Newest Review: ... cost? - well, currently it can be picked up for just over £15 from amazon.co.uk. Any issues? The Sun Jar does need quite a lot of ... more
Just add Sunshine
Member Name: bollinger28
Date: 16/02/12, updated on 02/08/13 (238 review reads)
Advantages: Inexpensive and fun. Pretty light show. Good talking point with guests.
Disadvantages: Does not function well on dull days. Mostly ornamental as does not give out enough light for reading
~~~ WHAT IS A SOLAR JAR? ~~~
In case you're wondering, a solar jar is basically a solar powered lamp. During the day the jar stores energy from the sun's rays through the solar panel hidden inside the lid of the jar. When dusk arrives, the rechargeable battery sealed inside the lid automatically switches itself on and provides a really pretty light show via colour changing light-emitting diodes (LEDs). That's the science bit over and done with. Once charged, the jar continuously switches itself between shades of red, pink, green and blue, with flashes of yellow, turquoise and purple in between. It's a lovely atmospheric light and a real conversation piece for the centre of your table.
The Maplins solar jar is made from frosted glass, and the lights are therefore diffused to provide a soft, warm and glowing light show. It's fairly lightweight jar and stands about 11.5cm high. To be honest it's nothing special to look at during the day - just a plain glass jar - softly rounded in shape with a moulded glass lid.
As the solar jar can be used both indoors and outdoors, the lid is fully sealed with a rubber rim, so it's nicely weatherproof and robust. If you do leave it outdoors, then it's recommended that you wipe the top of the jar every now and then, just to keep the solar panel clean. It is not recommended that you use any solvents to clean the jar; a damp cloth will do the trick.
~~~ HOW DOES IT WORK? ~~~
As you'd imagine, a solar jar cannot function without sunlight. Once you place your jar in sunlight, the solar panel inside the jar converts the direct sunlight into electricity and stores it inside the internal rechargeable battery. Once night falls, a photo electric cell turns the lights on automatically using the stored power in the battery. The length of the night-time light show is dependent on the amount of sunlight stored in the battery. If it's a really sunny day, and your jar has sat sunbathing on the patio for about eight hours, then your night-time light show *should* last up to four, five or six hours. Unfortunately on cloudier days, your jar doesn't get to store as much sunlight, and the light show will be considerably shorter.
The jar is best placed in direct sunlight - avoiding any trees, bushes or shrubs which may cast a shadow over it. In the summer I pop mine on a table in our garden where it can receive rays from early morning right through to early evening. If you're without a garden, then you can place your solar jar on a sunny window ledge (a south facing window is best), and it will charge itself up...just a little more slowly as the glazing will slightly reduce the power of the sun's rays.
Finally, you're not supposed to place the solar jar under or near any artificial bright lights as it may confuse the night time sensor. I must admit, that I have cheated on a dull day, and given my solar jar a bit of a boost by placing it under a spotlight. I've kept the artificial light boosts to a minimum as I don't wanted to confuse my jar, and so far (touchwood) it's been fine.
~~~ GETTING STARTED ~~~
When you first receive your Maplins solar jar, you need to open the jar by removing the lid. It's a fairly tight fit with a rubber lip around the rim to keep it weatherproof, so a twisting and pulling action is required. Once you've removed the lid, you'll see an "On/Off" switch and a tiny LED battery. You need to set the switch to "On", and then place the jar in the sunniest spot you can find, leaving it to engorge itself on plenty of the yellow stuff. Once the LED battery has had a solar charge it will then light up automatically every time it detects dusk. You can then either leave the switch permanently "On" so it lights up automatically every night, or switch it to "Off" if you wish to conserve its energy (or if it's just a dull day, and you know the jar isn't going to produce much of a light show).
If you leave the solar jar switch in the "On" position, your solar jar will switch on automatically as soon as it detects dusk...(often surprising you!). The jar will then give out light until the battery runs out. A fully charged solar jar is *supposed* to provide up to six hours of light at night according to the manufacturer. However, I'd say that the most I've ever gotten out of mine is four to five hours of light, even when it's been sunbathing for eight hours plus during the day.
