Do you want to enhance your outdoor space by adding lighting, but don’t want to deal with wiring and electricty? Solar-powered garden lights provide a versatile lighting solution that is easy to install anywhere outdoors. Powered entirely by free solar energy, these lights absorb sunshine during the day and then turn on automatically at night, without needing any wires or electrical connections.
In this article, we’ll share our picks for the top 5 solar-powered garden lights on the market. We’ll also give you tips on how to choose the right solar lighting for your unique garden needs and landscape. Let’s shed some light on amazing solar options that will allow you to illuminate pathways, accent trees and plants, provide security, and create an incredible ambiance in your outdoor oasis!
What Are Solar-Powered Garden Lights?
Solar garden lights are outdoor lighting fixtures that utilize solar energy from the sun to recharge their batteries during the day. At night, the stored energy is used to power the light, turning on automatically at dusk and off at dawn. The solar panel converts sunlight into electricity and stores it in the attached battery. This allows the light to operate without any electrical cords or wiring.
There are many benefits to using solar lights for outdoor spaces:
- Versatile – Solar lights can be installed anywhere outdoors that receives sufficient direct sunlight. Pathways, gardens, patios, driveways, entryways and more can all be lit using solar.
- Eco-Friendly – Solar energy is clean and renewable, so solar lighting is a green choice. No electricity or fossil fuels required!
- Cost Effective – While solar lights require an initial investment, there are no ongoing electrical costs like with wired lighting. The sun powers them for free!
- Easy Installation – No electrician or wiring required! Most solar lights simply stake or spike into the ground, while some attach via small screws.
- Reliable Auto On/Off – Solar lights turn on automatically at night and off during the day. No switches needed.
Now let’s dive into our picks for the top 5 solar-powered garden lights on the market this year:
Top 5 Solar-Powered Garden Lights
1. Solarmate LED Solar Garden Lights
Solarmate solar lights are our top pick thanks to their durable construction and super bright illumination. Made of weather-resistant materials, these rugged metal lights have frosted glass tops to help provide a wide 120° beam angle.
The attached solar panel soaks up sun during the day to power the 20 LED bulbs all night long. At 600 lumens, these SOLARMATE lights give off a brilliant glow on a full charge. An energy efficient lithium-ion battery stores solar energy to run 8-12 hours per night depending on brightness mode.
Additional features include adjustable brightness settings, auto on/off, and a motion sensor mode. These versatile SOLARMATE solar lights are perfect for pathways, flower beds, patios, driveways and more outdoor spaces.
- Very bright 600 lumen output
- Durable glass and metal housing
- Efficient lithium-ion battery
- Adjustable brightness and motion sensor
- Higher price point
- Large solar panel could look clunky to some
Price Range: Around $50 per light
2. TomCare Solar Path Lights
For those looking for an affordable solar lighting option, TomCare path lights are a great choice. These subtle black lights are designed to inconspicuously line pathways with a soft glow.
The small integrated solar panel recharges the built-in 800mAh NiMH battery, which provides 5-8 hours of light at night. At just 28 bright LED bulbs per light, the lumen output is lower than other options at around 250. But the warm white glow is perfect for accenting walkways without being overpowering.
With an IP65 weatherproof rating, these TomCare solar lights will withstand all kinds of weather. And installation takes just minutes with the included metal spikes.
- Inexpensive price
- Discreet design
- Easy installation
- Weather resistant
- Lower light output
- NiMH battery doesn’t last as long as lithium ion
Price Range: $25 for a 6-pack
3. Amir Solar Stealth Night Lights
The Amir Solar Stealth Lights offer a modern design powered by the sun. The matte black exterior housing disappears against vegetation, mulch or dirt. But the internal LEDs shine bright when darkness falls.
This set of 2 pathway lights has integrated mono-crystalline solar panels to absorb lots of sunlight and recharge the 800mAh lithium-ion batteries. The batteries store plenty of power to keep the 15 LED bulbs shining for 8-10 hours at night.
