Types of Modern Solar Lights: Uses, Benefits and Guide
Solar lights are the new breakthrough in technology. Cost-efficient and used for both indoor and outdoor lighting purposes, they are a new and advanced technology which cannot be even compared to the conventional methods of lighting—bringing a lot of benefits to the table.
If you think of solar-powered lights as ones that utilize the basic mechanism of converting solar energy into electricity to power the lights, there is a lot more knowledge behind this. In today’s guide, we will help you understand:
- Everything that defines solar LED lights technology and how it works.
- The benefits of using solar lights compared to conventional lights.
- The concrete uses and benefits of solar lights in different scenarios.
- The classification of solar lights, when and what they are called and where/when they are used (as well as their benefits).
- The best solar light products and useful buying guides.
In a nutshell, you have a chance to learn all the important things that you need to know about solar-powered lights, the best solar lights out there, the average and the value for money on the most popular products. So, let’s begin.
How does solar work and the benefits of solar lighting
As we have already hinted, the main principle of how solar lighting works is very simple. These lights collect solar energy and transform it into lighting—through a technology called the photovoltaic effect which is used in a solar panel. This effect collects solar energy throughout the day and stores it in a rechargeable gel-cell battery that can be used later in the evening when there is no sunlight.
Solar LED lights can be installed in many different areas. They offer amazing environmental benefits and can burnish a building owner’s green credentials, serve as a unique selling point for attracting and retaining tenants and help buildings or retrofits to quality as LEED points.
Basically, the benefits of solar lighting are numerous.These lights are great because they are.
- Environmentally friendly: Using solar lights plays a major role in reducing the global carbon footprint that is a problem nowadays—created from non-renewable energy sources. Solar LED lights utilize a technology that is renewable which decreases the problems caused by the exhaustion of our planet’s resources.
- Unlimited energy: Whether you use yours as solar yard lights or one solar lamp in the middle of your living room, another great thing for going solar is the fact that it is an unlimited source and inexhaustible by itself. As long as you live in a place where there is sunlight, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t use solar lights the entire time and produce energy out of them.
- Cost-effectiveness: The biggest advantage of solar lighting is its cost. Even though they usually include a higher upfront cost, the best solar lights pay for themselves over time—best seen through the fact that they don’t use any electricity but the sunlight.
- Little maintenance: Easy to be maintained, the solar light products only require a few check-ups and cleaning throughout the year. There is literally nothing else much that you have to do to ensure their longevity.
- Wide variety of styles: There are numerous styles, shapes, sizes, and types of solar lighting. All of them were designed to be aesthetically and visually pleasing. The entire range of solar motion light is great and there are literally tons of products that can fit your style and needs.
Speaking of, there are so many solar lights for sale from different vendors and companies. Even though they seem almost identical, there are different types of solar lights. We are listing them below.
The two main types of solar lights
If you thought that solar lights come in one form and a couple of uses, you are not the only one. However, you should know that as technology evolved, solar lighting systems also evolved—with two main types.
Solar lighting can be installed in different areas. From homes to parking lots, sensitive areas and remote locations where no grid infrastructure exists, it removes the costs of trenching and wiring which is why it is considered as the cheapest solution in numerous cases.
The two main types of solar lights are:
Now, the classification around solar LED lights can be branched out to even more types. Home lights, yard lights, street lights, solar-powered lights for parking lots and garden lights are just some of the examples.
Below, we are listing the examples of different solar light bulb types for different applications—as well as their indoor and outdoor uses.
Outdoor solar lights
The outdoor solar light market is very popular nowadays. These products can be very useful when it comes to anything from lighting garden paths during the night or decoration for the home, backyard or terrace.
As many of you already know, solar LED lights charge up when the sun is shining. Therefore, the outdoor lights receive a lot of sun energy, storing it for later use and resulting in brighter lights. When they are fully charged, some solar lights can last up to 10 hours.
Solar garden lights
The first category in this list is solar garden lights. Solar gardens are a hot topic nowadays, and the best solar garden lights are usually products that can be placed to light up the porch, terrace or create a great environment around the grass fields, trees and flowers.
These outside LED garden lights are very effective when it comes to saving on the electricity bill. They can make a garden completely lit even at night. Perfect to use in any environment, there is a variety of models which you can consider.
We are featuring the best solar garden lights below.
#1: Solar string lights
Solar string lights are energy-efficient and help with any decorative attempts. They can illuminate the outdoor space at home or work, and can also be used indoors. They are easily wrappable around trees which gives them an extra benefit. You can also position them in branches, shrubbery, furniture, and home and office signs.
Since they are positioned on a string, they can be perfectly used as solar Christmas lights or solar fairy lights. Perfect for special occasions, the decorative solar garden lights can also be hung from one end of the backyard to the other, in any pattern of your choice. Aside from these, their most popular use is as solar tree lights.
Also known as solar patio lights, these solar LED lights come in a variety of styles and choices. They give the perfect ambiance to stairs, walls, siding and patios, creating a rich and vibrant effect.
There are lots of solar-powered deck lights from popular manufacturers—allowing homeowners to gain a gorgeous and soft glow without any wiring. Knowing that wires do not look good on stairs and walls, this type of lighting is the perfect type of fixtures for long-lasting solar LED technology.
In short, the solar-powered patio lights and deck lights can help you make the most of your decking, especially in summer nights. They will improve visibility and create great effects.
#3: Solar spot lights
In times when the popularity of the solar industry is at its peak, new advancements have brought solar spot lights to life. They are perfect for placing on any walls or high areas (spots) which is how they got their name.
Designed to illuminate larger outdoor areas, these types of solar LED lights use solar energy and can be placed on any corner, above the doors and every focal point of the outdoor area. To make sure that you are getting the brightest solar spot lights, consider the lumens measure as the main indicator for the strength of the lights.
#4: Solar post lights
According to many design experts, solar post lights come in a variety of styles. As you probably know, post lighting can truly make the difference for safety—and lighten your garden in style. Also, this type of solar-powered lights is known for creating a more relaxing and useful atmosphere for entertaining.
Every homeowner can consider solar-powered patio lights and be creative. The truth is, new solar post lights can be just as beautiful as traditional electric lights—priced reasonably and providing optimal energy-saving benefits.
Apart from serving as decoration, solar post lights are the most environmentally friendly way to light up your pathway, driveway and garden. They are known for providing beautiful effects and a relaxing vibe to any outdoor environment.
#5: Solar flood lights
Outdoor solar spot lights known as flood lights are perfect for illuminating certain areas and floods. This is obviously the most important aspect because based on that area you need to choose the right LED flood light type, level of brightness as well as the durability of light. There are lots of places that can be illuminated with a flood light and many manufacturers are trying to make LED solar spot lights suitable to different situations and areas.
Some of the most common outdoor cases include the front door, around the house, the backyard and garden (and around them) areas, parking lots, driveways, streets and in general, places without electricity.
#6: Solar fence lights
Solar-powered lighting finds another great use in the solar fence lights. Their name obviously comes from the fact that they are used on the fence. Also known as garden fence solar lights, these create a wonderful atmosphere which is visible from both inside and outside of the backyard.
So, whether you want to impress your neighbors and increase your curb appeal or just want your fence area illuminated, solar fence lights are the perfect way to do so. There are a lot of different designs and styles to choose from, which is another great selling point of these lights.
#7: Solar lanterns
Solar lanterns are a popular type of solar lights. There are in fact many different sub-categories of this type including hanging solar lights, solar garden lanterns, etc. A solar LED lantern can be great not only for use in the home but for camping activities as well. In times when camping equipment needs an update, outdoor solar lanterns are the perfect answer.
