Photo: Kristen Mosier
High-quality solar deck lights can add a lovely glow to your deck space without adding a penny to your electric bill. These sun-powered fixtures charge throughout the day to provide pleasing light all night. They come in various styles for different areas of the deck, creating attractive background illumination that can let you enjoy your outdoor space into the evening.
Besides looking beautiful, solar deck lights can also increase the safety and security of your outside living area: They lessen the likelihood of stumbles and other accidents that can happen in poorly lit locations, and they may also deter intruders who prefer to operate under the cover of darkness. Read on to learn what features and factors to look for when shopping for solar deck lighting ideas and to find out how popular solar deck lights performed during our rigorous testing.
- BEST OVERALL: Hampton Bay Solar Black LED Stair Light
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: OTHWAY Solar Fence Post Lights
- BEST DECK POST LIGHTS: Greluna Solar Wall Lights
- BEST POST CAP LIGHTS: Siedinlar Solar Post Lights
- BEST RAIL LIGHTS: Brightown Solar Rope String Lights
- BEST STEP LIGHTS: Phereu Solar Deck Step Lights
- BEST FLUSH-MOUNT LIGHTS: Siedinlar Solar Deck Lights
- BEST MOTION-SENSING: Torchstar Polyvalent Low Voltage Solar Step Light
- BEST STRING LIGHTS: Brightech Ambience Pro Solar Outdoor String Lights
- BEST LANTERNS: TomCare Flickering Flame Metal Solar Lantern
How We Tested the Best Solar Deck Lights
In order to test the best solar lights, we first assembled or installed the lights according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. We then chose a testing location on our deck that captured plenty of sunlight, leaving the lights to charge throughout the day. We took note of each product’s overall attractiveness, the on-off mechanism (if available), durability, and the overall brightness of the lights. When observing the light quality, we noted the color temperature and whether the lights were better as accent lighting or could be used for more functional purposes. We left the lights up for a week to survey how the light quality varied depending on the weather conditions and how well each stood up to rain and wind. After capturing this information in a scoring rubric, we were able to report back in our product reviews.
Our Top Picks
Solar deck lighting helps you take advantage of outdoor spaces well into the evening. It’s easy to install, simple to use, and eco-friendly.
To help you weed through the numerous options of solar lights available on the market, we tested some of the most popular selections. Here are all of our top picks for solar deck lights, based on our first-hand experience.
Line steps, fences, walkways, and/or deck posts with these sleek and affordable lights from Hampton Bay. Featuring an all-black design and hidden mounting screws, they will easily blend into just about any decor. We chose to mount them to the stair risers leading down from our deck to the yard, where they provided the perfect amount of light for illuminating the steps.
The 10-lumen LEDs give off a warm white glow that provides ambiance and doesn’t steal from the overall landscape during daylight hours. They are simple to use; an automatic on-off dusk-to-dawn feature turns them on at night and switches them off at sunrise. During our testing, they were the first lights to come on at dusk, even on cloudy days. The plastic body stood up to wet and rainy conditions.
The set included four lights that were easy to install with included mounting hardware. Although designed as solar lighting for steps, these lights would also be appropriate for deck posts or fence surfaces, making them a versatile choice for any outdoor space.
- Light color: Warm white
- Lumens: 10
- Materials: Plastic
- Small and sleek construction; installs well in most outdoor settings
- All-black housing creates a modern look
- Hidden mounting hardware allows for a seamless installation
- Plastic housing is less durable than metal options
Get the Hampton Bay solar deck lights at The Home Depot.
Installing new deck lighting is affordable with this four-pack of lights from Othway. Each light comes with mounting hardware and features a basic white housing with a dimpled plastic cover that was simple to secure on our deck posts. What set this option apart during testing was its light pattern. When turned on, the dimpled cover creates a light design against the surface it’s mounted on that is subtle yet attractive. The warm white color is soft and appealing and, with 12 lumens, gives off the perfect amount of brightness for ambiance and functionality.
The small size makes these lights ideal for steps and deck posts. We easily installed them on ours, and they stayed secure even in windy and rainy conditions. After 6 hours of charging, the lights automatically switch on for 4 to 8 hours once they detect low-light conditions. Come sunrise, the lights switch off to recharge. One minor drawback is that you have to remove the plastic cover to reach the on and off button.
- Light color: Warm white
- Lumens: 12
- Materials: Plastic
- Dimpled cover creates a unique lighting pattern
- Automatic on-off feature creates a consistent light feature
- Affordable compared to other light options
- Branding on front of light detracts from appearance
Get the Othway solar deck lights at Amazon.
