Outdoor solar lights simplify exterior illumination, providing beautiful, functional lighting without the need for wiring. These lights are available in a variety of forms to give your backyard or patio a cozy glow, light up gardens and walking paths, or improve home safety and security. They’re economical, too, since they harness power from the sun rather than ratchet up your electric bill.
The top outdoor solar light options are easy to install, provide reliable lighting, and suit your specific needs. Yet, with so many outdoor solar lighting options available, it can be tough to find what’s right for the setup of your property, not to mention your aesthetic sense. This guide will help you understand what to look for when shopping and offer insights into some of the best outdoor solar lights on the market today. Brilliant!
- BEST OVERALL: Brightech Ambience Pro Solar Hanging String Lights
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Aootek Solar Security Lights
- BEST PATH: Hampton Bay Black Integrated LED Landscape Path Light
- BEST STEP: JackyLED 3 LED Solar Step Lights
- BEST WELL: Bell + Howell Solar Disk Lights
- BEST WALL: Home Zone Security Solar Wall Lanterns
- BEST SPOTLIGHT: InnoGear Upgraded Solar Outdoor Spotlights
- BEST FLOOD: Sunforce 120 LED Triple Head Solar Motion Light
- BEST FAIRY LIGHTS: Amir Solar String Lights
- BEST FOR GARDENS: Beau Jardin 8-Pack, Color Changing Solar Lights
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Outdoor Solar Lights
Outdoor solar lights can be used for a variety of reasons, from creating a warm and cozy ambience to providing security lighting. When shopping for the best outdoor solar lights for your space, consider the lighting type, brightness and settings, charge time, runtime, and installation process.
There are various types of outdoor solar lights. In fact, there’s a solar version of almost every popular wired outdoor lighting type, including the following:
- String lights have a long cable with bulbs evenly spaced along the length. They typically shed a soft glow to create a cozy ambience rather than a strong, bright light for security or safety purposes. Variations include Christmas lights, bistro lights, and fairy lights.
- Path lights are used to illuminate walkways brightly, adding aesthetic appeal and improving safety. The best solar path lights are often mounted on stakes, which are inserted into the ground lining the path.
- Flood lights are a form of security lighting with a wide angle designed to flood an area with bright illumination. Flood lights often have motion sensors to activate only when needed.
- Spotlights are used to highlight a specific area, like a statue or garden fountain. These bright lights have a narrow beam and an adjustable lighting angle.
- Step lights for outdoor use illuminate stairs, such as those leading to a porch or deck. They make it safer to walk up and down stairs at night and add an attractive touch.
- Wall lights are installed on vertical surfaces to illuminate the surrounding area for decorative and functional purposes. They can be mounted on exterior walls, fences, and deck posts.
Brightness and Settings
To choose the right brightness level for solar lights, consider intended use. For lighting a patio dining area, dimmer, softer lights are a more aesthetic pick. For security lighting, a brighter light is best to both startle and possibly identify any intruders.
Light brightness is measured in lumens. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light. Most indoor night lights produce under 50 lumens, while flood lights often produce around 1,000 lumens. For decorative illumination (like for string lights and other ambient options), under 100 lumens ought to do the trick. Functional lighting for paths and stairs should be around 100 or 200 lumens. Look for a light that emits over 700 lumens for security lighting.
Color temperature and brightness sometimes go hand in hand. Warm outdoor solar lights have a yellow tone for setting a cozy ambience, so they often come as dimmer lights. Cool lights have a whiter or bluer hue that is suited for functional or security lightning, so cool lights are often brighter.
Some outdoor solar lights operate with a simple on-off mechanism, while others have adjustable settings and modes. Some commonly found settings include adjustable brightness, automatic on-off, ambient-light sensing, motion-sensing features, and light-show features (like flashing or twinkling settings).
Charging Time and Runtime
Outdoor solar lights harness energy throughout the day and usually take around 6 to 8 hours to charge. Once fully charged, they can run anywhere from 4 hours to more than 10 hours into the night.
Factors like the weather and solar panel placement can affect both charging time and battery life. When it comes to solar light performance, the sunnier, the better. If you plan on placing the solar lights in a shady area, consider a solar light with a separate solar panel, which allows the charging panel to be placed in an area that receives more direct sun a few feet away from the lights.
Some solar lights have an ambient light sensor to switch on automatically when the sun sets, while others have manual on-off switches. If battery life is a main priority, look for lights that can be manually controlled to save battery life. Another option is motion-sensing lights, which will only switch on when they sense activity nearby.