These solar stealth lights provide 120° illumination and have adjustable angles. The durable aluminum and plastic construction stands up to weather while blending into landscapes.
- Sleek, minimalist design
- Bright 15 LED bulbs
- Lithium battery for longer runtime
- Can adjust light angle
- Only comes as a set of 2
- Lower lumen output
Price Range: $22 for a 2-pack
4. LITOM Original Solar Landscape Lights
For a versatile solar lighting option, the LITOM Original Solar Landscape Lights are a top pick. Available in 24 bright colors, you can choose lights that blend in or make a bold statement.
Each light has a built-in 800mAh lithium-ion battery that charges via the 3 inch solar panel. On full charge, the battery powers the 20 LEDs for 8-12 hours on the lowest brightness setting. With 3 modes to choose from, you can have these lights shine dimly or brightly.
The sturdy plastic and aluminum housing is weather resistant and rust-proof. Install them along paths, lining driveways or scattered throughout garden beds and flower pots.
- Fun color options
- 20 bright LED bulbs
- Lithium battery for max runtime
- Weatherproof construction
- Lower lumen output than some models
Price Range: $16 for a 4-pack
5. Signature Garden Solar Mason Jar Lights
For a rustic aesthetic, Signature Garden’s Solar Mason Jar Lights are a charming choice. These solar-powered lights are artfully designed to look like classic mason jars. Choose from distressed bronze, copper, or silver finishes.
Each “mason jar” light contains an integrated solar panel, lithium-ion battery, LED module, and light sensor. White LEDs shine 360° to add accent lighting anywhere outdoors. The cute solar lights look beautiful along pathways, illuminating gardens, hanging in trees or lining porch steps.
These solar-powered jar lights have an IPX4 water-resistant rating. And installation only takes a few minutes with the ground stakes or wall mounts.
- Gorgeous mason jar design
- Distressed metal finishes
- 360° ambient lighting
- Water resistant
- Lower lumen output
Price Range: $35 per light
How to Choose the Best Solar Lights for Your Garden
Now that you have an overview of some of the top solar garden lights available, let’s go over what factors you’ll want to consider when choosing solar lighting for your unique space:
Assess Your Lighting Needs
First, assess where you want to install solar lighting and why. Do you need to brighten up paths and walkways so they are visible and safe at night? Are you looking to highlight garden beds, accent trees/plants or add landscape ambiance? Determine how much light coverage you need. This will help you choose solar lights with proper brightness.
For large areas like driveways or extensive pathways, look for solar lights in the 600+ lumen range. Go for lower 300-400 lumen lights to accent small gardens and landscaping features without overpowering them.
Factor in the number of lights you’ll need and where they will go. Ten smaller solar path lights lined along a walkway will provide more coverage than two larger solar spotlights.
Lumen Brightness Levels
In addition to considering your overall lighting needs, look at lumen output for individual solar lights. Lumens measure the brightness of the bulb – higher lumens mean brighter light.
Most solar garden lights range from 150-600 lumens. Pathway lighting tends to be in the lower 150-300 lumen range. For gardens and accent lighting, 200-400 lumens is common. Bright spotlights used to illuminate driveways, large trees or security cameras are typically 400+ lumens.
Higher lumen solar lights allow you to light up larger areas, but can be overpowering in small garden beds where subtlety is preferred.
The battery included in solar lights will impact durability and runtime. Most solar lights have either a Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) or Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery.
Lithium ion batteries last longer between charges, have a longer overall lifespan and perform better in cold weather than NiMH. However, they are more expensive. Lithium ion batteries can power solar lights for 8-12 hours per night.
Nickel-metal hydride batteries are more affordable, but don’t last as long – usually 5-8 hours of runtime. Lifespan is lower – around 1-2 years versus 3-5 years for lithium ion. NiMH don’t handle cold weather as well either.
If you live in a climate with cold winters, go for lithium ion battery powered solar lights. For temperate regions, NiMH solar lights can be an economical choice if you don’t mind replacing them more often.
