Having some of the best solar lights in your backyard can transform the space from plain and boring to an atmospheric outdoor haven. These devices have practical uses too, illuminating paths and directing foot traffic for visitors, as well as deterring intruders.
By storing power from sunlight, solar lights are an energy-efficient way to light up the front or back of your home, but before you go making a purchase, it’s important to think about the practicalities. For instance, is there a purpose to your solar lights? Where will the lights be placed and how will they be connected? The answer to these questions will vary the type of solar lights best suited for you.
We vigorously tested these solar lights by conducting various tests. After leaving them outside to charge in various spots in the yard, we then placed each light in the freezer for four hours before dusk. We returned them to the yard to monitor which ones functioned as usual and how long they stayed illuminated. We also tested water resistance, and placed each of the lights in appropriate positions to monitor how they stood up to various weather conditions.
The best solar lights you can buy today
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Want to make your patio look like an outdoor bistro or Italian cafe? Brightech’s solar-powered string lights will do the trick. This string of LED bulbs are designed to look like retro Edison-style lights, which will cast a warm, gentle glow on your deck in the evening. The bulbs are made of shatterproof plastic, and are designed to withstand winds up to 50 miles per hour, as well as rain, snow, and temperatures up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. When put to the test, these lights delivered in every respect here; enduring two severe rainstorms, one tropical storm, heavy rainfall in a shower and four hours in the freezer, with no sign of damage.
The 12 Brightech Ambience Pro lights are connected on a 27-foot cord, with 20 inches between each light. (The company also sells a 48-foot version with 15 bulbs, with three feet between each). At the end is a solar panel, which can be clipped to a railing or some other platform, or staked into the ground. There’s no ambient light sensor, but the lights last for up to six hours on a full charge. The lights also come with a 3-year warranty.
Read our full Brightech Ambience Pro LED Outdoor String Lights review.
These small flat disks lie flush with the ground, and provide accent lighting for garden beds and walkways. Each Aogist Solar Ground Light (they come eight to a pack) has a small 600 mAh battery that can provide illumination for up to eight hours. When we tested these solar lights, one didn't work straight out of the box, which seems like an issue with quality control, but the other seven functioned effectively.
These solar ground lights have a nice, stainless steel cap on top, which gives them a premium appearance, although the plastic spike on the underside admittedly feels flimsy and can break easily. In terms of setup, all you need to do is turn on the light and insert it into the ground, and it will do the rest — we found installation couldn't be easier.
The effective built-in sensor will detect when it gets dark out, and automatically turn the light on; when it gets brighter, the light will turn itself off. With an IP65 rating, we found they were impervious to hot, humid, wet, windy and freezing weather. However, the company recommends replacing the battery after a year or two, as its capacity to hold a charge degrades over time.
Read our full Aogist Solar Ground Lights review.
The AMIR string lights are so Pinterest. Add these solar-powered string lights to your pergola, fence, or wall, and you’ve got the makings of a cozy outdoor evening set. Amir’s solar-powered string lights are 72 feet long, with 200 LEDS spaced 3.5 inches apart. The lights are held together by thin copper wire, which virtually disappears, so all you see are the twinkling lights. The copper wire can also be bent to conform to various shapes, too.
AMIR’s string lights can be set to eight modes, including fireflies flashing, waves, fading, chasing/flashing, fading slowly, twinkle/ flashing and steady on. You can also set them to turn automatically at dusk, and off at sunup. These lights are available in warm white, cool white, and blue, and also comes in shorter 33-foot/100 LED lengths. On test, we found they were both easy to install and durable, lasting well despite the rain and freezing temperatures. However, they do need a good amount of sun to perform.
Read our full AMIR Upgraded Solar String Lights review.
The Ring Solar Pathlight is the best solar light for anyone who has other Ring products, such as the Ring Video Doorbell. These lights provide downward-facing illumination for your walkway, have adjustable brightness settings, work with Alexa, and can send you notifications when they detect movement.
We really liked their motion sensors, which we could set to turn on only when they detect a person’s presence, helping to preserve the Pathlights' battery life. Additionally, you can connect them with other Ring devices, so that if the Pathlights sense something, your Ring camera or video doorbell can start recording automatically.