Compact and portable, these solar garden lanterns are perfect for use in the backyard. They can come in the form as hanging solar-powered lights, providing light in all the remote places where you need them.
#8: Solar wall lights
Besides being a green option, solar wall lights equal free electricity which is why they are great for the outdoor areas. A solar wall light is not only an important piece of equipment for your outdoor use—it can also be invaluable in emergency situations.
When searching for the best solar exterior lights, you should make sure to look for the brightest possible models and products which are reliable and made of top-quality. Once you put them on the wall, your solar exterior lights should make most of the free energy.
#9: Solar driveway lights
The driveway is often a place where lights are needed—but homeowners don’t actually care for putting ones around it. This is mostly because of the fact that standard lights need wires or batteries and can be an additional cost in the electricity bill.
All of these reasons make solar driveway lights perfect in every option. They are reliable, provide the light you need when parking your car and give you the bright path that you need from your vehicle to your door. There are literally thousands of different models—and solar LED lights are proven to be one of the best additions to the driveway.
#10: Solar walkway lights
Also known as solar path lights, these can create the perfect ambiance for your guests and yourself, illuminating your walkway and making sure that your outdoor area is not dark or scary. They are cost-efficient, easy to install and attractive—but also shockingly bright when compared to traditional wired options.
Still, with so many options on the market, it is tough to choose the best path lights for your outdoor area. This is why you should carefully evaluate your needs and consider their design as a priority.
#11: Solar porch lights
A solar-powered porch light can come in many shapes and forms. Aside from modern solar lights, these cheap solar lights can come in a vintage form. You can illuminate your porch using solar power and save energy and cost. Affordable and reliable, these porch lights are an inexpensive way to provide bright illumination.
If you are looking for solar lights for house use and want the brightest porch lights on the market, look no further as these solar-powered LED lights have everything you need. And if you are looking for the absolute best model for outdoor use, consider choosing a waterproof porch light and carelessly mount it in your walls.
#12: Solar step lights
Slim and featuring the very best of solar LED technology, the solar step lights are a stylish addition to the home. They add a sufficient amount of lighting and are very modern, which is why they are a popular choice for many homeowners. Also, they are easy to install and eco-friendly, coming with a built-in solar panel.
You can use them as pathway lights or place them anywhere in your garden or patio. In times when deck lighting needs a bright new upgrade, the LED deck lights are a perfect way to ramp up your outdoor area and get a perfectly illuminated garden or landscape.
#13: Solar candles
Outdoor solar candles can be the best replacement to the traditional flame lights. While candles are romantic and nice, they can tip and cause a disaster, spill hot wax or tempt a tiny child to injure themselves. This is why flameless solar candles are seen as their perfect alternative.
All of the aforementioned are reasons why solar candles are the next wave of outdoor lights. They can provide a house with the aura and comfort of a candle without the safety concerns which come along with a normal burning candle.
#14: Solar pond lights
With no AC or DC power needed at all, solar pond lights and solar pool lights bring a new revolution in lighting. Charged by sunlight, they will continuously light up during the night and submerge the garden and pool in beautiful colors.
The best thing about solar pool lights, for example, is that they eliminate any wiring or electricity inside the water, going on and off completely because of their exposure to direct sunlight. Every one of the solar pond lights is adjustable by 90 degrees in the base and is heavy enough to stay within the ground of a pool or pond.
#15: Solar umbrella lights
The concept of solar umbrella lights is a revolutionary one because of the actual placement of the lights. Embedded into the umbrella, these LED lights are positioned well and allow you to use the umbrella not only for shade during the day—but also for illumination during the night.
With the best solar umbrella lights, you can light up your porch, patio, decks, balcony and/or gazebo when it gets dark. Perfect for outdoor dining, barbecues and pool parties, they are cordless and hence ideal for outdoor use. Some of the advanced models are also waterproof and can be mounted by using the clamp on the light, producing a soft and warm glow which is far from the harsh and bright light that attracts insects and is unpleasant to look at.
#16: Solar lawn lights
There are a lot of types of solar lawn lights out there on the market. These include solar LED lights being used in different parts of the lawn. For example, there are solar flower lights, angel solar lights, solar mushroom lights, solar ball lights and many other options.
Generally speaking, these solar lights can be very useful for residential homes and commercial properties. Not only they add style—the solar rock lights can actually create the perfect ambiance at hosted events and give a presentation which wards off many dangerous threats.
Affordable, eco-friendly, safe and versatile, these lights present a new technology which is becoming more and more popular in outdoor areas throughout the world.
#17: Solar street lights
Solar-powered street lights are usually independent of the utility grid, which can make them affordable and completely wireless. Without any connection to an electricity provider, an all-in-one solar street light can be the perfect way to save on electricity and be used by neighborhoods, communities, and cities.
An integrated solar street light features panels which are solely dependent on the sun, hence eliminating the carbon footprints contribution. Some part of the solar street lighting can be easily carried to remote areas making them more efficient and handy for potential lighting problems.
The only requirement for solar-powered street lights to work is a relatively higher initial investment (compared to conventional street lights). This, at the same time, is the main reason why most people and authorities are having second thoughts about switching to solar street lights.
#18: Solar parking lot lights
Solar LED parking lot lighting is one of the most efficient ways to provide lighting to parking areas without the need for standard electricity and utility power. The solar parking lot lights are products of a system which provides no electric bills for the lifetime of the system. Installed in many businesses and industrial facilities, the solar LED parking lot lights provide security, sustainability and an eco-friendly image for the business.
Every self-contained solar parking lot light features its own solar panel array, an optional aluminum panel pan, control electronics and welded power bracket to bolt to a pole or wall (depending on their specific use).
#19: Solar sign lights
Solar sign lights may have not crossed your mind, but are a useful addition to any illuminated sign and something that is used all around the world. They can come in the form of solar-powered street signs, solar-powered traffic signs or signs which advertise a specific business.
They come in different sizes and in different brightness levels, perfect for signs in different locations. With systems suitable for any sized sign (externally or internally lit), solar sign lights are a one-off investment without any recurring cost in the form of monthly electricity bills.
#20: Solar traffic lights
Solar-powered traffic lights are a new revolution in traffic signaling. Powered by solar panels which are positioned in road intersections, they are efficient and automatically control the flow of traffic without actual electricity being used.
A lot of cities and states have embraced solar traffic lights because they are more reliable and offer more advantages over other lighting devices such as CFL lamps. They are more energy-efficient, have a longer life span and turn on and off quickly.
The use of solar-powered traffic lights is especially important during periods following natural disasters where the street lights may not function due to power outages. In such situations, solar traffic lights help regulate traffic in an efficient way.
#21: Solar emergency lights
Solar emergency lights are perfect for emergency cases which result in power outages. They are bright, have the power to illuminate different areas and often come with an in-built power bank that charges your devices. This makes them an additional source of electricity too and gives them use in outdoor situations.
If you are tired of regular power cuts or want to go on a nighttime adventure and take some light with you, you need a strong and sturdy lantern. The solar emergency lights can be perfect in cases like these, bringing an array of benefits that you will love. The new generation of solar lights can be used all year round and even in cold temperatures.
#22: Solar camping lights
The concept of a solar camping lantern has been embraced by many campers and outdoor enthusiasts all over the world. The ideal features you should consider when searching for the best solar-powered camping lights include brightness, long-lasting, quick charging and mobile charging features too.
Featuring both ambient light and bright illumination, there are many products based on the collapsible solar light model—perfect for bringing self-rechargeable light in remote outdoor areas.
