Solar string lights illuminate your outdoor space while adding sparkle and whimsy, creating a pleasant atmosphere for entertaining or relaxing outdoors. You can hang them over a dining table, weave them into the beams of a pergola, or string them from trees to turn your backyard into an atmospheric oasis.
Compared to standard outdoor string lights, solar-powered options are useful if you don’t have a conveniently placed electrical outlet. They’re also an energy-efficient option because solar panels don’t add to your electricity bill. With that in mind, keep reading for tips for selecting the best solar string lights for your outdoor space and to learn more about these featured picks.
- BEST OVERALL: Brightech Ambience Pro Solar String Lights
- BEST BUDGET: Brightown Outdoor Solar String Lights
- BEST GLOBE LIGHTS: Sunlitec Solar String Lights
- BEST LIGHT EFFECTS: dephen Solar Moroccan String Lights
- BEST WATERPROOF: MagicPro Solar String Lights
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Solar String Lights
To create an inviting, illuminated outdoor space, consider the size and shape of the bulbs, as well as brightness and color. A weather-resistant design, a lengthy cord, and remote or app control features can make outdoor solar-powered string lights safer and easier to use.
Style and Shape
Solar string light bulbs are available in a variety of styles and shapes, including globe bulbs, Edison bulbs, lantern bulbs, fairy lights, and rope lights.
- Globe: These spherical bulbs, which come in a range of sizes, are commonly used in hanging pendants, modern chandeliers, and outdoor string lights. Their classic, timeless style complements a range of outdoor decor setups, from angular modern seating areas to cozy bohemian patios. Globe bulbs add a touch of glamour and charm to an outdoor space.
- Edison: Edison bulbs are designed to look like Thomas Edison’s original invention. Thanks to their visible internal filaments, these traditional incandescent bulbs have a warm, glowing vintage appearance. Modern LED Edison-style bulbs offer this classic light bulb look but in an energy-saving LED design.
- Lantern: Lantern bulbs are covered with a lantern made of paper, plastic, nylon, or tarpaulin (a durable, waterproof material that resembles canvas). Lanterns come in different colors, patterns, and shapes.
- Fairy: These tiny bulbs, which are usually no larger than a grain of rice, resemble fireflies shimmering on a wire. These are ideal for background or Christmas lights, and users can create a magical effect by draping strands of fairy lights over tree branches, in bushes, or along a fence.
- Rope: Rope lights are mini bulbs encased in a transparent cover to protect them from the elements. Often made with LED bulbs, rope lights can be wound around deck posts, hung from fences, or used to illuminate garden spaces.
When choosing bulb size, consider the available outdoor space, ease of installation, and desired look. Small bulbs are a good choice for small outdoor spaces; they won’t overpower the space or other outdoor decorations. They’re generally more subtle, providing gentle background lighting. Because they provide less light, they are commonly chosen for decorative purposes.
Large bulbs are more striking and offer a bolder look, Moreover, their larger size provides more direct illumination. They are generally brighter and are suitable for larger spaces that need additional lighting. Large decorative bulbs, such as globe bulbs and Edison bulbs, make a style statement.
The amount of light output a bulb can emit is specified in lumens—the more lumens, the brighter the bulb. Don’t confuse lumens with wattage: Wattage measures how much power a bulb consumes and not how bright a light appears. When deciding on bulb brightness, consider the desired lighting effect.
Solar string light bulbs can range from 5 to over 100 lumens per bulb. Users often choose solar lights for their glowy appearance rather than their brightness, so lower lumens often work well to set a mood.
Lighting color temperature is measured using the Kelvin temperature scale (K). This scale measures how warm or cool the lighting appears. Lower numbers on the Kelvin scale look warmer, while higher numbers appear cooler.
Most home lighting falls between 2000 K to 6000 K. Bulbs around 2700 K have a cozy, warm white color with a yellow hue, while bulbs over 5000 K provide stark, crisp lighting with a blue hue.
Warm lighting makes a space look more cozy and inviting, while cool lighting may appear harsh, especially at night. As a result, warmer bulbs are generally preferred for ambient outdoor lighting.