However, at $35 a piece, the Solar Pathlights aren’t cheap, and you’ll also need the Ring Bridge ($50, sold separately) to connect them to your home Wi-Fi network.
Read our full Ring Solar Pathlight review.
These lights from Aootek have motion sensors built in to turn on its array of 128 LEDs when it senses movement. The motion sensor can detect people or objects up to 26 feet away in a 120-degree arc, and during testing, we found it caught everything that crossed its path. The company recommends you install the lights at least 5.5 feet high.
These floodlights, which have an effective arc of 270 degrees, can be set to one of three modes: Security, where the motion sensor activates the light for 15 seconds; On, where the lights turn on at dusk; and Smart Brightness, where the lights turn on a low setting at dusk, and brighten when they detect movement. These lights have a 2200 mAh rechargeable battery, and we found they stayed on for longer than similar models on the market. These lights are very durable too, holding up to rain and freezing temperatures with no detriment.
Read our full Aootek Solar Outdoor Flood Lights review.
If you want solar step lights specifically for your deck or fence, then our winning step lights are worth a look-in. They’re available in packs of two, four, eight and 16 and there’s six colorways to choose from. Each light features three LED beads and needs 6-8 hours to fully charge, providing 8-10 hours of illumination. When we tested them, we found that they over delivered, staying illuminated for nearly 12 hours at a time, even after a rainy, cloudy day.
They’re not the brightest, but they sufficiently lit our steps, plus they held up fine in heavy rain and high winds. They were a little sluggish after being subjected to freezing temperatures though. We found them easy to install with a drill and at less than $40 to illuminate between 4 and 8 steps, they're a bargain compared to many of the other options.
Read our full JACKYLED Solar Step Lights review.
If you’re looking for the best solar spotlights with high brightness, LITOM’s solar landscape spotlights will impress with its 600 lumens and 12 LED arrays. The solar panels for these spotlights are built into the head of the light itself, which makes for a somewhat more compact unit. However, this design can be a little limiting when you need to adjust the light and the solar panel for the optimal position.
The LITOM Solar Landscape spotlight is available in one of several varieties: Warm White (3000K), Cold White (6500K), and multicolored. The company also sells a version that lets you switch between cold and warm white. Each light has an 18,650 mAh rechargeable battery built in. This provides up to 12 hours of illumination in low light mode and up to 6 hours in high light mode. The lights will also automatically turn on at dusk, and off at dawn. They can be mounted either in the ground using the included stakes, or on a wall with the included screws. These lights sailed through our durability and weather-resistant tests, and they're easy to install with thick stakes. Our only real qualm is that they may be too bright for some.
Read our full LITOM 12 LEDs Solar Landscape Spotlights review.
The best solar lights are not just about making your yard look cool; they also serve a safety function, too. Ring’s Solar Step Light helps brighten stairs leading up to your house or deck, making sure that you and your guests have a sure footing. These lights are small — just 4 x 3.4 inches — but provide 50 lumens each, making them more than bright enough to see each step.
What sets these step lights apart, is that each Ring Solar Step Light has a motion sensor built in, which you can use for a variety of purposes: When they detect movement, they can turn on or brighten the lights, and, if they’re connected to Ring’s other products, can trigger other lights to activate, or security cameras or video doorbells to start recording. On test, the motion sensor wasn't overly sensitive, but it was reliable, switching on whenever we approached the step. In terms of durability, these step lights were admittedly sluggish to switch on after sitting in freezing temperatures, although they were fine in the rain. We also noticed that they needed a lot of direct sunlight to fully charge, so they struggled on overcast days. But, if you want the latest tech in your step lights, these are the ones to get.
These lights are $30 apiece, but you’ll also need the Ring Bridge ($50, sold separately) to use them.
Read our full Ring Solar Step Light review.
How we tested the best solar lights
We tested all of these lights over the course of a month at a coastal home in New England. To keep things consistent, we first unboxed all of them and left them outside to charge in various spots around the yard — in doing this, they would all receive the same amount of sunlight at the same angles. After a week, we placed each light in the freezer for four hours before dusk and then returned them to the yard to monitor which ones functioned as usual and how long they stayed illuminated. We also tested water resistance, rinsing each under a shower head for two minutes.