Indoor solar lights
Just like the outdoor models we have reviewed above, indoor solar lights also come in many different types and offer different features. The general rune to know when it comes to these solar LED lights is that they can be only used indoors and are typically connected to solar panels which are located on the top of the building.
Perfect for use as alternate power sources but also main power sources, these solar lights offer a lot of fruitful benefits. Below are the two main types of indoor solar lights.
#23: Solar shed lights
Solar lighting for sheds is something every homeowner should consider. You can position the solar shed lights in any location you want, making sure that there are enough LEDs, lumens and luxes to illuminate your shed.
The main benefit of solar shed lights is the fact that sheds are typically far from the house or other power sources—and most homeowners don’t want to add them to their utility bills. In an ideal scenario, a solar shed light would be connected to a motion sensor so that it lights up every time you enter the shed. This can be useful and can help you prevent any bumps on your head or unnecessary reaches for the power switch.
#24: Solar desk lamps
Solar energy can even be used on your desk—in the form of solar desk lamps which are completely flexible and remote accessories that you can bring everywhere with you. Because of its “no-cords” design, you can use a solar desk lamp on your desk, in your bed, in the kitchen at night or wherever you need it.
Also known as a solar table lamp, the concept of this lamp is simple—to give you enough light for your working or reading areas while not bothering other people in the room or house. Self-charging (in a quick time) and energy-efficient, it is definitely a gadget every late worker should have.
A step-by-step solar lights buying guide
Now that you know all of the models of solar-powered LED lights, it’s time to see which ones you need most.
The first thing you need to do is analyze your site or area where you want to put a solar lighting system.
Step 1: Analysis of the site
As we hinted above, the first thing in our solar light buying guide is the location where you want the best solar lights installed.
If you are looking for indoor solar lights, you should know that you can use them on every wall or as accessories on your desk. However, they must have a charging base which will be directly exposed to sunlight.
This is why for indoor locations, solar lights are usually linked to solar panels located on the top of the property (house or building).
For outdoor locations, solar-powered lights can be used for security, access, more illumination and comfort. You can use them in the patio, around the pool, in your driveway, walkway or even under your umbrella, as reviewed in the list of best outdoor solar lights above.
Step 2: Analysis of your needs
Once you have found the right solar lights for every area in and out of your home or business, it is time to see what your needs are.
This is important because most of the solar lights are different in terms of their features (illumination, lux, design, etc.). For example, if you want the brightest solar lighting system for your shed—you may not want the brightest one for your walkway (it would be too aggressive).
This is why you should carefully look and consider buying the best solar lights for every area and needs.
- 100 Lumens is considered bright enough for most walkways including commercial properties—equivalent to about 20 watts.
- 50 Lumens is considered generally sufficient to add dimension, color and interest in your backyard, walkway, driveway, fence and other locations.
- 75 Lumens is the ideal light for gathering—not too bright and not too dim for your occasions.
Step 3: Finding the best quality solar lights
Last but not least is the step on finding the best solar lights at the best prices.
You should know that nowadays, there are tons of manufacturers, wholesale distributors and shops that sell solar-powered lights. Whether you choose a Chinese solar lights manufacturer or want to buy solar lights directly from a shop near your location, make sure that there is a warranty and that the products are as good as promised.
If you are searching for the best solar LED lights online, make sure to only buy from manufacturers and distributors that have real and positive user reviews.
From solar-powered security lights to solar ambient lights, these lights present a new revolution in the world. They are more and more popular among the masses and get people the most light for their money.
And while the initial investment for solar panel lights may be a bit bigger than you expect it, using solar LED bulbs is an investment that pays for itself over time and gives you continuous electricity bill savings for years to come.
We hope this guide helped you understand the concept of solar lights and showed you their most common uses inside and outside of a property! comment
Common Reasons Why Solar Lights Stop Working (Ways to Fix!)
Do you have some solar lights that went out and wondering what the problem could be? You’ll find this article helpful. While solar lights are resistant to the ever-changing weather, they can encounter issues or run into some trouble, which is common to many users. But that doesn’t mean their functionality is entirely dead.
Here we’ve identified some of the major reasons your solar lights suddenly stopped working and tips to get them back up and working.
Why solar lights stop working
Solar lights are known to be resilient by design, providing reliable lighting in a variety of outdoor conditions. They are put outside under a sturdy element to withstand various weather conditions. As a result, today, they are fast becoming an alternative lighting mechanism in offices, homes, and even cars!
Unlike other fuel lamps, solar lights are quite beneficial. They are cost-friendly and don’t pollute the environment. In short, they are an incredibly amazing source of energy. But what could be the cause of them not working?
The following could be some of the reasons:
They are not receiving enough sunlight
If you place your solar lights in the shade or a covered area, the chance of them working is minimal because they won’t receive sufficient sunlight. While you don’t have to place solar lamps into the direct sun to function, they need a reasonable amount of light to be fully charged.
Outdoor solar lights usually charge their batteries within six hours of direct sunlight every day, depending on the sun intensity, type of solar panel, and battery. However, if your house or trees envelop the solar panels in the dark, especially during afternoon hours, they won’t get quite enough sunlight, and they might not turn on all night long.
Batteries’ lifespan has come to an end
“In most cases, solar-powered lights stop working when a battery is dead, so you might want to take a look and see whether they are worn out or too old. While there are long-lasting batteries like Nickel Metal Hydride batteries (NiMH), they also drop in performance as time goes.
Batteries that are worn out may start to erode, resulting in acid leakage, and this could cause permanent damage to the solar lamp’s electrical components. These batteries also cannot hold an adequate charge to light up solar lamps, and if they can, not for so long. Therefore, if dead batteries are the culprit of your solar lights not working, you need to replace them.
Solar lights have a faulty sensor
A sensor reacts to darkness allowing the solar light to go off during the day and turn on at night. But none of this will happen with an ineffective sensor unless you do it manually by bypassing the sensors, and you probably don’t have all the time for that.
If the solar light has a faulty sensor, it won’t differentiate between day and night. But how can you tell if this is the cause of your solar lights not working? You can check during the nighttime by covering the sensor with your hand or cloth, and if it brings to light, it is working perfectly fine. On the contrary, it will show no light if it is defective.
The solar panels are covered with dirt
Earlier we mentioned that inadequate sunlight could be why your solar lights are not working, but dirty panels are also a hindrance. A layer of dust or dirt on a solar panel prevents it from absorbing sunlight, and the little that gets in may not charge the batteries properly.
The dust could even get so thick that no sunlight reaches the panels, and as a result, the batteries will not charge at all. Before you assume the batteries are dead, ensure the panels are clean and sunlight can pass through. If fallen tree leaves are on the solar panel, clear them off as they can completely block the sun rays.
Water buildup in the panels
Even though solar lights are water and weather resistant, sometimes residue or water may build up inside the light fixture, damaging internal wiring and circuitry. To check if the solar light fixture is filled with water, you can detach the panel head from either the wall, post, or pier mount.
Wondering how water could leak through the panel? If you have used the solar lights for quite some time, the sealant tends to get older, thus becoming less effective, and that’s how water gets inside the panel.
The proximity to other light sources is too close
Solar lights are equipped with a light sensor that detects any light, including artificial ones. So, if other sources of lights such as house/garage lights, street lights, and neighbor lights are shining towards your solar lamps, it could be the cause of them not working properly.
To find out if this is the issue, check your solar panels’ location to see whether there is another source of light close to it.
How to fix solar lights that won’t turn on
When your solar lights were brand new, they seemed like a great idea. Installation was a breeze, and you can easily move them around the yard since they are not connected to an electrical cord. However, you might not feel the same once you start experiencing a few quirks along the way. You’ll probably find them less reliable, but the good news is that there is a fix even for the biggest problem your solar lights have presented.