Illuminating deck posts can outline a deck perimeter while adding functional lighting. Deck post lighting is typically visible by day, so it’s best to find attractive fixtures, like this stylish LED option from Greluna. Upon arrival, our first impression was that the lights were nice-looking and felt sturdy.
The set includes eight lights, each with an antique-style decorative design on the front that adds a lovely accent to deck posts during the day. When night falls, these versatile lights truly shine, letting users choose from a functional warm white mode and a color-changing option. Each light worked well out of the box, even after cloudy conditions. On the first day of testing, they stood up to heavy rain and wind with no problem.
We preferred the warm white color temperature to the color-changing option; it was soft without any orange glare, perfect for setting an ambient mood. The colorful mode would be well suited for parties to achieve a more festive appearance.
This light set was easy to mount with the included screws. Greluna also suggests using sticky adhesives (not included) for those who prefer to avoid holes in their deck posts. A fast 6-hour charging time provides up to 8 hours of lighting with automatic on-off operation.
- Light color: Warm white or color-changing
- Lumens: 10
- Materials: Plastic
- Decorative design looks nice during the day
- Warm white or color-changing modes to suit the mood
- Relatively quick 6-hour charge time
- Light may be too dim for some users looking to illuminate a large space
Get the Greluna solar deck lights at Amazon.
We love the versatility of these Siedinlar post lights. The set comes with three baseplates for mounting, which can be used for different post sizes, including 4×4, 5×5, and 6×6 inches. There is a standard square plate, one with a beveled edge and a third that extends the base for the largest option. We found the beveled version to be the most elegant-looking once installed. The lights were simple to mount to our wood deck posts with the included screws.
The set features two color temperatures to choose from—cool and warm white. During our testing, we preferred the latter for a softer glow. The output is more appropriate for ambiance rather than task lighting. Runtime lasts about 8 to 12 hours after 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. We had them out for a week and they worked well even on cloudy days. The lights include an IP44 waterproof rating and stood up to heavy rain during our testing.
- Light color: Option for cool or warm white
- Lumens: 10
- Materials: Plastic
- Decorative design looks good even during the day when turned off
- Versatile baseplate installation options to choose from
- Impressive waterproofing makes for a robust set of lights
- Slightly too large for some 4-inch by 4-inch posts.
- May be too dim for task lighting
Get the Siedinlar solar post lights for posts at Amazon, Walmart, or Siedinlar.
With a flexible and waterproof construction, these rope lights from Brightown are an excellent choice for wrapping around deck railings or installing as under-rail lighting. For our testing, we chose the first and loved the subtle ambiance it gave to our evening decor. The slim strand measures 72 feet, so we easily wrapped most of our deck. We attached the solar panel to the side of the deck, but it can also be kept in place using the included ground stake. These features make this option perfect for fences as well. To suit different preferences, users can choose from eight lighting modes. Our favorite was the warm white color temperature, which was less orange than it appeared in the online photos.
This rope light, made of a copper wire light strand encased inside an ultra-thin waterproof PVC membrane, felt durable and held up nicely to the elements. This design gives it an IP65 rating, making it suitable for rainy and wet areas. Once installed, this light needs only 4 to 6 hours of charging to provide up to 10 hours of light. It lasted well into the night during our testing.
- Light color: Warm white
- Lumens: Not specified
- Materials: Copper wire strand and PVC plastic membrane
- Flexible string lights are easy to bend around structures
- Waterproof construction is durable and allows for more flexible installation
- 8 light modes and up to 10 hours of light on a 4- to 6-hour charge
- No automatic on-off mode
- Brightown does not share lumen output
Get the Brightown solar deck lights at Amazon or Brightown.
This option is perfect for those looking for long-lasting, easy-to-install stair lights. After just 6 hours of charging time, these lights will run for up to 12 hours. All 16 lights worked well out of the package and lit our stairs from dusk to late into the night.
The color temperature is a warm white which provides a soft glow without glare. With a mellow 3 lumens of light output, we used one on either stair side for better illumination. They were easy to install with the included glue tabs and stayed in place over time. They can also be secured with screws for more permanent use. One downfall is that we found the lip with the solar panel to be less attractive than options that can be tucked away on the stair risers. The company doesn’t list the waterproof rating, but the plastic construction stood up to rain during our testing.
