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Which solar lights should I buy? Path lights, string lights, spotlights and more

Solar Lights
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best solar lights are a brilliant investment if you want to illuminate your backyard while saving money and being more sustainable in the process. These lights will self-charge in the sun through the day and come to life at night. The possibilities with solar lights are endless — you can light up a pathway, shed some light on your decking or illuminate your pond. But, with so many options and so many functions, which should you choose? Here’s a breakdown of each type of solar light. 

Path Lights

Solar Light

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As the name suggests, solar path lights are ideal for lighting up a path. These tend to come in a stake design which holds it into the ground and the solar panel can usually be found directly on top. If you choose this design, you will need to make sure your path gets sunlight during the day; otherwise, opt for path lights which come with a separate solar panel. When properly placed, path lights can add to the aesthetics of your yard or garden, but be sure to only use enough to effectively light the path — too many can look clustered in the daytime. While you may prefer to conceal these, be sure that they’re not a tripping hazard.  

Top path light pick: Signature Garden 6 Pack Solar Garden Lights, available from $36.99 on Amazon.

String Lights

Solar Lights

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Solar string lights are more often purchased for their aesthetic appeal rather than for practicality. With this type of solar light, a long cable connects multiple bulbs, which can be dainty such as fairy lights or full-size. These are then hung or draped over the desired area, which is usually a patio or the trees and flowerbeds. They won’t shed vast amounts of light, but do make the area look much more decorative and add a starlight effect. 

When shopping for string lights, be sure to choose ones with the best weatherproof ratings. Bear in mind that high winds can also potentially dislodge and damage these lights, so don’t hang them anywhere too exposed. The biggest drawback with string lights is the length of cable; most of the time there isn’t enough length or enough bulbs to cover the area, so always check this first in the specs before you buy. You may also have to prepare mounting points if there’s nowhere to hang the lights where you want them.   

Top string light pick:  Brightech Ambience Pro Waterproof, Solar-powered Outdoor String Lights, available from $34.99 on Amazon.    

Flood Lights

Solar Flood Light

(Image credit: Aootek)

Solar flood lights are designed with practicality in mind and will shed a bright and intense light on your chosen area. These are usually mounted in a high position and are aimed down towards the patio, garage or entire garden. They’re great if you want full visibility for added security. When choosing one, pay attention to its intensity, or the lumens output. The higher the lumens, the brighter it will be. Look out for ones with motion sensor features as well if you’re buying one for security reasons. Lastly, when you install a flood light, while you want the best position for coverage, consider that you will need to get up there again to adjust it or change the bulb, so keep it accessible.    

Top flood light pick: Aootek 182 Led Solar outdoor motion sensor lights, available from $29.95 on Amazon.

Spotlights

Solar Spotlight

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Solar spotlights are very similar to flood lights in terms of brightness, with the exception that the beam produced is much more narrow and can be angled to light up a specific point. These can highlight areas in the backyard rather than lighting up the whole thing are a great option if you don’t want to fill your backyard with lights. Like path lights, these are usually designed with stakes to hold them in the ground, but they appear much more prominent. They’re admittedly not the most attractive solar light to look at in the daytime, but they provide a good balance of added security and aesthetics at night. If the solar panel is part of the spotlight, be sure that you place it where it will receive ample sunlight.  

Top spotlight pick: URPOWER 2-in-1 Waterproof 4 LED Solar Spotlight, available from $29.99 on Amazon.

Wall Lights

Solar Wall Light

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Solar wall lights are installed on the external walls or fence of your house and provide light immediately around it. These will light up the property and help guide you outside at night. As with all solar lights, these will need to receive sunlight during the day so shouldn’t be installed in heavy shade. It’s also good practice to check you’re happy with the positioning in terms of light level before you install it. To do this, pre-charge it and test it. If you’re buying for security reasons, choose ones which come with motion detection. 

Top wall light pick: SEZAC Solar Security Lights Solar Motion Sensor Lights, available from $34.49 on Amazon.

Step Lights

Solar Step Lights

(Image credit: Ring)

Solar step lights are a great investment if you have steps around your property which you can’t see at night. These are installed alongside and light up each individual step as you climb. They are relatively inconspicuous and can be more effective than a large singular lightsource, not to mention they look better too. As these are for safety, it’s best to check you’re happy with the light level before you install. To do this, pre-charge the lights, switch them on and find the best height at which to place them. When you order these, be sure you’re supplied enough for each step and keep any spares just in case! 

Top step light pick: Ring Solar Steplight, available from $79.99 on Amazon. 

Lamp Posts

Solar Lamp Posts

(Image credit: Greluna)

If you’re traditional, but want to take advantage of solar power, then solar lamp posts might be of interest to you. These provide a good level of light per post and can make the driveway or patio look very picturesque. Each lamp post should feature a planter or anchoring system to hold it in position. Both of these options work well, but an anchoring system is more secure as it will be buried into the ground. Look out for lumen output once again, as the more it provides the brighter it will be. Other useful features include height adjustability and dimming options.  

Top lamp post pick: Gama Sonic GS-105S-G Baytown Ez Anchor Lamp, available from $133.36 on Amazon. 

Pond Lights 

Solar Pond Lights

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Solar pond lights can make your backyard more safe and add to the aesthetics at the same time. These lights are designed to be submerged in the water and provide an underwater glow, highlighting any fish or running water. Be sure to check that the lights you’re looking at are actually submergible in the specifications, as some are advertised for illuminating the water, but are just for surface lighting. Look for a higher wattage if you’re placing the lights into a deep pond and if you have fish, remember to switch off the lights once you leave so they’re not obvious to predators! 

Top pond light pick: Solar Pond Spotlights,Submersible Pond Lights, available from $42.99 on Amazon 

Katie Mortram

Katie looks after everything homes-related, from kitchen appliances to gardening tools. She also covers smart home products too, so is the best point of contact for any household advice! She has tested and reviewed kitchen appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Her favorite thing to test has to be stand mixers as she loves to bake in her spare time.