Now that you know the possible cause of your solar lights not working let’s take a look at ways to fix them so they can start functioning well again.
Place the solar lights where they can receive sufficient sunlight
Your solar panels will not absorb enough sunlight to recharge the batteries if they are in a shaded area. You need to relocate them to somewhere where they can receive direct sunlight for a couple of hours. In case there is an overgrowth of grass or bush surrounding the solar lamp, you can go with the option of trimming it short. Ensure that there is no shading on the solar panels. By doing this, the solar lights will get enough sun for the batteries to remain fully recharged.
Replace the batteries
Batteries are essential components in solar lights, and you need to replace them after approximately three years. Mostly, users forget to check until solar lights are no longer working due to old batteries.
How long have you used your current batteries? If it’s beyond three years, replace them with more modern products like NiMH and Li-ion batteries. They’re great batteries, and they will serve you for several years before they lose their charging ability.
Change the sensor
If your solar light sensor is faulty, you can always replace it as long as the rest of the lamp is in good condition. The good thing is that some manufacturers offer replacements, so you can reach out to the manufacturer of your solar lights to repair the sensors. This solution is not only cost-effective but also a simple fix for your solar light to back up and start performing.
Regularly clean the solar panels
After installing solar lights, you need to ensure the panels are always clean as they tend to get dirty with time. Dust or any debris on the panels reduces the lighting time and the charging process, and that’s why it’s a great idea to clean them now and then. You can use a hose and soapy water, which is the most effective way. A clean solar panel can more effectively convert sunlight into electricity to charge the batteries. Not to mention, your home will become more beautiful.
Ensure there is no water inside the solar lamp
Although outdoor solar lights are built to withstand water and rain, they can be overwhelmed, especially during heavy rains, and end up not functioning. If the solar light is filled with water, disassemble it as needed and dry off all the accessories, paying close attention to the sensor. After thoroughly doing that, carefully put it back together, and test the solar light in a dark room to see if it will work. If it does, water was the cause of the damage.
Relocate your solar light away from other light sources
Do you have another artificial light next to your solar lamp? This could be the cause of failure. Switch the lamp to a different area and see if that fixes your problem. Place where it can receive adequate sunlight during the day and no intervention from other lights at night.
Solar lights are environment-friendly, cost-effective, and a great way to light up your backyard or garden. Nevertheless, a couple of reasons can cause them to stop working, including dead batteries and dirty solar panels.
This article contains excellent information about how solar lights work, and we’re sure you’ll find it useful. If yours is not functioning, you now know what could have caused the problem and how to fix it.
How Do Solar Lights Work? Types, Uses, and Environmental Impacts
Discover your solar lighting options and which products are designed to last.
- Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
- University of California, Santa Cruz
- Western New Mexico University
Autumn is an independent journalist and educator who writes about climate, wildlife, biodiversity, and environmental justice and policy.
Olivia Young is a writer, fact checker, and green living expert passionate about tiny living, climate advocacy, and all things nature. She holds a degree in Journalism from Ohio University.
Solar lights absorb the sun’s energy during the day and store it in a battery that can generate light once darkness falls. Like solar panels used to generate electricity, solar lights use photovoltaic technology. They can be used for a variety of indoor and outdoor purposes, from lighting streets to illuminating homes and gardens, and are particularly useful in places and circumstances where it isn’t possible to connect to a central power grid.
How Solar Lighting Works
Solar lights use photovoltaic (PV) cells, which absorb the sun’s energy and create an electrical charge that moves through the panel. Wires from the solar cell connect to the battery, which converts and stores the power as chemical energy until it’s needed.
The battery later uses that energy to power an LED (light-emitting diode) bulb. The diode is a semiconductor that allows electrons to pass between its two points, creating electromagnetic energy in the form of light during hours of darkness.
LED technology generates light up to 90% more efficiently than incandescent and fluorescent lighting, making it ideal for solar lighting systems. Rather than burning out like a traditional light bulb, LED bulbs simply dim over time. But their typical lifetime is far longer than a traditional bulb: tens of thousands of hours versus the 1,000 hours of an incandescent bulb, or 3,000 hours for a halogen bulb.
Types and Uses of Solar Lighting
Solar lighting sales have taken off in response to the global demand for less carbon-intensive energy sources and as a strategy for increasing energy resilience in the face of extreme weather and other natural disasters that leave centralized power systems vulnerable. It is also helping to meet the energy needs of developing regions where connection to a centralized electricity grid is difficult or impossible.
Solar lighting provides cheap, attractive, low-maintenance illumination for homes, businesses, and public infrastructure while reducing the environmental impact. When we think about solar lighting, there are two broad categories: indoor and outdoor solar lights. Here are a few of the many solar lighting uses.
Street and Parking Lights
Investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other sustainable planning approaches have led to Rapid growth in solar street lighting for towns and cities.
Solar-powered lamps provide cities with a cheap way to illuminate streets, sidewalks, and parking lots, creating better safety for pedestrians and drivers alike. They typically include a lamp post and fixture powered by a small solar panel array attached to the post. This makes each lamp self-contained and able to generate carbon-free electricity without requiring connection to a central grid and has the added benefit of reducing overall installation costs.
Solar-powered traffic lights are not only economical; they can save lives during power outages and in places lacking reliable electricity sources by ensuring consistent, uninterrupted operation of traffic signals.
Solar Sign Lights
We sometimes take for granted the illumination of billboards, street signs, and storefront signs, but proper lighting is quite important for achieving effective signage. Solar sign lights provide a way for businesses and public services to highlight essential information while saving money on electricity. They come in a variety of brightness levels depending on the needs.
During and after a natural disaster or other circumstances that cause power cuts, solar-powered emergency floodlights can help crews make repairs under challenging conditions without the need for generator-powered lighting system. These powerful solar lights can also be employed in home workshops, garages, yards, and businesses that need extra security or stronger illumination. Some are security lights come with timers or sensors to ward off would-be troublemakers.
Solar lights have become extremely popular for use in gardens, patios, and outdoor dining venues. They provide both safety and aesthetics, and come in a wide array of styles and products.
Lawn lights can highlight attractive garden features like flower beds, trees, or sculptures. Pool lights illuminate water elements like swimming pools, ponds, and fountains. A string of solar lights can be stretched across a patio, porch or between trees to add a touch of festive ambience. Ground lighting along a walkway, driveway, or steps improves safety and provides an attractive design element.
Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, flameless solar-powered candles and torches are a safe alternative to a real candle. Modern designs feature realistic flickering “flames” that resemble the real thing but avoid risk of fire and spilling messy hot wax.
Solar Desk and Table Lamps
A solar desk lamp is a great accessory for a home office. For one thing, it’s cordless and thus completely portable, which makes it possible to set up a remote workstation virtually anywhere, indoors or outdoors. Designs for desk lamps range from small clip-on book lights to sleek and sturdy tabletop varieties. Table lamps, meanwhile, create ambience as they produce illumination.
Like other types of residential solar lights, some models come with a built-in solar panel while others must be connected to an external photovoltaic panel, but neither type requires direct sunlight. The energy generated by the small PV panel gets stored in a battery, which provides several hours of light before the lamp will need a recharge.
Environmental Benefits and Drawbacks
An investment in high-quality solar lights can provide years of virtually carbon-free lighting for homes, offices, parks, gardens, and public infrastructure. It’s a great way for an individual or community to conserve energy and reduce disruptions posed by extreme weather and climate disasters.