Consider the size of the outdoor space and the lighting layout when choosing the ideal length of solar string lights. The best way to determine the required wire length is to use a piece of twine to measure where the lights will go. Consider the following recommendations, based on the size of the outdoor area:
- For lining one side of a balcony or porch, use a 10-foot string of outdoor patio lights.
- A small 6-foot by 8-foot patio space typically requires 25 to 50 feet of string lighting.
- A medium 12-foot by 12-foot outdoor space may need 50 to 100 feet of string lighting, depending on the desired layout.
- For more spacious areas or to illuminate a large event, more than 100 feet of string lighting is usually necessary.
Since outdoor solar lights are exposed to the elements, selecting a set that stands up to rainy conditions and heavy gusts of wind is important. Having to take down the string lights every time they face inclement weather is not ideal.
First, check the product description to determine if the lights are intended for outdoor use. Using indoor lighting outside creates a potential fire hazard. Secondly, make sure the product is water resistant (or waterproof—even spots under a roof can grow damp in bad weather).
Weather-resistant lights can handle direct exposure to water and feature watertight seals to protect their interior parts from accumulating moisture and causing safety issues.
For those who want to upgrade from basic solar lights, consider a model with extra features like color-changing bulbs, dimming options, and remote control or app operation.
- Color-changing bulbs: For a fun pop of color, look for patio string lights with color-changing bulbs. These solar string light options can set the mood for different events, seasons, and holidays.
- Dimming options: Whether for a romantic outdoor dinner or patio drinks with friends, dimming the lights can add to a cozy ambience. Some outdoor solar string lights include built-in dimmers, while others are compatible with a dimmer.
- Remote/app controls: A remote control allows for the operation of different lighting settings within a certain vicinity of the lights. App controls add even more convenience. WiFi-enabled options make it easy to switch lights on and off, even when away from home. Some lights also integrate with smart-home devices, like Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
Our Top Picks
The following picks consider all the key features to look for when shopping for solar string lights, including length, brightness, bulb style, and color. This list offers a variety of choices for a top-notch string of solar lights that suits both needs and budget.
Most high-quality solar lights use LED bulbs because they are long lasting and emit plenty of light but very little heat, making them a safe choice for many settings. These LED Edison-style bulbs have a vintage look and last 5 to 6 hours on a full charge. Six hours of direct sunlight fully charges the solar panel.
The light strand features 12 bulbs spaced 20 inches apart to span 20 feet. A 6-foot wire connects to the solar panel to allow for placement in the sunniest location. The bulbs are protected with shatterproof plastic shells that resist heat up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
To determine the warmth of a light bulb, find the color temperature in Kelvins. The lower the number, the warmer the light. This set of lights is available in both warm white (2700 K) and a slightly cooler soft white (3000 K).
- Bulb Type: LED
- Length: 27 feet
- Runtime: 5 to 6 hours
- Attractive vintage aesthetic
- Heat-resistant up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit
- Shatterproof and weatherproof
This Brightown budget-friendly solar string light set has a warm yellow hue and eight operating modes, allowing the lights to flicker, fade, or create a firefly effect. This string is 66 feet long and includes 200 tiny LED string lights. They come on a flexible copper wire, so they can be bent into many different configurations.
The lights take approximately 8 hours to charge, but the battery lasts 6 to 8 hours. They have a waterproof rating of IP65.
- Bulb Type: LED
- Length: 66 feet
- Runtime: 6 to 8 hours
- Multiple lighting modes
- Can be wrapped, hung, or affixed to surfaces easily
- Waterproof housing
- Dimmer than other string light options
This Sunlitec set includes 25 large solar light bulbs spaced 10 inches apart. This 27-foot set can be used either indoors or outdoors. For indoor use, a micro-USB charger is provided. It takes 5 to 8 hours to charge the battery using solar power or 4 hours with the USB charger.
Having both options ensures the lights can illuminate even on a cloudy or rainy day. Measuring 7.87 inches by 8.66 inches, the solar panel is large. On a full charge, the lights shine for up to 8 hours. The string’s color temperature is 3000 K, giving them a versatile neutral color that is neither too cool nor too warm.