The light show given off by the solar jar is truly delightful, but it's a soft and glowing light. It's not a high intensity beam by any stretch of the imagination. It's not bright enough to read a book by, but it does give off a warm and welcoming glow. It shines red, pink, blue, green and then back to red in a continuous unbroken pattern. As it changes to the next colour you get brief glimpses of turquoise, purple and yellow. The jar gives off a bright emerald green and a deep sapphire blue hue - both of which are much brighter than the ruby red beam. The colours change every ten seconds or so, and the intensity of the colours is dependent on the amount of sunlight the jar has taken in during the day. In other words, your greens are greener, your blues bluer and your reds redder if the jar has had its full eight hours plus in the sun.
~~~ ANY DIFFICULTIES OR DRAWBACKS? ~~~
To be honest, these solar jars are probably better suited to a more exotic climate than ours. With our changeable UK weather, we're not going to be able to provide the jar with as much sunlight as it needs to function at its best. During winter time, your solar jar is never going to provide you with much of a light show. A Mediterranean or Caribbean sun is more likely to bring out the best in a solar jar, and it's always going to struggle to perform to par in a grey, rainy and cloudy average UK day.
Although it makes a delightful addition to your table if you're having a barbecue or party in the early evening, the light it gives out is very soft and not at all ideal for trying to do any tasks by. Similarly, I'm not so sure that it would make a good night light for a child, as it does tend to go out completely by about 2am to 3am, and your child may therefore wake up in total darkness at 4am to find his or her pretty lightshow has gone dead and Nasty Darkness is now in charge.
Unfortunately, with the Maplins model the LED battery compartment is sealed in the lid, so if it stops functioning for any reason, the battery is non replaceable, and your jar may become defunct. Similarly, Maplins state on the instructions that the life of your LED battery is not likely to progress beyond two years. So once the battery stops working, you've going to be left with a colourless and featureless jar. Other solar jar models, by companies like Suck UK, have left their rechargeable batteries unsealed so you can replace them if and when you need to.
~~~ RECOMMENDED? OH YES ~~~
As you may have gathered by now, I love my solar jar. Come the summer I shall place it in the sunniest spot I can find in the garden, so it's nicely charged up and ready to accompany me upstairs to bed later that night. I love watching the colours flickering inside the jar, especially if it's been a particularly sunny day, as the hues are just that much more intense.
When the jar suddenly lights up automatically at dusk, it's a great talking point for any visitors. It really is a lovely mood piece and it creates a delightful ambiance in whichever room it's placed in. It's small enough to be carried into any room of your house or your garden to create a lovely little light show. I've yet to try it, but it would be great to pop on a shelf in the bathroom, light a few scented candles and create a soothing background for the perfect relaxing bath (not forgetting a variety of Lush products to throw in the water too!)
It's doesn't have much practical use - granted, but it's such a very pretty thing. Highly recommended as a talking point, a mood enhancer and a fairly novel present for young or old.
~~~ PRICE AND AVAILABILITY ~~~
PO Box 34
The current cost of a solar jar is £3.99 both in store or online. If you buy it online postage and packing costs are from £2.99. Do remember to visit Maplins Electronics via a cashback site like Quidco and Top Cashback as you *should* get at least 7% cashback on any online purchases.
The jar can be viewed at http://www.maplin.co.uk/colour-changing-solar-ligh t-jar-227456
Maplins Electronics aren't the only manufacturer of solar jars: you can buy them all over the place in different formats and names. Some call theirs sun jars, others moon jars. Some only emit one colour instead of a variety of different shades. Whatever shape or colour, you can expect to pay anything between £4.00 to £20.00 for a solar jar.
~~~ TOP TIPS TO GET THE MOST FROM YOUR SUN JAR ~~~
* Can be used both indoors and outdoors
* All solar jars need as much direct sunlight as possible
* The solar jar won't work during the day, or in a lit room
* Position to face south wherever possible, avoiding overhanging branches or leaves
* Avoid placing the jar under or near bright artificial lights as it may confuse the delicate sensor inside and the light may then stay off at night
* Your solar jar will not perform as well on dull days or in winter
* UK residents should not expect their solar jars to work everyday of the year as our weather is just not kind enough!
Summary: A very pretty LED light show which costs nothing to run as it's entirely powered by solar rays