For communities that lack centralized energy infrastructure, including many rural communities around the world, solar lighting makes a big contribution to energy independence. It also contributes to public safety by illuminating walkways and streets, reducing traffic accidents, and increasing personal security.
However, solar lighting, like all solar energy systems, has environmental impacts. The batteries and electronic components will eventually become waste, and that waste has hazardous ingredients that must be properly managed in order to avoid toxic pollution. Batteries can contain lead, lithium, plastics, and sulfuric acid; PV panels contain silicon, aluminum, tin, copper, cadmium, and lead; electrical components contain plastics and metals. If not disposed of properly, these substances can pollute the air, soil, and water.
This is a particular challenge in developing countries, where waste management is more likely to be conducted without regulation to ensure safe disposal. The absence of this process can produce e-waste that poses serious threats to the environment. Some countries require or encourage end-of-life recycling of at least some of these products.
Today, there are calls to strengthen such practices and ensure that solar projects everywhere support safe disposal and recycling of solar materials once the components have reached the end of their productive use. Of course, this is important not only for solar but traditional lighting.
Wherever you live, it’s important to research the longevity of your solar lighting products and prioritize quality. Opt for those which are likely to last, so the environmental benefits don’t dwindle.
How to Create an Automatic Solar-Powered Street Light
You can make a light come on at night using minimum basic circuit elements, and you don’t have to pay for the energy needed to make it work.
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DIY solar light projects offer an economical and efficient way to power homes using energy from the sun. So it makes sense to assemble a street light system that takes solar energy to charge a battery during the day and then uses this battery to light up the street at night. And you can make your own!
An electronic circuit will control this system, automatically turning the LED bulb on at night and off during the day. We will also incorporate a battery protection circuit to protect the battery from over-discharge.
What to Expect
This system requires 5 main units:
- Solar panel: For charging the battery in the daytime and as a light sensor.
- Battery: For storing current and powering circuit bulb.
- LED DC bulb: For lighting at dark
- Wires: For interconnection as per schematic diagram.
- Electronic circuit: To automatically control/switch the LED bulb and for battery discharge protection.
Using Solar Power to Charge a Battery
For charging the battery, we have used a small 10W (you can choose a bigger one as per your power budget/requirements) solar panel. It can charge a 12V battery and can provide 0.62A short circuit current at peak luminosity. Its physical size is about 12” x 9”.
We have used a 12VDC battery with 4Ah current capacity. During the day, the solar panels generate current which is used to charge the battery. The battery can have a maximum open circuit voltage of 13.7V at full charge and should be recharged when the battery voltage drops to 11VDC.
To charge the battery, the red wire of the solar panel (positive polarity) is connected to the positive terminal of the battery through a Zener diode, which is soldered on Veroboard where the electronic circuit is also placed.
The Zener diode is placed such that the cathode ( terminal) is connected to the solar panel and the anode (- terminal) is connected to the positive terminal of the battery through wires. Zener diode provides isolation between the solar panel and battery, which is especially helpful in the dark when the circuit takes solar panel voltage for switching ON the light. Black wire (negative polarity) is directly attached to the negative terminal of the battery.
When the solar panel is exposed to sunlight, it provides current to charge the battery, the amount of which depends on the intensity of the sunlight. An LED Bulb takes current from the battery. An electronic circuit controls the bulb using sensor data (solar panel voltage). Connect the positive terminal or cathode of the LED bulb to the positive terminal of the battery, while connect the anode of the LED with point C as shown in schematics.
Building the Electronic Circuit
The electronic circuit consists of two parts. One is meant to control the LED bulb, while the other one is meant to control and avoid battery drainage.
Schematics of the Automatic Solar Street Light
The figure below shows the entire schematics for connecting this system together. Make the electronic circuit for automatic switching and battery drain protection on Veroboard.
What You’ll Need
The following tools components will be required for the electronic circuit. You can get them from online stores like Digikey, Mouser or Ali Express.
- 1 x ULN2003Darlington pair transistors IC
- 1 x LM7809 9 VDC voltage regulator IC
- 2 x LM393 Voltage comparator IC
- 1 x Veroboard (for connecting circuit elements through soldering)
- Resistors (in Ohms) 1K, 10K, 36K, 53K, 100K, 280K (Or equivalent parallel/series combination of these values)
- Soldering iron soldering wire
- Digital Multimeter (for voltage and current measurement)
- Screw terminal Block connectors (for connecting wires to solar panel, battery, and LED bulb)
- Zener diode (between the red wire of the solar panel and battery terminal)
The 11 Best Outdoor Solar Lights of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
Jenica Currie is an expert content manager, producer, writer, and editor with over a decade of experience cultivating online communities.
Mary has been a Master Gardener for 30 years and a commercial and residential gardener for 50 years. She is a former Clemson University Extension Agent.
Sarah Scott is a fact-checker and researcher who has worked in the custom home building industry in sales, marketing, and design.
Outdoor lights using solar energy are the perfect landscape lighting solution. They tend to be budget-friendly and easy to install, and you can place them exactly where you want them because they don’t require plug-in power sources. But it’s important to consider the placement and purpose of outdoor solar lights, says Sheva Knopfler, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Lights.com, a well-known online retailer of all kinds of lights and lightbulbs. How much brightness do you need? she recommends asking yourself. Does the light need to be direct or spread out? The height of your solar lights is also important. Will they be a tripping hazard? Are you able to install them into your pavement or garden?
Over the course of several days, we tested 27 different solar lights at our Lab in Des Moines, Iowa, including path lights, spotlights, lanterns, wall-mounted, and string lights. After assembling and charging them in sunlight for the time specified by the manufacturer’s instructions, we evaluated their assembly, brightness, features, design, value, and durability. And then we went beyond: We froze them, read under them, and dropped golf balls on their solar panels. We even video-recorded them overnight to make sure they truly stayed on from dusk until dawn! To test wall-mounted lights, we tested and installed 18 options in our own homes.
AloftSun Solar Motion Sensor Outdoor Lights
- Highest waterproof rating
- Three easy-to-use modes
- Bright enough to read by
- Two installation methods
Our top pick, AloftSun Motion Sensor Solar Landscape Spotlights, withstood all of our durability tests, are easy to use, and are bright enough to read by! These spotlights can detect motion from as much as 33 feet away, depending on the setting. The three modes that operate from dusk until dawn—dim light/high light when motion is detected; no light/high light when motion is detected; or medium light/constantly on—give you options to suit your lighting needs and are simple to use. (It did, however, take us a few minutes at first to figure out how to trigger them.) Easy to put together (just two pieces), this two-pack of lights can either be staked into the ground (the method we tested) or mounted onto a wall with the included hardware.
We were impressed at how these lights held up during our durability tests. Since the manufacturer claims these lights have the highest waterproof rating and are frost-resistant, we sprinkled water on them, then froze them for over an hour. After each test, the lights still worked just as well as before! We also dropped a golf ball on their solar light panel from a distance of 6 feet, and they still held up.
These spotlights feature 30 LED light chips, which help illuminate your pathway or yard easily, stand up to the elements, and are noted by the manufacturer to have a 40,000-hour lifespan. However, they are not particularly stylish. And they are more cool-toned (6500K) than we’d prefer for a home. However, if you are looking for durable, bright lights with useful features, you can’t go wrong with this pick.
