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, woven into the beams of a pergola, or strung from the 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 due to their solar panels and won’t add to your electricity bill. With that in mind, read on for tips on selecting the best solar string lights for your outdoor space, and to learn more about the featured picks.
- BEST OVERALL: Brightech Ambience Pro Solar String Lights
- RUNNER UP: Brightown Outdoor Solar String Lights
- BEST GLOBE LIGHTS: Sunlitec Solar String Lights
- BEST LIGHT EFFECTS: dephen Solar 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, as well.
Style and Shape
Solar string light bulbs are available in a variety of styles and shapes, which can give the strands a unique aesthetic. Globe bulbs, Edison bulbs, lantern bulbs, fairy lights, and rope lights are particularly popular:
- Globe: Globe bulbs are typically for decorative purposes. These spherical bulbs come in a range of sizes and are commonly seen in hanging pendants, modern chandeliers, and outdoor string lights. Their classic style is timeless and suits a range of different outdoor decor setups, from angular modern seating areas to cozy bohemian patios. Globe bulbs can add a touch of glamour and charm to an outdoor space.
- Edison: Edison bulbs are designed to look like Thomas Edison’s original invention. These traditional incandescent bulbs feature a warm, glowing appearance, thanks to their visible internal filaments. The oval-like shape and ambient glow can give your outdoor space a vintage look. Modern LED Edison-style bulbs feature this classic light bulb look but with an energy-saving LED design.
- Lantern: Lantern bulbs usually feature standard outdoor string lights covered with a lantern made of paper, plastic, nylon, or tarpaulin (a durable and waterproof material that resembles canvas). Lanterns come in different colors, patterns, and shapes. These fun patio light options can help create a themed or festive atmosphere.
- Fairy: Fairy lights can make a backyard look like a magical escape. The tiny bulbs are usually no larger than a grain of rice and resemble fireflies shimmering on a wire. These are ideal for background lighting, and users can create a pretty effect by draping strands of fairy lights over tree branches, in bushes, or along a fence.
- Rope: Rope lights are essentially mini bulbs encased in a transparent cover to protect them from the elements. Often made with LED bulbs, rope lights are great for winding between deck posts, hanging from fences, or illuminating garden spaces.
When choosing a bulb size, consider the available outdoor space, ease of installation, and desired look. Small bulbs are a good pick for small outdoor spaces: They won’t overpower the space or other outdoor decorations. They’re generally more subtle, providing gentle background lighting. They provide less light and are commonly chosen for decorative purposes.
Large bulbs are more striking and offer a bolder look. Their larger size can provide more direct illumination. They are generally brighter and are well suited for larger spaces that need more lighting. Large decorative bulbs, like globe bulbs and Edison bulbs, can make a style statement.
Lumens measure the amount of light output from a bulb—the more lumens, the brighter the bulb. Note that lumens should not be confused with wattage: Wattage measures how much power a bulb consumes and not necessarily how bright a light appears. When deciding on bulb brightness, take into account the desired lighting effect.
Solar string light bulbs can range from 5 to over 100 lumens per bulb. Users often choose string lights for their glowy appearance rather than their brightness, so lower lumens often do just fine to set the 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, and higher numbers look cooler.
Most home lighting falls between 2,000 K and 6,000 K. Bulbs around 2,700 K have a cozy, warm white color with a yellow hue, while bulbs over 5,000 K offer stark, crisp lighting with a blue hue.
Warm lighting makes a space look more cozy and inviting, while cool lighting can appear harsh, especially at night. For this reason, 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 string lights. The best way to determine the necessary wire length is to use a piece of twine to measure where the lights will go. Make sure to include enough length to reach the outlet, if necessary. Consider the following recommendations, based on the size of your outdoor area:
- For lining one side of a balcony or porch, a 10-foot string of outdoor patio lights may do the trick.
- 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, over 100 feet of string lighting is usually necessary.