Solar Panel Size
Naturally, the larger the solar panel, the more sunlight it can absorb. More stored energy equals longer runtimes for the lights at night. Most solar panels for garden lights range from 1 inch to 4 inches.
Tiny 1-inch solar panels work well for path lights. Small 2-3 inch panels are suitable for low-level garden and accent lighting. For the brightest spotlights or security lights, look for larger 3-4 inch solar panels. Just keep aesthetic in mind – large solar panels can be an eyesore.
When comparing solar lights, look at solar panel and overall size. Wattage, often 5-7 Watts, is another specification to consider.
Outdoor solar garden lights take a beating from the elements year-round. Make sure any solar lights you choose are built to withstand your climate.
Look for lights made of durable materials like weather-resistant plastic, aluminum and heat/corrosion-resistant metals. Glass solar light covers can add style, but may be more prone to breaking.
Ensure the solar lights have waterproofing like silicone sealing and an IP (Ingress Protection) rating. Many options are IP64 or IP65 rated to handle dust and rain. The higher the number, the better they resist water.
Ease of Installation
Look at how straightforward it is to install the solar lights when making your purchasing decision. The easier they are to set up, the faster you’ll be enjoying your new outdoor illumination.
Many solar garden lights simply stick into the ground with a metal spike or plastic stake. These are the quickest to install – no tools required. Just insert into soil wherever desired.
Some solar spotlights and trail lights may need to be secured with small screws or mounting brackets. This takes a bit more time and possibly tools to install them.
Ideally, the lights will include all required installation hardware right in the box. The less assembly the better.
Today’s solar lights offer lots of customizable lighting modes. Determine if adjustable settings like variable brightness, motion activation, and auto on/off at dusk & dawn are important to you.
The ability to switch a solar light from a bright 600 lumen beam down to a subtle 200 lumen glow can be useful. Dimming the lights saves battery for times you want softer ambiance.
Motion sensors are handy for solar lights used in driveways and entryways. The light will turn on when it detects movement nearby.
Auto on/off solar lights will activate as soon as the sun goes down, without you having to do a thing. Look for this timesaving feature.
Design & Finish
There are lots of design options when it comes to solar lights. Choose lights that match your current garden decor for a cohesive look.
Outdoor solar lights come in styles ranging from modern and minimalist to classic and ornate. Finishes like antique bronze, oil-rubbed brass, and distressed copper add vintage flair. For contemporary spaces, try matte black or stainless steel.
Look for lights made of high quality materials like weather-resistant aluminum or heat/corrosion-proof metals that provide durability. Avoid cheap plastic items that will easily break or peel.
A warranty provides peace of mind should an issue arise with your solar garden lights. Look for lights with at least a 1 year warranty. Higher end lights often come with 2-5 year or lifetime warranties against defects.
Register your solar lights right after purchase to ensure you can take advantage of the coverage. Keep your receipt, and be sure to follow all installation and care instructions.
Reputable brands known for quality stand behind their solar lighting products, so they’re a safer bet than cheap lights with no manufacturer support or warranty.
Top outdoor solar lighting brands like Volt, Kauffman Garden, Hampton Bay, and Malibu Lights have proven track records. Choosing solar lights sold under these trusted brand names provides better assurances of performance and longevity.
Reading customer reviews can give you insight into real-world performance of solar garden lights. This helps prevent disappointment down the road.
Look for solar lights with predominantly positive 4-5 star ratings. Pay attention to any consistent complaints about quality, brightness, battery life or durability issues. No light is perfect, but you’ll get a feel for pros and cons.
Positive reviews back up claims made by the manufacturer and give you added confidence in the solar lighting brand and model you choose.
There is quite a range when it comes to pricing for solar-powered garden lights. You can find basic pathway solar lights for as little as $2-$8 per unit. These typically have plastic housings and lower lumen output.
Mid-range solar lights made of aluminum or weather-resistant polymers with lithium-ion batteries cost $15-$40 each. These provide better construction and longer runtime.
High-end designer solar lights and spotlights often run $50 on up. But the quality and brightness are superior.