In general, outdoor solar lights are designed with ease of installation in mind. They’re built for consumers who want simple lighting solutions that don’t require outdoor wiring.
The lighting type and intended location can give shoppers a better idea of the installation process. String lights and those with stakes are among the easiest to install; string lights can be draped wherever they’re needed, and staked lights just need a soft enough spot in the ground. Wall lights or deck lights often need to be mounted, but many come with hardware such as screws for this purpose.
When thinking about installation location, also consider how the lights will look during the day. If installing the lights in an open area, for instance, look for unobtrusive or attractive designs so the lights will look just as nice during the day as at night.
Our Top Picks
Outdoor solar lights gather energy from the sun to provide lighting well into the night. The best outdoor solar lights described ahead are reliable, beautiful, and practical picks for lighting up your outdoor space.
Whether wrapped around a patio banister, draped over an outdoor seating area, or strung around the garden, Brightech Ambience Pro Solar Hanging String Lights are versatile, attractive, and durable. To capture a charming vintage aesthetic, these bistro-type string lights feature plastic Edison bulbs with exposed filaments that emit a warm white light. Although the bulbs look old-fashioned, they are actually modern shatterproof LED bulbs, offering a nostalgic glow while using very little energy.
Installing these lights is easy with the detached solar panel, which can be placed in a sunny area using the in-ground stake or convenient clip. The lights can be set to turn on automatically when the sun goes down, providing up to 6 hours of illumination. This strand is 48 feet long with 15 bulbs, but a shorter 27-foot strand with 12 bulbs is also available.
- Size: 48 feet long
- Runtime: Up to 6 hours
- Light color: Warm white
- Charming vintage look
- Shatterproof plastic bulbs
- Detached solar panel
- Some users may not like the wide spacing between bulbs
Get the Brightech outdoor solar lights at Amazon, Target, or Brightech.
With three useful modes and almost endless installation options, this four-pack of lights from Aootek offers excellent value for its affordable price. These wall-mounted LED lights include installation hardware and can be placed almost anywhere, including on walls, deck railings, fence posts, and steps. The motion-sensing lights have a wide 120-degree angle to provide practical or security lighting for up to 9 hours.
These versatile and budget-friendly lights have three modes: a motion-sensing mode (that switches the light on when nearby activity is detected), motion-sensing dim-to-bright mode (a dim light that brightens when motion continues), and a fixed always-on mode. There’s just one downside to these lights: Mode controls are located on the back of each unit, so it’s best to choose your preferred mode before installation.
- Size: 4.6 inches tall by 7 inches wide
- Runtime: Up to 9 hours
- Light color: Not specified
- Bright light
- Wide lighting angle
- 3 useful modes
- Control buttons are inaccessible when the light is mounted
Get the Aootek outdoor solar lights on Amazon.
The best solar path lights should be as functional as they are attractive. The Hampton Bay Black Integrated LED Landscape Path Light fits both criteria. This pathway light set includes 10 easy-to-install path lights on stakes.
Made of weather- and rust-resistant aluminum with a plastic stake, these lights are built to last in outdoor conditions. Each light has a traditional design with a lantern-style shape. The crackle glass lens adds a bit of character and creates a pleasant pattern when lit. The housing has an elegant black finish.
Each LED light automatically switches on at dusk to light the path for up to 8 hours. These lights are on the dim side, producing just 10 lumens, but the soft and pleasant warm white glow is bright enough to light up the way.
- Size: 18.1 inches long by 4.92 inches wide
- Runtime: Up to 8 hours
- Light color: Warm white
- Beautiful design
- Easy to install
- Rust- and weather-resistant aluminum construction
- Plastic stake
- Not very bright
Get the Hampton Bay outdoor solar lights at The Home Depot.
Step lights install onto the vertical part of steps to illuminate stairs, making them look lovely while also improving safety. With an auto-on feature and up to 10 hours of runtime, the JackyLED 3 LED Solar Step Lights are a stellar pick for outdoor stairs.
This set includes eight small step lights made of durable, weather-resistant stainless steel and plastic. While they’re made for installation on outdoor steps, like deck stairs, they can mount onto any surface with the included screws.
Designed for aesthetics as well as function, these budget-friendly lights have three downward-facing cool-white LED bulbs. These cast a dim but beautiful glow on stairs, deck railings, fence posts, and exterior walls.
- Size: 3 inches long by 3 inches wide by 1 inch deep
- Runtime: Up to 10 hours
- Light color: Cool white
- Excellent battery life
- Includes mounting hardware
- Flexible placement options
Get the JackyLED outdoor solar lights on Amazon.