Since outdoor string 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. Second, 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 string 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 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 ambiance. Some outdoor string lights include built-in dimmers, while others are dimmer compatible and can attach to external dimming devices.
- 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 can also integrate with smart home devices, like Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
Our Top Picks
The following picks consider all of the key features to look for in 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 your needs and budget.
Most high-quality solar string 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. The panel can be fully charged with 6 hours of direct sunlight.
This strand of lights features 12 bulbs spaced at a distance of 20 inches apart, creating a span of 20 feet. There’s a 6-foot wire connecting to the solar panel, allowing you to place it in the sunniest location. The bulbs are protected with shatterproof plastic shells that are heat-resistant up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
To establish the warmth of a lightbulb, look at the color temperature in Kelvins. The lower the number, the warmer the light will be. This set of lights is available in both warm white (2700K) and a slightly cooler soft white (3000K).
- 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 budget-friendly string light set has a warm yellow hue and eight operating modes, allowing you to select 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 you can easily bend them into a number of different configurations.
The lights take approximately 8 hours to charge, and the battery then lasts for 6 to 8 hours. They have sufficient weather resistance, with 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, allowing you to charge the battery electronically. It takes 5 to 8 hours to charge the battery using solar power or 4 hours using the USB charger.
By having both options, you can ensure your lights will illuminate even on a cloudy or rainy day. The solar panel itself is large, measuring 7.87 inches by 8.66 inches. On a full charge, the lights will shine for up to 8 hours. The color temperature of the lights is 3000K, giving them a versatile, neutral color that is neither too cool or 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 ambiance to your deck, backyard, or even your front porch with these unique string lights. The 20 LED globe lights charge by day and turn on automatically at night. The waterproof, warm white design comes with either a flashing or steady setting, and a stake for fixed planting into the ground.
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 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
- Two lighting modes
- Lights turn on automatically at night
- Dim lighting
- Not weatherproof
This versatile set of string lights can be either solar powered or charged with a micro-USB cable and used both indoors and outdoors. It’s 44 feet long and includes 15 Edison-style LED bulbs. Multiple strands can be connected for larger spaces.
The solar panel takes 6 to 8 hours of continuous sunlight to charge completely and will power the lights for up to 8 hours. They have four modes: steady lights, slow flash, quick flash, and pulsating.
It has excellent waterproofing, with a rating of IPX5, meaning it can withstand even strong water jets. The solar light bulbs are also shatterproof, meaning you don’t have to worry about breaking them.
- 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 string lights stand out for both appearance and construction. These Edison-style solar lights have durable components and a timeless look that can complement a variety of outdoor spaces. If you’re on a budget, the Sunlitec string lights offer similar coverage and pretty—though dimmer—fairy lighting for less.
How We Chose the Best Solar String Lights
The curated list above reflects careful research into the many options for solar string lighting. The top picks feature efficient LED bulbs, 5 or more hours of runtime, long wires, and are designed specifically for outdoor use. As a whole, the list represents popular styles available, 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. Certain string light sets stood out for their extra features, as well, like multiple lighting modes and USB charging.
To be sure that you are using your solar string lights correctly, safely, and effectively, read ahead and learn more about selecting the best option(s) for you.
Q: Can you leave solar string lights on all night?
Since solar lights charge during the day, these string lights will eventually run out of power if left on until charging resumes. So, these lights can be left on all night safely.
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 are capable of operating in the winter as long as they have access to sunlight in order to charge. Since many of these lights are also made to be waterproof, you can also leave them outside throughout the year.
Q: How long do solar string lights last?
Depending upon the model of outdoor solar string lights used, you can expect each set to last from 2 to 4 years.
Q: What color of light is best for outdoors?
White light is the most effective lighting color since it is closest to natural light. Warm white lights have a glowy yellow tinge that is cozy and inviting, making them a popular pick for outdoor lighting.
Colorful bulbs are another option that users often choose for their ambiance 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 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 where needed.
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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.