If you are in the process of choosing a lighting system for your dock, pier, or waterfront, knowing as much as possible about your options can make all the difference. In addition to all of the technical factors such as available power options, installation methods, and application design (where you will place the light), you will also want to consider the look or style of the system.

Whether you are intending to deploy your lighting system for decorative or functional purposes, or a combination of both, you will want to consider the type of light and its ideal usage. An Ideal system will give you:

• Adequate light at night
• A stylish or unobtrusive design
• Ease of operation


At the outset of the process of assembling a lighting system for your waterfront you will have to determine whether or not you want a wired system or a solar powered one. The wired systems that are available are powered by an 110v AC system that either will be plugged into an existing circuit or will require you to have one installed.

The solar lighting option has many features that make it a very attractive choice; all of which can be summed up in a word, versatility. Solar dock lights:

• Can be placed in almost any location and provide lighting for docks, waterways and landscaping features.
• Are less expensive to install and operate.
• If the light is placed in direct sunlight throughout the day it will fully charge, providing lighting throughout the night.
• Tend to be self activating.
Guaranteeing that your solar deck lights receive adequate light from the sun is probably the primary consideration you will need to make during placement; this will ensure adequate charging and proper operation when you need the lights to work.


Outdoor solar lights are designed to automatically turn on when the light gets low and many of the designs utilize advanced microprocessors to detect the amount of light occurring naturally and thus turning off the LED lights, saving energy and extending the life of the batteries that store the solar energy. When thinking about getting a solar system for your property or waterfront, it is best to go with a system that is;

• Designed for marine applications.
• Not a standard lawn and garden variety of solar light. This type of light is not intended for excessive exposure to moisture and may fail.
• Constructed out of quality materials, such as high end plastics, anodized aluminum, etc.; emphasizing a waterproof design. Look for materials that have been selected due to their high resistance and durability in high moisture environments found along waterways.

Getting a wired system in place, especially along waterways and docks can be problematic and expensive, especially if you have difficult terrain or need a Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) installed. Wired systems, as they draw their electricity from the grid, and thus your power source, will be an addition to your waterfront that will permanently increase your energy expense.

The benefits of wired systems are:

• Adequate light as long as the power is available.
• Will work regardless of weather.

The downside:

• Expense of installation and usage
• Low efficiency
• Higher level of danger associated with the combination of water and electricity
• Possible landscape hindrances
• Potential community restrictions

Wired systems, when installed along waterways and docks, can induce stray current into the environment, which may not only be dangerous but could affect the corrosion resistance of your lift structure, boat hull, and dock supports. Finally, as this type of system is wired to the grid, you will lose the lights when the power fails, a factor that works in favor of the solar option.

Other factors to consider:

• Your insurance rate. A lighting system brings safety to your property and therefore makes passing by or through your property less hazardous for you and your neighbors, especially if you use some of your lighting to outline safe passage past your waterfront features; lifts, docks, etc.
• Local and regional requirements. You may find that you community or county has specific requirements for wired and solar lighting installations; it is best to check before purchasing.

In this introductory article we have outlined the basics of the marine lighting options available and some of the primary factors that will affect your choice. In related articles, we will discuss in detail, the various styles of light available and their specific application.



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