These Bell + Howell Solar Disk Lights bring the lovely look of recessed lighting to pathways and gardens—and are easier than ever to install.
These solar-powered LED well lights are mounted in small plastic stakes. Just push the light into the ground or grass along pathways or garden borders, and they’ll provide beautiful and hassle-free in-ground lighting. Users can choose between manual or automatic on-off modes for up to 10 hours of illumination.
Each light is self-contained with a built-in solar panel, which means there is no wiring to contend with. Made from stainless steel and with a watertight seal, they’ll hold up to all the usual garden activities, including rainy weather, lawn watering, and mowing.
- Size: 4.5-inch diameter and 5-inch stake
- Runtime: Up to 10 hours
- Light color: Cool white
- Very easy to install
- No wiring at all
- Long runtime
- Won’t work well in shady areas
Get the Bell + Howell outdoor solar lights at Amazon or The Home Depot.
With their old-fashioned design, the Home Zone Security Solar Wall Lanterns are a charming decorative lighting choice for exterior walls. Sold as a pair, they’re made of glass and stainless steel with a classic black finish. Their fairly large size makes a statement, ideal for flanking a doorway, lining an exterior wall, or lighting up fence posts.
Each lantern is equipped with a long-lasting LED bulb that casts a warm white light. Since the solar panel is mounted on top of each lantern, the unit can be placed together or separately. As a bonus, the lanterns are easily detachable from their mount, and with a top handle and flat-bottom surface, they can be hung elsewhere, placed on a table, or carried to lend illumination wherever the evening leads.
- Size: 6.7 inches tall by 6.25 inches wide
- Runtime: Not specified
- Light color: Warm white
- Charming lantern design
- Detachable from wall mount
- Versatile uses
Get the Home Zone Security outdoor solar lights at Amazon or Home Zone Security.
A spotlight is the best choice for highlighting specific landscaping features. With an independently adjustable light and solar panel, the InnoGear Upgraded Solar Outdoor Spotlight is a practical solar-powered alternative to standard wired spotlights.
These spotlights feature a 180-degree solar panel adjustment range and 90-degree light adjustment range (up and down). This makes it possible to shine the spotlight where it’s needed while also ensuring that the solar panel gets adequate sun exposure.
To add user-friendliness, these spotlights have two modes: a low mode that provides lighting for up to 12 hours and a high mode that runs up to 6 hours. With an output of up to 600 lumens, these solar spotlights are a bright choice. Four spotlights are included in this set, but two- and six-light options are also available.
- Size: 10.24 inches tall by 3.35 inches wide by 12.6 inches deep
- Runtime: Up to 12 hours
- Light color: Warm white
- Light and solar panel angle are independently adjustable
- Bright, warm white light
- 2 lighting modes
- Solar panel is not adjustable side to side
Get the InnoGear outdoor solar lights on Amazon.
Floodlights to improve security are typically a hassle to mount and wire. The Sunforce 120 LED Triple Head Solar Motion Light takes wiring out of the equation, yet these easy-to-install options are as bright as many wired counterparts. This motion-sensing floodlight features one large adjustable LED floodlight and a detached solar panel. This separated design allows the floodlight to be mounted where it’s needed, while the solar panel can be placed at a sunny spot nearby. (The light will still charge in indirect sunlight, though perhaps not as effectively.)
For maximum coverage, this floodlight features a triple-head design, with two side lamp heads that can turn upward, downward, and horizontally. When triggered by motion, this floodlight emits 1,000 lumens of light. Along with the lighting direction, users can also adjust this light’s detection distance (up to 30 feet) and light duration.
- Size: 12.9 inches long by 9 inches wide by 6.7 inches deep (light)
- Runtime: Not specified
- Light color: Bright white
- Adjustable side lamp heads
- Direct sunlight not required
- Adjustable detection distance and light duration
- Some users found motion-detection range unreliable
Get the Sunforce outdoor solar lights at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Bed Bath & Beyond.
Fairy lights are the most decorative lighting option on this lineup, providing ambient luminescence that’s more fanciful than functional. With 100 bright LED bulbs in a warm white color, the Amir Solar String Lights have the alluring fairy light look down pat.
This strand measures 33 feet long and has a flexible copper wire, so it’s perfect for lining banisters, stringing across bushes, or wrapping around tree trunks. Both the solar panel and fairy lights are water-resistant, which makes outdoor placement possible.
The fairy lights are powered by a detached solar panel on a stake for easy installation outdoors. Once charged, they’ll provide around 8 hours of light. Amir also manufactures these fairy light strands in various other colors and lengths.