Set a budget for solar lighting and stick to it. Determine how much you can spend for the total project, then divide by the number of lights you need. Buying in bulk kits can help keep down costs.
Solar Lighting FAQs
Here we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about solar-powered garden and landscape lighting:
How Many Hours Per Night Will Solar Lights Shine?
Run time depends on several factors:
- Battery capacity & type
- Solar panel size
- Brightness setting used
- Level of sun exposure during day
On average, most solar lights will stay on 6-12 hours from full sunset to dawn. Smaller NiMH battery lights run 5-8 hours. Large lithium ion battery lights can operate 10-12+ hours on lower settings.
Do Solar Lights Work on Cloudy Days?
Solar lights need direct sunlight to function optimally. Overcast days may lead to dimmer light and shorter runtimes at night. But most solar lights will still work to some degree on cloudy days.
Lights with larger solar panels can capture more ambient light on cloudy days. Place solar lights in optimal sun areas to offset lack of direct sunlight.
How Long Do Solar Light Batteries Last?
With typical use, solar light batteries last 2-5 years on average. Lithium ion batteries last 3-5 years, outperforming NiMH batteries that often need replacement after 1-2 years.
Leaving lights in direct sun when not needed shortens battery lifespan. Running at max brightness every night also drains batteries faster.
Are Solar Lights Waterproof?
Most solar lights have an IP waterproof rating from IP44 to IP67, making them water resistant to very waterproof. Light housings are sealed to withstand rain and moisture. Submersible waterproof solar lights handle total immersion.
Avoid using solar lights rated below IP44 in areas that get very wet, like sprinklers. IP65 or higher is best for wet regions.
How Much Sunlight Do Solar Lights Need to Charge?
6-8 hours of direct sun per day provides adequate charging for most solar lights. Smaller or less efficient panels may need 8-10 hours of good sun exposure to fully charge.
Place solar panels in an area that receives sun for majority of the day. Trim any encroaching tree branches or foliage blocking the solar panel.
Where is the Best Placement for Solar Lights in a Garden?
Install solar lights where they’ll receive optimal sunlight on the solar panels during daytime. Unobstructed southern exposure is ideal.
Lights along paths, steps and driveways should run parallel to the house or structure for greatest sun exposure. Avoid shady areas.
Place accent and spot lights in flower beds, yards and open areas in full sun. Position them to highlight plants and landscape features.
Can Solar Lights Be Installed in Trees?
Yes, solar-powered tree lights are made specifically to install in trees. They have flexible solar panels that attach flush to the tree bark, connected by bendable wire to the light unit.
Ensure the solar panel is aimed toward the sunniest direction and free from obstruction by branches or foliage. South, east or west-facing exposure is best.
Are Solar Garden Lights Safe for Pets and Kids?
Solar lights are generally safe for homes with pets and kids when used properly. A few tips:
- Avoid very bright, spotlight-type solar lights which can damage eyes if stared at directly. Go for soft ambient lighting instead.
- For pathway lights, make sure lights are along the edge of the path, not sticking up in the middle where they can be tripped over.
- Place delicate glass solar lights out of reach of pets and kids who may knock them over. Go for durable plastic instead.
- Keep solar lights away from areas where kids play sports to avoid being bumped or broken.
- Purchase solar lights specifically made to be pet/kid safe. Look for rounded edges, protective cages, plastic stakes vs. metal.
- Place citronella solar lights around patios and gardens to repel mosquitos and other irritating insects safely.
- Remind children to be careful around solar lights and not to stare directly at the bulb or play roughly with them.
With some common sense precautions, solar lights can safely illuminate gardens and pathways for the whole family to enjoy.
What’s the Best Way to Clean Solar Lights?
Regular cleaning keeps solar lights looking their best:
- Wipe down solar panels with a microfiber cloth and water or alcohol-based cleaner to remove dust and dirt buildup.
- Clean light covers with mild soap and water, rinsed well. Avoid abrasive cleaners.
- For rusty metal elements, use a paste of baking soda and water and a soft brush.
