What to Know About Solar Lights Before Shopping
When choosing the best outdoor solar lights for your space, consider your goals for the lights. Do you want something that lights up brightly only when motion is detected? Or do you prefer ambient lighting that provides a soft, warm glow?
There are a few different types of solar lights, and they all vary in how they're installed. For example, pathway lights, like the Hampton Bay LED Warm White Landscape Path Lights, are designed with stakes that you can stick into the dirt next to your driveway or sidewalk.
There are also solar lights that can be mounted up high on a wooden fence or deck, like the Home Zone Solar Wall Lanterns, 2-PackHome Zone Solar Wall Lanterns. If you're looking for something more decorative, you can find string lights and Mason jar lanterns powered by solar energy, such as the Brightech Ambience Pro Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights.
Others use solar lighting as a portable lighting option. Jameson says, "A lot of people who enjoy camping outdoors typically opt for solar-powered lanterns and bulbs as they are portable and self-sustaining for their power."
The best outdoor solar lights have a battery that can eventually be replaced if it stops working. "Technically, solar lights require rechargeable batteries to act as storage for the electrical energy collected from the sun," Jameson says.
Rechargeable batteries don't last forever, so there's a good chance you might need to replace them at some point. Many of the solar lights on this list use rechargeable AA or AAA batteries, which are easily available for purchase online. Since the batteries can simply be swapped out down the line, you won't need to replace the entire light fixture.
Solar Panel Location
Some of the solar lights on this list have small solar panels on each individual light, while others have a single external solar panel that powers the entire set of lights. You might prefer the latter if you want to use solar lights under a porch or covered patio; you'll be able to give the solar panel direct sunlight while keeping the lights where you want them.
Testers also found that lights with larger solar panels can sometimes have a less aesthetically pleasing look, so make sure you feel good about the size and location of the panel before purchasing.
Most of the solar lights on this list are water-resistant, like the AloftSun Motion Sensor Solar Landscape Spotlights, which means they repel water to some extent. (This is different from waterproof, which means a product doesn't allow any water to pass through.)
These lights will be fine in normal rain and snow showers, but you may want to bring them inside during heavy downpours combined with wind. You'll often see the water protection listed as an IP rating, an international standard that looks like "IP45."
The first number indicates how well the item is protected against solid objects like dust, and the second number indicates how well it's protected against liquids. The latter ranges from zero to nine, and the higher the number, the more protected it is from water.
The best solar lights have special features like on/off switches, timers, or motion sensors. Some solar lights, like the Brightown Outdoor Solar String Lights, even have different light settings like a slow fade or twinkle.
Before purchasing a solar light, ask yourself exactly what you need so you can find a solar light that best suits your needs.