- Size: 33 feet long
- Runtime: 8 hours
- Light color: Warm white
- Warm, luminescent lighting
- Flexible and easy to shape
Get the Amir outdoor solar lights on Amazon.
With their tall height and easy-to-install stakes, path lights make an excellent garden addition, often used to light up favorite bushes and ornamentals. The Beau Jardin solar lights have a classic lantern design but feature a color-changing light to add extra flair to landscaping.
This set includes eight decorative lights, each with a diamond-shaped glass lens that throws a beautiful dimpled light pattern. The lights automatically switch on at dusk, and users can set each light to cycle between its seven colors (white, purple, red, green-yellow, orange, blue, and pink) or stay on one chosen color.
Each light is made of durable rust-resistant steel and has its own built-in solar panel, so they can be installed anywhere in the garden (as long as there’s enough sunlight). Once fully charged, each light will provide up to 12 hours of illumination.
- Size: 16.54 inches tall by 4.72 inches wide
- Runtime: Up to 12 hours
- Light color: White, purple, red, green-yellow, orange, blue, or pink
- 7 color options
- Color-changing and fixed-color modes
- Beautiful light pattern
- Does not remember last-used color setting
Get the Beau Jardin outdoor solar lights on Amazon.
Brightech outdoor solar lights are the best option for most homes, as they’re beautiful, versatile, and shatterproof. For brighter, more functional illumination, consider the Aootek outdoor solar lights. This wall-mounted option can improve safety on steps and walking paths or function as security lighting with motion-detecting settings.
How We Chose the Best Outdoor Solar Lights
With a huge variety of options available, it can be difficult to choose the best outdoor solar lighting for your home. To start narrowing the field, we considered the most common uses for outdoor lighting. With the goal of appealing to a wide range of shoppers, we chose common lighting types to cover a range of needs, from setting a mood to boosting security.
Across each lighting type, we kept a few important points in mind: performance, ease of installation, and aesthetics. Through researching product specifications and shopper reviews, we chose solar lights that were straightforward to install, performed reliably, and looked great while doing so.
The products that made our list charge reliably, provide ample hours of runtime, and create steady lighting. While decor is a personal preference, we also made sure each light in the lineup has some intentional style. When needed, all of the solar lights chosen include installation hardware (such as stakes or mounting hardware).
The Advantages of Owning Outdoor Solar Lights
One of the biggest advantages of installing the best exterior solar lights is their ease of use. All outdoor solar lights need is a sunny spot to charge—no outdoor outlets, wiring, or extension cables required. Since the lights don’t need to plug into an outlet, placement is also more flexible. Outdoor solar lights can go just about anywhere as long as the solar panel receives enough sunshine.
Since solar lights are powered by the sun, these self-sufficient lights are eco-friendly and won’t add a single cent to your electric bill.
Once installed, outdoor solar lights are low maintenance. These lights often use long-lasting LED bulbs, and some may need a fresh battery every few years to maintain performance.
In sum, the main benefits of outdoor solar lights are:
- No outlet required
- Placement flexibility
- No electricity usage
- Low maintenance
Outdoor solar lights boast several benefits over their wired counterparts. They’re easier to install, more eco-friendly, and won’t add to the electric bill. Set them in the best place to install solar lights in your outdoor space, and they should provide lighting well into the night. Still wondering if outdoor solar lights are right for your backyard, deck, or garden? Consider the answers to these frequently asked questions on choosing and using outdoor solar lights.
Q. Do outdoor solar lights really work?
Yes! High-quality outdoor solar lights can work just as well as their wired alternatives. Their only downside is that their performance can be affected by the amount of sunlight they receive.
Q. Do solar lights last all night?
It depends on the light. Battery life and runtime depend on the quality of the solar panel and battery, weather, and solar panel placement. Some outdoor solar lights have a maximum runtime of over 10 hours, which means they will last through the night.
Q. What should I look for when buying solar lights?
When shopping for outdoor solar lights, consider your intended location, preferred light type, ease of installation, light brightness and warmth, and any helpful settings. When in doubt, look for highly rated solar lights from reputable lighting brands.
Q. Are solar lights eco-friendly?
Yes, solar lights gather power from the sun, so they’re an eco-friendly (and economical) choice.
Q. Do outdoor solar lights need direct sunlight?
Direct sunlight is best. Most solar lights will need several hours of direct sunlight to charge their batteries fully. Some outdoor solar lights can still charge in areas with indirect sunlight, but their performance and runtime will be diminished.