Price at time of publish: 33
Dimensions: 11.81 x 5.43 x 4.33 inches | Lumens: Not listed | Power Source: Solar panel and 2200 mAh rechargeable battery | Charging time: 1-2 days first use, up to 8 hours on cloudy days | Operating time: 6-12 hours depending on setting | Lights in sets: 2 | Weather Resistance Rating: IP68 | Color Temperature: 6500K
Home Zone Security Solar Wall Lantern 2-Pack
If you are looking for wall-mountable lantern-style lights, this option from Home Zone is the perfect choice. You get a two-pack of preassembled lanterns that include wall brackets and screws (no tools included). We love how versatile this set is—you can place them on a table, on a garden hook, mount them to the wall, or carry them around by their handles when you need extra light. Plus, they come with a 1-year warranty.
Made of stainless steel and glass, these lights stood up to our durability testing, with no damage to the glass or solar panels. They are bright and cheery for an entryway but not as bright as other options we tested—we couldn’t read under them. With a simple, automatic dusk-to-dawn operation, these lights are simple to use but have no other features. They also need two AA batteries to operate, which eventually need replacing. However, we love their farmhouse-style, affordable price, and the ability to have wall-mountable lights without needing electricity.
Price at time of publish: 45
Dimensions: 8.66 x 6.3 x 10.04 inches | Lumens: 10 each | Power Source: Solar powered and two AA batteries ( included) | Charging Time: 8 hours | Operating time: Not listed | Lights in Set: 2 | Weather Resistance Rating: Not listed | Color Temperature: 3000K
Best Path Light
Better Homes Gardens Ellis Transitional Pathway Light
- Light shines 360 degrees
- Tall, durable stake
- Displays a sunburst pattern on the ground
Sometimes, one simple path light is all you need to make your entryway shine. The Better Homes Gardens Ellis Solar Powered Black Metal and Glass LED Path Light is a nice addition to any entryway or outdoor space, and you may even be tempted to buy two! With a tall stake, and a globe that completely illuminates the surrounding area, this affordably priced solar light emits a nice, warm yellow glow (Better Homes Gardens is owned by The Spruce’s parent company, Dotdash Meredith). (When setting up, remember to pull the tab off the battery on top.) While testing, we appreciated the sunburst pattern the light displayed on the ground. We also found it bright enough to read by, although we did expect it to be even brighter, considering the size of the bulb.
This product capably withstood our durability testing—water, freezing, and dropping a golf ball on the glass didn’t affect the light fixture or the quality of the light. This path light lacks motion sensor capabilities or other features aside from an on/off switch. But when switched on, the unit stayed lighted from dusk until dawn, which, during our summer testing, was 9:13 to 5:27 a.m. CDT.
Price at time of publish: 14
Dimensions: 6.69 x 6.69 x 21.40 Inches | Lumens: 20 | Power Source: Solar powered | Charging Time: Not listed | Operating time: Not listed | Lights in Set: 1 | Weather Resistance Rating: Not listed | Color Temperature: Not listed
Hampton Bay Solar Landscape Path Lights
- Great value for pack size
- Durable and bright
- Stylish design
- 2-year warranty
Solar path lights allow you to illuminate a walkway or driveway without having to worry about having outdoor electricity or extension cords. Aside from being stylish and durable, this 10-pack from Hampton Bay is a great value, especially if you have a longer area to illuminate. We loved the “sparkly effect” these lights display on the ground, as well as their unique crackle look on the glass. Our concern that this would affect the brightness of the light was unfounded—it was still so bright, you could read directly under them!
We also found these lights to be as durable as they were aesthetically pleasing, holding up well during watering, freezing, and being impacted with a golf ball. Made of aluminum, glass, and plastic, they stand 18 inches tall and have only three pieces to assemble, which we found to be easy. Like many of these solar lights, they feature dusk-to-dawn operation and stayed lit for 8 hours (after an 8-hour charge). They offer no other settings or special features and only come in packs of 10. However, if you are looking for a great set of path lights, this option stands out.
Price at time of publish: 114
Dimensions: 18.1 x 4.92 x 4.92 inches | Lumens: 10 | Power Source: Solar | Charging Time: 10-12 hours | Operating time: 8 hours | Lights in Set: 10 | Weather Resistance Rating: IPX4 | Color Temperature: 3000K
Vont LED Outdoor Solar Lights
- Durable and waterproof
- Two placement options
- Can pivot 120 degrees
- Lifetime warranty
If you need to illuminate a large space or specific focal point and don’t want to worry about wires or electricity, solar spotlights are a great option. The Vont LED Outdoor Solar Lights are easy to put together and install, with sturdy stakes to put in the ground or with the included screws to mount on the wall. You can even pivot them up to 120 degrees, so they can point in the exact direction you need.
The manufacturer lists these spotlights as being weather resistant, and they back this claim with a lifetime warranty. Despite what we put them through, we noticed no changes in their brightness or anything else. Although these lights turn on automatically at night, they don’t offer any other lighting features besides two brightness settings. However, if you are looking for bright spotlights that can withstand the elements, these should be your go-to.
Price at time of publish: 40
Dimensions: 5.5 x 4.2 x 12.2 inches | Lumens: 100 | Power Source: Solar, Built-in 2000 mAh 18650 lithium battery | Charging Time: Not listed | Operating time: Up to 12 hours | Lights in Set: 2 | Weather Resistance Rating: IPX7 | Color Temperature: 6500K
Best String Lights
Brightech Ambiance Pro Solar Non-Hanging String Lights
- Stylish design
- Versatile placement
- Durable, with shatterproof plastic bulbs
- Simple installation
- Can’t connect multiple strings
- Lights aren’t as bright or stay on as long as other lights we tested
Illuminate your outdoor space with pretty string lights like this set from Brightech. This set is 27 feet long, with no electricity required. Just stake the solar panel in the ground or clip it to a balcony or other surface and place the lights where you want them! These shatterproof plastic Edison-style bulbs not only look stylish but are durable as well, holding up well during our tests. Though the solar panel moved a bit when we hit it with a golf ball, it showed no damage. They have a 1,000-hour charge lifespan (around 2.5 years, according to the manufacturer) and are backed by a full 2-year warranty.
We loved the “moody lighting” these lights emitted but noted they were bright enough to read by only when the lights were gathered together and not strung out. Also, these did not stay lit as long as the others we tested (6 hours total). If you are mostly using them for decor or entertaining purposes, this shouldn’t be an issue. And although you can’t connect multiple strands together (as we hoped!), there is a 48-foot strand available if you have the space.
Price at time of publish: 48
Dimensions: 27 feet long | Lumens: Not listed | Power Source: Solar | Charging Time: 6 hours | Operating time: Up to 6 hours fully charged | Lights in Set: 1 string | Weather Resistance Rating: Not listed | Color Temperature: 3000K
Brightown LED Solar Powered Fairy Lights
For an affordable lighting option that adds ambiance to your outdoor space, we recommend the 33-foot-long Brightown Outdoor Solar string lights. Available in seven colors (we tested white), these fairy lights survived all of our durability tests and were easy to install, with only two stakes needed for the solar panels. And because they are solar-powered, you don’t need electricity for them to work, unlike many other outdoor string lights. We would have liked them, however, to provide more light to read by.
We especially appreciate the eight lighting modes, including combination, waves, sequential, slow glow, chasing/flash, slow fade, twinkle/flash, and steady-on, so you can choose fun options for gatherings or holidays. After turning on automatically at night, these lights have an up to 10-hour runtime, but inexplicably, they did turn off for 60-second increments during our overnight testing. Also, you have to be sure to place the solar light panels where they can get light, which may limit placement options a bit. However, this two-pack is a great budget option, especially if you are looking for string lights or want to add a fun element to your outdoor decor.