- Light color: Warm white
- Lumens: 3
- Material: Plastic
- Easy to install L-shaped design
- Long-lasting and durable waterproof construction
- Comes with 16 lights in the set at an affordable price point
- Not as sleek as other options
- Light might be too dim for some
- No on-off switch for manual operation
Get the Phereu solar deck lights at Amazon.
These lights from Siedinlar proved durable and long-lasting during our testing. This set of four solar LED deck lights feature a sturdy and weather-proof aluminum alloy housing that can take up to 20 tons of pressure, so users can install them just about anywhere without worry of breakage. After placing them on the floor along the deck perimeter, we walked and even jumped on them, and they were no worse for the wear.
They aren’t flush to the ground, nor are they the most attractive lights we tested, but they make up for that in functionality. The bright white light is extremely useful for areas where safety is a priority. They are also available in blue and warm white.
The set comes with screws to easily mount the lights to a deck floor, to posts, or to steps. Each light features an automatic on-off button. After 6 to 8 hours of charging, they offer 12 hours of lighting. These lights were among the longest-lasting we tested. Rated IP68, they also easily stood up to wet conditions.
- Light color: Bright white
- Lumens: 15
- Materials: Aluminum
- Lights provide an impressive 12-hour runtime
- Aluminum build; more durable than plastic options
- Heat and frost resistant, as well as waterproof; great in most weather conditions
- Semi-flush mount—light has a height of 0.8 inches when installed
- Not as attractive in daylight
Get the Siedinlar solar deck lights at Amazon or Siedinlar.
Motion-sensing lights can add safety and security to a deck, notifying users of motion and intruders. These LED solar ones from Torchstar are designed for steps, but they can be installed on pretty much any flat surface to offer better security, including deck posts, walls, and fences. We easily secured them to the stairs directly outside our back door to alert us to movement.
The lights worked well and detected motion from an ample distance as long as nothing was in the way. When activated, they gave off an impressively bright (320-lumen) white light for 15 seconds that is great for safety but not as comfortable when using the outdoor space. The lights don’t have a steady-on mode, so they’re best suited for security lighting. This pack includes two motion-sensing lights with an IP65 waterproof rating that held up well in rainy conditions.
- Light color: Bright white
- Lumens: 320 lumens
- Materials: Plastic
- Bright 320-lumen lighting for safety and security
- IP65 waterproof can be installed in any outdoor area
- Motion activated provide excellent outdoor security lighting
- No steady-on mode; not great for illuminating an entertainment space
- Too bright if included in the lounging space
Get the Torchstar solar deck lights at Amazon, Wayfair or Walmart.
This 48-foot strand of lights features a strong black cable and 15 Edison-shaped LED bulbs attached to a solar panel. Our favorite thing about these string lights is the convenience of solar power charging. Not being tethered to an outlet offered us flexibility when deciding where to hang them. We easily strung them from our house over our deck, securing the solar panel in a sunny spot with the included clamp clip, and loved the warm glow of the bulbs. The solar panel can also be staked in the ground if needed.
The soft light is best as an accent over task lighting. It also wasn’t as bright on cloudy days, working most efficiently after lots of sun. The string lights take 6 hours to charge and provide 5 to 6 hours of lighting. The plastic construction stood up to heavy rain during testing.
- Light color: Warm white
- Lumens: Unknown
- Materials: Plastic LED bulbs
- Casts an elegant warm white ambient lighting
- Untethered by outlets; more flexible installation options
- Shatterproof construction in a classic vintage look
- Lights are dimmer on cloudy days
- Charge may not last late into the night
Get the Brightech solar deck lights at Amazon, Brightech, or The Home Depot.
Perfect for those looking to add ambiance to their deck, this set of solar lanterns includes a flickering flame design that resembles the real thing. The color is a warm yellow-orange that softly illuminates the space. These lights quickly attracted attention and accolades from visitors.
These lights were simple to set up with a convenient on-off button. We used them on the ground, but a small hook also makes them suitable for hanging.
The lanterns require 8 hours of sunlight for charging and, once the sun goes down, glow 10 hours during the summer and 5 in the winter in most areas. We set a lantern out on a cloudy day, but it still glowed at night and even into the morning. The next day was sunnier, and the light glowed a bit brighter. The lanterns have an IP65 waterproof grade and were resilient to rain during our testing.
- Light color: Warm yellow-orange
- Lumens: 25
- Material: Plastic and metal
- Easy to set up compared to string or mounted lights
- Long-lasting metal construction
- Lantern with flickering flame design add ambiance
- May be too orange for some preferences
Get the TomCare metal lanterns at Amazon or TomCare.
