When the time came to do a complete rebuild of our deck, the ruling homeowners association community guidelines regulated our possibilities, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t push the boundaries with a few enhancements.
An important upgrade for the new deck – a detail that wasn’t present on our old deck – was to add decorative post caps with a modern design.
This shouldn’t have be a problem…except…I learned that post sleeves and composite decking dominate the market for post caps. A key limitation by our homeowners association required using 4×4 cedar wood posts for the railing,
Note: A 4×4 wood posts actual measurement is 3 ½”. Post sleeves come in a wide range of sizes, none of which are 3 ½”.
After much research – which led to many dead ends – I came across the Aurora Deck Lighting brand, who offer the Zena (solar) and Saturn (12V LED) models, the focus of this article.
Finally! A company who made the post cap style and size we wanted.
Besides how each style of cap provides lighting, the Zena and Saturn models are identical in design.
- Solid cast aluminum housing.
- Powder coated finish in a variety of colors: Matte Black, Black, White, Bronze, Tan, Clay, Walnut.
- Easily mounts via 2 screws – color matched screws provided.
- 4-sided frosted plastic light window that creates a balanced diffused light.
The thin 360° white frosted window creates a vibrant illumination when natural sunlight cuts through it and when lit at night by the internal bulbs.
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At the time of our deck rebuild we still weren’t sure if we required lit post caps for our needs, so we thought to go the simplest route and try the Zena solar models. After a few weeks of analyzing the solar post caps performance, we realized our deck location doesn’t get enough direct sunlight to fully recharge the batteries; making solar lights ineffective for our application.
This left us with a conundrum. The design of the Zena solar post caps was still favored, but paying for and having a solar panel seemed pointless with the solar battery recharge issue. At this point of a laborious project, I wasn’t in the mood to address wiring for the 12V Saturn versions either.
I hoped there was a third option and contacted Aurora Deck lighting; asking if we could get the Saturn model without the lighting installed, which they happily provided at a reasonably discounted price from the models with lighting.
Perfect solution with no hassle. Thanks Aurora Deck Lighting!
Zena Solar LED Light
The Zena solar lineup of post caps have a cutout in the top panel. This allows the insertion of a solar panel and electrical pack for lighting.
**Images shown with matte black finish.
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- 2x LED bulbs provide a cool white light.
- A fitted gasket creates a proper seal between the housing and solar panel module.
- 2x AA rechargeable batteries are part of the solar panel unit for a simple and compact lighting module.
- There’s a built in light sensor that automatically turns the lights on at dusk and off at dawn.
The following negatives relate to all solar post caps, and not specific to the Aurora Deck Lighting brand.
- Several hours (roughly 6-8) of direct sunlight is crucial to charge the batteries. Fresh and fully charged batteries may last a full night (8-12 hours) for the first 5-7 days of use, but depending on the time and intensity of solar panel exposure to sun, the batteries will average more in the 3-6 hours of lit time.
- Not 100% consistent for on / off lit time between post caps. Varying sunlight exposure can leave some post caps lit – and some that are not lit.
Saturn 12V LED Light
The Saturn LED models have internal bulbs that are wired from the bottom opening; leaving a clean flat top.
The wired model has a brighter light and better control of lighting (add a light timer for full light control), compared to its solar counterpart.
**Images shown with matte black finish.
- 4x LED bulbs provide a warm white light.
- On / Off when wanted.
- No discharged batteries and unevenly lit lamp concerns.
Having 12v lighting does require extra parts, labor, and cost:
- 12V AC type transformer
- Wiring (which may not be completely hidden on solid wood posts that don’t have hollow centers like post sleeves and composite decking).