- Bulb Type: LED
- Length: 27 feet
- Runtime: Up to 8 hours
- Large bulbs provide more illumination
- Neutral color temperature
- Includes micro-USB charger for alternative power
Bring Moroccan ambience to the deck, backyard, or the front porch with these unique solar string lights. The 20 LED globe lights charge by day and turn on automatically at night. The warm white light of these string lights can be set to either flash or steadily glow. A stake to plant the panel in the ground is included.
This 15-foot set comes with a built-in rechargeable battery that reaches full capacity after 6 to 8 hours of daytime charging. The outdoor solar string lights are meant for year-round use and can run for 8 to 10 hours on a single charge.
- Bulb Type: LED
- Length: 15 feet
- Runtime: 8 to 10 hours
- Unique Moroccan-style globe lights
- 2 lighting modes
- Lights turn on automatically at night
- Dim lighting
- Not weatherproof
This versatile set of string lights from MagicPro, which can be used via solar power or with a micro-USB cable, can be used both indoors and outdoors. The string is 44 feet long, and it includes 15 Edison-style LED bulbs. Multiple strands can be connected for larger spaces.
The solar panel, which takes 6 to 8 hours of continuous sunlight to charge completely, can power the lights for up to 8 hours. The lights have four modes: steady lights, slow flash, quick flash, and pulsating.
The string has excellent waterproofing, with a rating of IPX5, meaning it can withstand even strong water jets. The solar light bulbs are also shatterproof.
- Bulb Type: LED
- Length: 44 feet
- Runtime: Up to 8 hours
- Larger bulbs provide more lighting
- Can be charged using a micro-USB cable
- IPX5 waterproof rating
- More expensive than other string light sets
The Brightech solar string lights stand out in both appearance and design. These Edison-style solar lights have durable components and a timeless look that can complement a variety of outdoor spaces. For a budget option, the Brightown solar lights provide fairy lighting to enhance smaller outdoor spaces.
How We Chose the Best Solar String Lights
This curated list reflects careful research into the many options for solar string lighting. The top picks feature efficient LED bulbs, 5 hours or more of runtime, long wires, and a design intended specifically for outdoor use. As a whole, the list represents the most popular styles, including delicate fairy lights, globe lights, and classic Edison-style bulbs.
Many of the sets in this guide are meant for year-round usage and can be used indoors, if desired. Some solar string light sets stand out for their extra features, as well, including multiple lighting modes and USB charging.
To be sure that you’re using your solar string lights correctly, safely, and effectively, read the questions below and learn more about selecting the best option for you.
Q: Can you leave solar string lights on all night?
Since solar lights charge during the day, yes, these lights can be safely left on all night. But, be aware that any solar-powered string lights that contain lithium batteries are at higher risk for overheating or catching fire if unattended.
Q: Do solar string lights work in the winter?
Solar string lights can operate in the winter as long as they have access to sunlight to charge. Since many of these lights are also made to be waterproof, you can leave them outside throughout the year.
Q: How long do solar string lights last?
Depending upon the model, you can expect outdoor solar string lights to last from 2 to 4 years.
Q: What color light is best for outdoors?
White light is the most effective lighting color since it’s closest to natural light. Warm white lights have a glowy yellow tinge that is cozy and inviting, making them a popular choice for outdoor lighting.
Colorful bulbs are another option that users often choose for their ambience rather than their lighting ability. These lights add a decorative flair and can be a fun addition for different seasons and holidays.
Q: How do you hang solar string lights on a patio?
The easiest option is to hang string lights from existing fixtures or wrap them around columns and railings that surround a patio. If necessary, create hanging options by using heavy-duty sticky hooks, metal hooks, or nails.
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Savannah Sher is a freelance writer and editor with a degree in Journalism from Concordia University who covers home improvement, lifestyle, wellness and pop culture. Her guests have become accustomed to walls being repainted and furniture being moved around every time they visit. She lives with her husband and three-legged rescue dog Nori who is the best co-worker she could ask for.