What to Consider When Choosing Solar Deck Lights
Solar deck lights are a charming and practical way to add illumination to a deck so people can enjoy the space after dark. Similar to choosing lighting in a home, there are various aspects to consider when considering outdoor deck lighting. Consider the features ahead to ensure that you install functional lighting that suits your style.
Types of Solar Deck Lights
Solar deck lights are a smart choice for a variety of reasons. The best solar deck lights are easier to install than wired lights, won’t tack on any extra costs to your electric bill, and are also an eco-friendly option. The first step in selecting solar deck lights is deciding where you want to install them. There are several options, and each offers a different look. Choose from post lights, rail lights, step lights, and flush-mounted lights—and keep in mind that a combination of a few types may create the most attractive lighting landscape.
Solar Deck Post Lights
Solar deck post lights are often installed on the side of a deck post, shining downward. Also called side mount lights, this lighting type can be placed on deck posts, fencing, or other flat deck surfaces. Another option is to install a post cap light on the top of the desk post. Post cap lights add a decorative detail to deck posts during the day while also protecting the top of the post from the elements. Either deck post light type can be used to add a subtle ambient lighting or to create dramatic accent lighting.
Solar Deck Rail Lights
The primary function of solar deck rail lights is to make it easy to find the railing in the dark, which is useful for going up and down steps. Rail lighting can create an ambient glow around the perimeter of a deck, lighting up a large area while still remaining subtle. Under-rail lights are discreet and unassuming during the day, making them the best option for those who don’t want visible light fixtures on their deck.
Solar Deck Step Lights
Dark deck stairs can be a tripping hazard after the sun sets, but solar deck step lights can show the way to safety. The main purpose of solar lighting for steps is to light high-traffic areas, so they’re usually installed on the vertical rise of the stair, shining downward to light up each step. This functional lighting makes it safer to walk up and down deck stairs and looks good doing it, creating visual levels in any deck lighting landscape.
Flush-Mount Solar Deck Lights
A flush-mount light fixture typically calls to mind an unobtrusive ceiling light, but there are also solar deck light options designed to mount flush (or near-flush) with the deck surface. These lights are often installed on deck flooring or on stair risers. They create a seamless and polished look, are particularly well suited for modern homes, and can be used to line deck pathways, perimeters, and steps.
Brightness and Color
Solar deck lights come in a variety of brightness and color options. Brightness is measured in a unit called lumens—the more lumens, the brighter the lights. For ambient deck lighting, look for lights that have an output in the range of 10 to 200 lumens, and keep in mind that different deck areas may benefit from different brightness levels.
Colored lights are available, but white lights are the most common. White lights range in color temperature from warm to cool. Warm lights have a yellowish hue that makes them appear more glowy and less bright, while cool lights have a bluish hue that creates a brighter look. Some solar deck lights have multiple color temperature options.
Solar Capacity and Quality
Solar power is a remarkable innovation, and solar panels continue to improve, but the truth is that they still aren’t all that great at capturing sunlight. In fact, most solar panels only have about 20 percent efficiency or lower, which means only about 20 percent of the energy they collect is converted into usable energy. That’s why it’s best to install solar deck lights in areas that get direct sunlight during the day. Direct sunlight allows solar lights to take full advantage of their charging capacity.
The most common types of consumer solar panels are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar panels. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar lights tend to be more efficient than thin-film ones, so opt for these types for better solar capacity.
Most deck light packaging doesn’t display information on solar panel type or efficiency details. Instead, information on the charging time and runtime can give users a general idea of the solar capacity and efficiency.
Solar lights store the power they absorb during the day in a battery, ready to use at night. Each solar deck light has a small battery on board to hold an electrical charge. This design means there’s no wiring needed to install solar deck lights, but batteries eventually need to be replaced, usually in 1 to 3 years. Changing the battery in most lights isn’t difficult, and it’s definitely much easier than wiring an entire deck.
For energy savings and user convenience, most solar lights switch on automatically at dusk and switch off at dawn. Also available are motion-sensing deck lights that only switch on when they detect movement, saving even more battery life.
Recharging Time and Runtime
Solar deck lights recharge during the day, capturing sunlight to convert into electricity. Some lights feature a sensor to switch on automatically in low-light conditions, while others need to be turned on manually.
Solar lights charge automatically during the day and need between 4 and 10 hours of recharging time. They’ll charge best in direct sunlight, so keep that in mind when choosing locations.
Most solar deck lights will run for 6 to 12 hours into the evening, which is more than enough to last for most households from dusk until bedtime.
