seals around the bollard had protected them, and used this information to upgrade the design on future builds.
We still don’t recommend using R-9811s underwater, but they are certainly more water tolerant than most.
Bollard lights built to last
The R-9811 bollard made it through the flood because it checks all the boxes for site furniture longevity. Coated steel with tamper-resistant bolts create a strong housing. Polycarbonate UV protected solar panels, sealed in the cap, are unphased by sun or weather. The Barron River bollards were also finished with a corrosion-resistant powder coat.
These solar bollards are also built with an onboard smart system. This computer technology monitors solar insolation—the number of hours the bollard is getting light—and adjusts its lumen output to match stored energy reserves. After all, it is not just the material of the bollard that should withstand the challenges of its environment. A bollard light is installed to provide a function. It’s this function that people rely on: the safety of illumination along pathways in the dark.
The evolution of finishes
A very recent innovation in outdoor finishes has led to the invention of IronArmor, a coating process that adds additional longevity to the bollard’s finish. Powder coat has a much longer use-life than paint, but like paint it can begin to fade after years outside, in a process called chalking. The ability of the resins to accept pigment also means powder coat can be stained by ink graffiti.
Developments in materials science have produced a new sealant without the resin base common to both paint and powder coating. This base is less porous, making it even more resistant to salt, graffiti, water, and other outdoor hazards. It is also environmentally friendly: it releases no VOC (volatile organic compounds) and is water-safe. If your bollard takes an unadvised swim, there’s no danger to the water.
Creating value for the site and for the surroundings
Often there is greater upfront cost when buying durable, high-quality furnishings. Over the course of their use life quality often leads to savings both for the site and for the environment.
Tough furnishings with tough coatings require less maintenance. They do not to be replaced due to wear as often. Vandalism proof and graffiti resistant design minimizes the costs incurred due to mischief, especially full replacement value. Similarly, the ability to withstand the rigors of the environment means a much lower lifetime replacement cost.
The reduction in replacement reduces the strain on the environment, creating less waste. The R-9811 series is also designed to be full-cut off lighting. This design protects against glare and up-light and minimizes light pollution. Neutral, warm, or turtle-protective light temperatures can be chosen. Warm and turtle-protective light temperatures reduce the blue light that may interrupt circadian rhythms.
Solar lights save on install costs since they require no trenching or electrical grids. As with the pontoon on Barron River, solar can be installed in places where electrical work would be expensive to do correctly, without danger. An 8–10-year battery life also ensures less expense and waste in battery replacement, which can be a challenge for more inexpensive solar options.
Reach out to us if you have any further questions about these tough bollard lights!