Price at time of publish: 23
Dimensions: 33 feet long | Lumens: Not listed | Power Source: Solar powered, 800mAh high capacity rechargeable batteries | Charging Time: Not listed | Operating time: 8-10 hours after fully charged | Lights in Set: 2 sets of string lights | Weather Resistance Rating: IP65 | Color Temperature: 2700K
Best for Post
Kemeco Solar Post Light
- Bright, beautiful light
- Stylish design
- Two placement options
- Easy to assemble and install
A light post can add a stylish, vintage look to your decor while illuminating your entryway. And with the Kemeco Solar Post Light Fixture, you have many more options on where to add it to your outdoor space, with no electricity or wires needed. You can mount this light to a post (not included) or to its included mounting base and place it just about anywhere. We tested both installation methods—at our lab, we assembled the light to the mounting base and placed it on a step, and during our at-home test, we assembled and installed the light on an existing round pole. We also noted that screws and a bracket were included for both a round or square pole, which isn’t listed on the manufacturer’s product description.
In both settings, we found the light easy to put together with just two pieces. While using the mounting base, however, we found it a bit top-heavy. If you choose to use the mounting base, we recommend also using the mounting bracket to screw it securely to a step to correct any concern over top-heaviness. We found both methods easy to install, and once set up, we loved how this aluminum light fixture’s lantern style and ripple glass added a nice glow. Despite the ripple glass, the light shines so brightly that we could even read around it while testing. While it’s certainly still bright, this light isn’t bright enough to be a security spotlight.
We noted that the only feature, aside from its solar capabilities, is an on/off switch. Our lab testing also revealed some conflicting results. On the one hand, the frosted glass shattered during our golf ball test; on the other, the solar panels still worked. The manufacturer claims the product is weatherproof and wasn’t damaged when we poured water directly above it in the lab. We also haven’t noticed any issues with the light being damaged by storms so far in our real-world testing.
Price at time of publish: 100
Dimensions: 8.8 x 8.8 x 18.1 including 5.5-inch mounting base | Lumens: 130-145 | Power Source: Solar with 3 x 1.2v 2300mAh Ni-MH rechargeable batteries | Charging Time: At least 8 hours | Operating time: 6-8 hours | Lights in Set: 1 fixture and mounting base | Weather Resistance Rating: Not listed | Color Temperature: 3000K
Linkind StarRay Solar Spotlights
- Two motion detection modes
- Bright for large spaces and pathways
- Simple, all-in-one design
- Can wall mount or stake in ground
Solar-powered lights with motion sensors allow you to add lighting when and where you need it. The Linkind StarRay LED Solar Motion Sensor Landscape Spotlights have two modes to suit your needs. You can choose to have them turn on for 25 seconds when motion is detected or to operate constantly at half light and only brighten for 10 seconds when motion is detected. (We noted that on the second mode, the difference between half-light and full-light was hardly detectable, although both modes are bright enough that we could read under them.) Although they are powered during the day, these lights do not automatically turn on at dusk unless you select one of those modes.
Aside from their motion sensor feature, we also love their versatility and streamlined design. You can stake them in the ground or mount them on a wall with the included hardware. The light and solar panel are on the same unit and can be pivoted up to 90 degrees vertically (180 degrees horizontally), so you can angle the light exactly where you want it to shine. Also, we found that these lights withstood our water and golf ball tests without sustaining damage. But when frozen, they strobed three times before turning off.
The price for the Linkind StarRay LED seems a little high for a single light, but we found it works as described and feels sturdy. We recommend it either for landscape lighting or for lighting pathways and security.
Price at time of publish: 33
Dimensions: 11.4 x 6.26 x 3.94 inches | Lumens: Not listed | Power Source: Solar powered, lithium Ion battery | Charging Time: Not listed | Operating time: 6-12 hours | Lights in Set: 2 | Weather Resistance Rating: IP67 | Color Temperature: 6500K
Derynome Solar Lantern Outdoor Lights with Wall Mount Kit
- Small footprint
- Easy to install
- On and off switch
- Durable and stylish
Wall-mounted lights can help you save space, but they can be a little intimidating and time-consuming to install. Plus, there could be many reasons you can’t install them in the location you want to, including lack of sunlight or surface space. Requiring a small footprint for the hanging bracket, the Derynome Solar Lantern Outdoor Lights give you all of the benefits of wall-mounted lights with little effort—you will need a drill and to make sure the holes are level, but only two screws are needed.
We installed both of these lights at one of our homes (one on an enclosed side porch and the other on a front porch post) in less than 15 minutes, not including the time it took to locate a drill. Once the brackets were installed, it only took seconds to hang the lantern on the hook. Keep in mind, though, that the lantern feels sturdy and durable but is lightweight (just over 3 pounds) and can swing around on the hook—make sure you hang it at a height that is accessible for when you need to remove it. We did note after rainy and windy weather (although not extreme), the lantern never blew off. The on/off switch is located inside the lantern, but it was easy to twist the lantern to access it. When on, the lantern will go on and off automatically (dusk until dawn).
The bracket extends 5 inches from the wall, so even with a small overhang, the solar panel is more likely to get sun. In fact, we installed them under a little overhang, and they were still able to get the sunlight they needed to remain lit overnight. But since they are so easy to install, if you find you need a sunnier spot, it’s relatively easy to rehang. Although a little brighter, this pick is very similar in style, price, weight, and durability to our lab-tested, Best Budget option, the Home Zone Solar Wall Lanterns. However, the Derynome Solar Lantern Outdoor Lights have an on/off switch and are available in three different colors (black, white, and bronze). We also like that the battery lasts longer. If you are looking for a lantern you can place on a table though, the Home Zone pick is the better choice, with a wider base.
Price at time of publish: 50
Dimensions: 11 x 6 x 6 inches | Lumens: 15 each | Power Source: Solar powered and Lithium Ion battery (included) | Charging Time: 6 hours | Operating time: 8 hours | Lights in Set: 2 | Weather Resistance Rating: IP65 | Color Temperature: 3000
Ring Solar Floodlight
- Plenty of settings controlled via app
- Easy to set up
- Large solar panel
- Works with Alexa
The Ring Smart Lighting Solar Floodlight is a great way to upgrade your existing floodlight and tap into the benefits of Smart home features. We did just that in one of our homes: We removed a traditional motion sensor light (keeping the existing plate) and quickly installed this Ring Smart Light, utilizing the easy-to-follow, illustrated directions (which are also helpful if you are installing a light for the first time). Keep in mind, you will also need to buy and install the Ring Bridge to utilize all of the Smart features (if you don’t have it already), although it was easy to plug in, install the app, and set up.
As with other solar lights, you need to ensure that the solar panel on this Smart outdoor light gets enough sunlight to fully charge each day. Since the Ring Smart Floodlight has a solar panel that hangs on a long cord, you have more options on where you can install the light. The solar panel is large and matches the color of the floodlight. Since this light is available in both black and white finishes, we found the white finish helped the solar panel to blend into the siding of a home. You can also choose to recharge the battery separately using the USB cord.
After setting up the app, you will be impressed with the abundance of features you can use with this Smart home product. Not only can you turn the light on and off via the app, but you can also schedule when the light will be activated, adjust motion sensitivity, adjust the brightness, and more. We found all of these features to be very useful but do wish the light was as bright as the previous floodlight installed at one of our homes (although we did appreciate the warmness of this Ring light). It was bright enough to serve its purpose as a floodlight and think this floodlight is the ideal choice for homeowners who already have multiple Smart devices integrated in their home. This light can also work with other Ring devices and lights through the Ring app.