Lighting Angle and Range
Lighting angle plays a role in ambiance and in how well lit the deck will be. Different types of solar deck lights can help brighten your deck from all angles.
For example, step lights tend to point downward to illuminate the stairs, while post cap lights have a diffused outward lighting to brighten nearby areas. Upward lights can also be used to light up deck paths or create dramatic accents. Consider what deck elements you want to illuminate, and figure out the best lighting angles to do so. Keep in mind that most deck lights have about a 120-degree lighting angle, so you’ll likely need multiples to light up a space.
Also consider the lighting range. Brighter lights with a wider angle will illuminate a larger area. A wider lighting range can increase safety and security, since it will brighten more of your deck space.
Deck lights come in a variety of designs and colors, and solar options are no different. Many deck lights come in an understated and modern design, well suited for contemporary decks. They have a simple design in a neutral color to suit the widest range of decor styles possible. More ornate fixtures are also available for those looking for a bit of flair.
Solar deck lights come in a wide range of materials and finishes, including plastic, aluminum, steel, copper, bronze, and painted options. There’s a suitable design for virtually any deck space, whether you want a sleek, recessed step light or an elaborate, flashy post cap fixture.
Outdoor deck lighting will be exposed to the elements, so it’s crucial to install a weather-resistant pick. Weather resistance is especially important when it comes to solar-powered lights—since the light should be installed in a spot with direct sunlight, that also means it may face direct moisture.
Outdoor fixtures are often assigned an IP (Ingress Protection) code rating, which is a measure of their dust and water resistance. Look for lights with a rating of IP55 and above, which means the lights are protected from most dust as well as water jets. Lights with an IP44 rating and higher may be appropriate for less rainy climates and for partially or fully covered decks.
Solar deck lights can include a range of lighting and color settings to customize a lighting setup. Basic lights will have one setting with an on-off switch, while others have the option to adjust brightness, temperature, or cycle through color-changing options. Some also have different lighting pattern settings, such as twinkling to flashing lighting for the holidays.
For the most part, solar deck lights are fairly simple. Models with different modes are typically easy to control with the press of a button or the flip of a switch.
The Advantages of Owning Solar Deck Lights
Solar deck lights are a solid choice for those who want to add low-maintenance outdoor illumination. High-quality solar lights are much easier to install than wired deck lights and, once installed, there’s no extra monthly cost to your electric bill.
For most homes, the best solar deck lights are set-it-and-forget-it models that needn’t be fussed with at all until the battery needs replacing (after 1 to 3 years). Many come with automatic on-off settings to make them extra convenient and simple to use. Lastly, the best solar deck lights are eco-friendly, running on the power of the sun rather than using nonrenewable energy sources.
- Easy to install
- No monthly cost
- Simple to maintain and use
Solar deck lights are a brilliant addition to an outdoor space to outline deck perimeters, lend visual interest, and illuminate entertaining areas—all without the energy bill of wired lights. Still need a bit more info to decide on the best solar deck lights for your home? Consider the answers to these frequently asked questions.
Q. How do I install solar deck lights?
Always follow the manufacturer’s installation directions, which typically are fairly simple. Many solar deck lights come with installation hardware, which can include screws or adhesive mounts. With no wiring required, solar deck lights are easy to install.
Q. How long do solar deck lights last?
Most solar deck lights have energy-efficient and long-lasting LEDs, so they can last for upwards of a decade. Keep in mind that the batteries may need changing every few years.
Q. How many lumens do I need for solar lights?
It depends on how bright you want your lights to look; the higher the lumens, the brighter the light. Look for lighting within the range of 10 to 200 lumens for solar deck lighting.
Q. Do I leave my solar lights on all the time?
It depends on the light. If the solar lights have a manual switch, they should be switched off when you head in for the evening. If they have automatic on-off settings (also known as dawn-to-dusk operation), you can leave them “on” all the time—they have sensors that will turn off the light automatically during the day.
Q. Will solar deck lights charge in overcast conditions?
Yes. They may not charge as efficiently, but solar deck lights will still charge in overcast weather.
Q. What are the brightest solar lights for the garden?
The Torchstar Polyvalent Low Voltage Solar Step Light are motion-sensing step lights with a 320-lumen beam, making them an ideal pick for deck safety and security lighting.
Q. Will solar deck lights function in the snow?
Yes, weatherproof solar deck lights can still function in the snow. Just wipe the snow off the solar panel during the day so it can efficiently charge.
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