- Remove debris and growth around the light’s base. Carefully dig out if stuck in soil.
- In snowy regions, clear snow off solar panels frequently so they can still absorb sunlight.
- Check manufacturer instructions to see if lights are waterproof. If so, spraying clean with hose is OK.
Keeping solar lights free of dirt, debris and buildup allows for optimal light absorption and output.
How Can I Maximize Battery Life for Solar Lights?
A few tips for extending solar light battery life:
- Allow solar panels to receive full, unobstructed sunlight during day to charge batteries to max capacity.
- Adjust brightness settings to lower levels or use motion sensors so lights aren’t running at full brightness all night.
- Bring solar lights inside or keep them covered during the winter if you live in cold climates. The cold drains batteries faster.
- Replace rechargeable batteries every 2-3 years for optimal performance.
- Use lithium ion instead of NiMH batteries for longer lifespan.
- Stick with reputable solar brands known for quality batteries.
Proper placement for sun exposure, seasonal maintenance and conservative use of brightness settings all maximize lifespan.
Do Solar Lights Require Any Wiring or Electrical Work?
Solar lights are completely self-contained units and do not require any external wiring or connection to your home’s electrical system. Their built-in solar panel and battery provide everything needed for operation.
Some spotlights may require securing to a fence or railing with basic mounting hardware, but no electrical work is needed. Most solar lights simply insert directly into the ground. Their ease of installation is one of the main perks over wired low voltage lighting.
Can Solar Lights Be Left Out Year Round?
In regions with mild winters, solar lights will generally survive being left out year-round. Their weatherproof housings protect them from rain and snow.
But in climates with extreme winters, leaving solar lights out year round can shorten their lifespan. Prolonged exposure to biting cold drains the batteries faster. Solar panels covered in snow won’t recharge properly.
In cold climates, the best practice is bringing solar lights inside before first frost. Store them in an insulated garage or shed until spring. Then the lights will be good to go for the next season.
How Long Do Solar Lights Typically Last?
With proper maintenance and care, quality solar lights last 3-5 years on average. Cheap plastic models may only make it 1-2 years before fading or breaking down.
Higher end metal and weather-resistant constructed solar lights can function over 5 years. Over time, batteries lose charging capacity and LED bulbs dim. But replacing batteries every 2-3 years extends overall lifespan.
To prolong solar light lifespan, bring them indoors during extreme winters. Also avoid using the highest brightness setting excessively, rotate seasonally, and clean regularly.
Troubleshooting Tips for When Solar Lights Stop Working
Here are some troubleshooting steps if your solar lights fail:
- Make sure solar panels are aimed where they’ll receive lots of sunlight during the day.
- Check that solar panels are clean – wipe away any dust, dirt or debris blocking light absorption.
- Ensure any surrounding foliage, structures or objects are not casting shadows on the solar panels during peak daylight hours.
- Try manually activating the light to see if it turns on and emits light. If not, the LED bulb likely needs replacement.
- For flickering solar lights, check connections and battery contacts for corrosion. Clean with alcohol and cotton swab.
- If lights only stay on briefly at night, replace the rechargeable battery. Old batteries lose capacity to hold charge.
- Confirm lights have the proper mode selected like Auto On/Off at dusk/dawn. Reset to default if needed.
- For pathway lights not lighting the full distance, move lights closer together to reduce distance between each.
If issues continue after troubleshooting, contact the manufacturer for warranty support or replacement parts.
Illuminate Your Landscape with Solar
We hope this guide has shed light on the impressive solar-powered garden lights available today. Choosing the right solar lighting can bring your landscape to life after dark, turning your outdoor space into a functional extension of your home.
Solar technology has come a long way. It’s now easy and affordable to enjoy sun-powered illumination without complicated wiring or installation.
So take advantage of free solar energy and create inviting ambiance. Accent your trees and flower beds, light up pathways and steps, improve safety and security, and make your outdoor oasis shine. Your garden will take on a whole new personality at night with the magic of solar lighting.