Following the initial tests, we installed each of the lights in appropriate positions to monitor how they stood up to various weather conditions. Over 14 days, each solar light was subjected to a tropical storm, hot and humid days, overcast days and rainy days. We monitored how well they stayed in place throughout.
How to choose the best solar lights for you
Wondering which solar lights should I buy? Before you pick your favorites, take a stroll around your property at night and consider which areas you want lighting up. Then, think about what solar light type would be most suitable. You might want to brighten up your driveway or the side doors, or perhaps the path itself. Think about how many lights you are going to need and how bright they will have to be to achieve what you want. If you’re not 100 percent sure, then adjustable power solar lights might be best. Take into account how much sunlight that area gets too. If it’s limited, you will need a separate solar panel which can be better placed. (Check out our 7 tips for improving the performance of your solar panels.)
If you want to improve the aesthetics of your deck or patio, then string lights or Edison bulbs are worth considering. These don’t provide intense lighting, but it’s enough for the background and adds a soft glow. However, if you’re buying solar lights so you can better see the steps, you need ones which are bright and fit for purpose — solar step lights are available for this very reason.
Ease of installation and battery life are important aspects to take into account, especially if you want the lights to last through the night. If battery life is your priority, you might want to consider a solar light with motion sensors — these will provide light only when you need it and ultimately save on power.
Don’t forget about what the solar lights will look like during the daytime as well. You don’t want them to look too cluttered or obtrusive. Some come with stainless steel casing to give a more premium appeal, while others have glass lampshades. Some can also be concealed easily as well, but make sure they’re not a tripping hazard. Check out our guide on how to best place solar lights for full details.
Solar light types
Path Lights: Solar path lights are designed to light up a path. These more often look like stakes which are inserted in the ground and the solar panel can usually be found directly on top. Bear in mind, if you choose this design, your pathway will need ample sunlight in the day; otherwise, opt for path lights which come with a separate solar panel.
String Lights: String lights feature a long cable which connects multiple bulbs — these can be dainty such as fairy lights or full-size bulbs. String lights look best when draped around the desired area, which can be anywhere from the patio to the flowerbeds. They’re designed for aesthetic effect rather than practicality and so won’t shed vast amounts of light.
Flood Lights: These solar lights are bright and intense, flooding light on your chosen area. They are usually mounted high up on a wall for maximum coverage. They’re great if you want full visibility for added security.
Spot Lights: These produce a narrow beam which can be angled to light up a specific point. They are designed to highlight areas in the backyard and are a great option if you don’t want to fill it with lights. Like path lights, these are usually designed with stakes to hold them in the ground, but they appear much more prominent.
Wall Lights: As the name suggests, solar wall lights are installed on the external walls or fence of your property and provide light immediately around it. These are great for added guidance and security at night.
Step Lights: Solar step lights are a must-have if you struggle with steps around your property at night. These are installed alongside the wall and light up the steps better than a singular light source would.
Things to consider when you buy solar lights
It should go without saying, but be prepared for your solar lights to struggle in the winter months or if you live in a particularly cloudy climate. The more sun they get, the longer they will last — ideal if you live somewhere like Phoenix, but not so much if you live in Seattle. The same goes for if you plan to place them in a particularly shaded location; they may not give you the performance you’re hoping for.
Don’t be seduced by the online images before you buy. These can make the bulbs look brighter and bigger than they actually are so look over the specs for accurate information. Be sure to check how many bulbs you actually get and the length of any cable, if you need it to cover a specific area.
Think about what tone of lighting you want in the garden as well. Most solar lights use LED bulbs which project a white light. Some may find this too harsh, especially if it’s lighting where you plan to entertain guests! If you want a warm or soft tone, invest in solar lights with tinted covers.
If you’re about to throw away your current lights, before doing so check they really are broken. If you don’t have much sunny weather, they may be struggling to charge. Bring them indoors and leave them under your regular lights. This will actually charge them! Some also come with a USB charger which you can use.
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