Price at time of publish: 140
Dimensions: 5.51 x 10.43 x 4.68 inches | Lumens: Up to 1200 (adjustable) | Power Source: Solar power, battery pack with USB cord to recharge | Charging Time: Not listed | Operating time: Not listed | Lights in Set: 1 | Weather Resistance Rating: IP66 | Color Temperature: 3500
Durable and versatile, the AloftSun Motion Sensor Solar Landscape Spotlights are our top pick with three easy-to-use lighting modes and two installation methods, so you can have bright light when and where you need it. We also love the Home Zone Solar Wall Lanterns, 2-Pack, a stylish and affordable way to brighten up your doorway without worrying about electricity. Easy to mount on the wall, this set is built to withstand the elements and features an on/off switch.
Other Options We Tested
Ring Solar Pathlight: This path light was one of the brighter models we tested, but we struggled to get it to connect to the Ring Bridge, which is required for Smart capabilities. This struggle left us frustrated, but we will note that this light survived both our water and golf ball drop tests. For the price, we think you can easily purchase a pack of solar lights without the Smart features, if they’re not a must on your buying list. Aogist Solar Ground Lights: While there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with this set of lights, they just didn’t impress us as much compared to other designs. Frankly, we found them a bit boring, and we question their durability against a work boot or a bike tire. They did survive and function after our water, freeze, and golf ball drop tests, but we still think there are better sets available that will last multiple seasons. Beau Jardin 4-Pack Solar Pathway Lights: With the number of rave reviews online, we had high hopes for this pathway light set. The ground spikes on these lights felt loose, and our suspicions were confirmed when we attempted to remove the lights from styrofoam after our water tests. They are also very dim, so we were not able to read with the amount of light they put out.
How We Tested The Outdoor Solar Lights
We researched popular outdoor solar lights of various styles and selected 27 to test in our Lab in Des Moines, Iowa. We installed 18 wall-mounted solar lights in our own homes. We evaluated each on a wide and thorough array of attributes that included ease of assembly and installation, feature set, brightness, durability, and value. After putting them together, we let all the lights charge in full sunlight for the time specified in their instructions. We then took each to a dark room to run through all of their features, including any motion sensors and lighting modes and noted how easy it was to cycle through those. (If the lights didn’t turn on automatically, we searched for an accessible and functioning on/off switch.) For lights with motion sensors, we exited the room, waited 2 minutes, then re-entered, and we noted whether the lights turned on without any prompting. Then, we evaluated each light’s brightness by attempting to read a book under it. Next, for the lights we tested in our lab, we wanted to see how each product withstood the elements, including rain, hail, and winter’s subfreezing temperatures. To simulate rain, we sprinkled water on them from a watering can; hail took the form of a golf ball, dropped from 6 feet above the fixture and 4 feet above the solar panel. Then, we froze each light for an hour. After each test, we noted any changes and checked to see that all the features were still working. For lights we used in our homes, we noted how the lights have faired against any inclement weather over a period of one month (so far). After our lab tests, we took the lights outside and evaluated how easy they were to install, when applicable. After making sure the lights were on the appropriate setting (dusk-to-dawn mode, turned on, or left alone if automatic), we set up a video camera and recorded each overnight. We then reviewed the recording, noting when each light turned on and off and any anomalies.
What to Look For in Outdoor Solar Lights
Outdoor solar lights fall into three general types based on their light output: motion-activated, dusk-to-dawn, and timer-controlled. Because of solar cell size and battery capacity, the gathered solar energy is a limited resource, so consider when you want the lights to shine and for how long. Timer-controlled solar lights give you the most control since you can specify the time they turn on and for how long. Dusk-to-dawn solar lights use sensors to automatically illuminate when daylight dwindles and should have the lights remain on until sunrise. In regions with more limited sun, especially during winter, dusk-to-dawn lights may have trouble storing enough solar energy to stay bright for an extended period each night. Motion-activated lights turn on when triggered by movement and conserve solar energy reserves, such as the AloftSun Motion Sensor Solar Landscape Spotlights, our best overall pick for its bright lighting, three modes, and two installation methods. This style is often used for floodlights or for specific lighting needs, such as outside your back door. Our best Smart pick, the Ring Smart Lighting Solar Floodlight, offers all of the benefits of a Smart home device, including being able to set the lighting schedule, adjust the brightness, and adjust the motion detection settings, all from an app.
Where you want to use solar lights determines how you install them. Some outdoor solar lights mount like traditional light fixtures, using screws. For path lighting, solar lights with stakes are quick and easy to install—just push them into the ground, and you’re ready to go. Brick lights are great for illuminating gardens and pathways, as they can be installed into pavement or dirt, says Sheva Knopfler, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Lights.com, a well-known online lighting retailer. Another option that is typically easy to install is solar-powered string lights. These typically have a solar panel that needs to be placed where it can receive a good amount of sun daily. For example, the Brightech Solar LED String Lights, our favorite tested string lights, can provide ambiance to your outdoor space all year long. Wall lights, which are similar to string lights in effect, are also an option some retailers offer. Wall lights are great for general lighting around the perimeter of your space, Knopfler adds.
Lumens determine brightness: from 5 lumens for landscaping ambiance to 350 lumens or more for a strong spotlight or floodlight. Your needs depend on your desired location and application. During testing, we noted that not all products listed their lumen ratings on the package. Keep in mind that different retailers will offer different solar brightness options, which are all designed for different purposes. Depending on size, color, and placement in relation to the sun, most of our solar lights could produce up to 20 lumens, Knopler says. These lights are meant to be layered, so you can customize your brightness by placing them closer or further away from each other.
Typically, outdoor solar lights contain several key components, including solar cells, rechargeable batteries, photoresistors, and lightbulbs. During the day, solar cells convert the sun’s rays into electricity, which the batteries store. At night, photoresistors detect the absence of ambient light and switch on the units. The light stays on until the batteries run out or the photoresistors detect light in the morning.
Solar lights placed in bright, direct light collect more energy in their batteries, which means your light stays on longer. For best results, place your solar light in a location that gets several hours of direct sunlight. However, solar lights still work in indirect light or on cloudy days—they just won’t collect as much energy and may not stay on as long.
To install solar lights, follow the product instructions. Some lights are designed to be mounted to the wall using screws, while others have stakes that you stick in the ground. For the best results, arrange your product’s solar panel in a way that it gets several hours of sunlight throughout the day.
To get the best results from your outdoor solar lights, place them where they get 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. If they’re designed to be wall-mounted, consider placing them up high, so they’re closer to the sun. Ensure that your lights aren’t in an inconvenient location, like in the path of your lawn mower, blocking a window, or encased in shadow.
In general, batteries in outdoor solar lights last 3 to 4 years before needing replacement. Some manufacturers sell replacement batteries, while others require you to buy an entirely new fixture. You can help increase your solar lights’ life span by cleaning the panels regularly and protecting them from harsh winter weather. LED lights can last up to 10 years, so if your solar lights are properly cared for and protected from extreme elements, they could last a decade, Knopfler adds.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Jenica Currie is the Associate Commerce Editor for outdoor, gardening, and home improvement at The Spruce. She has tested dozens of products at home and in the Lab, including artificial Christmas trees, clothing racks, bean bag chairs, fans, and vacuums. She spends her weekends gardening and working on other projects to improve the outdoor space around her home (including adding path lights along her driveway!). For this article, she used our test results and researched dozens of top-rated outdoor solar lights to compile this list of the best available options. She also personally installed and is testing the Derynome Solar Lantern Outdoor Lights on her front porch.
Emma Phelps, an Updates Writer for The Spruce, provided research assistance for this article. She reached out to Sheva Knopfler, the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Lights.com, to learn more about best practices for choosing, installing, and caring for solar lights.
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