solar light

Guide to outdoor solar lights: what outdoor solar lighting solutions are available?

Solar power can be used in many ways. Aside from a traditional rooftop solar panel installation, you can Solar power can be used in many ways. Aside from a traditional rooftop solar panel installation, you can take advantage of solar energy with outdoor solar lights that capture, store, and then use the sun’s energy to light your property. There are a wide variety of outdoor solar lighting options that fit most needs. In this article, we cover the basic types of outdoor solar lighting that you may want to use on your property.

Key takeaways


  • Outdoor solar lights rely on their own solar cells, either attached directly to the light itself or as a separate attachment. They do not use your home’s electricity.
  • The vast majority of outdoor lighting can be operated using solar and can easily replace other outdoor lighting options you have around your home.
  • Outdoor solar lighting solutions are cost effective on their own, but even more so when coupled with a solar-powered home. 
  • Visit the EnergySage Marketplace to receive quotes from local installers and save money by powering your entire home with solar.

What’s in this article?

How do outdoor solar lights work?

There are many different types of outdoor solar lights available, from solar garden lights to solar string lights and more. Outdoor solar lights work like a miniature version of a rooftop solar panel system with one important distinction: outdoor solar lights must include battery storage. During the daytime when the sun is shining, solar cells attached to the outdoor solar light generate electricity and store it in a battery. Because they are not relying on your home’s electricity, you have greater flexibility when it comes to deciding where on your property to place your outdoor solar lights.

Most outdoor solar lights include a darkness sensor so that come night time, they will automatically turn on and start using their stored electricity. While many solar lights have their solar cells built right into the same unit as the light itself, some products will have lights that are detachable from the solar panel providing power to it.

Most outdoor solar lights are LEDs that only use a small amount of electricity. Because of this, they can run for a full night (if not longer). Outdoor solar lighting systems often have a “nightly run time” rating that indicates how long you can reasonably expect lighting to last given a certain amount of sun exposure. However, keep in mind that these run times will vary significantly from the actual lighting time you get from your outdoor solar lights, as factors like shading, geographic location, and cloud cover will all impact how much sun the attached solar cells can convert to electricity.

How do solar cells generate electricity?


A standard solar panel (also known as a solar module) consists of a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame, a glass casing, and various wiring to allow current to flow from the silicon cells. Silicon (atomic #14 on the periodic table) is a nonmetal with conductive properties that allow it to absorb and convert sunlight into electricity. When light interacts with a silicon cell, it causes electrons to be set into motion, which initiates a flow of electric current. This is known as the “photovoltaic effect,” and it describes the general functionality of solar panel technology. To learn more about how solar panels work, check out our article on the topic.

Types of outdoor solar lighting

There are many types of outdoor solar lighting solutions. We’ll discuss some types you might be looking to use around your home:

Solar lawn, garden, and path lights

One way to use outdoor solar lighting is in and around gardens and paths. Many solar garden lights are quick and easy to install – simply bury the pointed end in sunny space on the ground and you’ll be good to go. Each light has its own individual attached solar cell to generate power for the light to use at night. It’s important to be conscious of how close your solar garden lights are to plants and anything else that might cause shade so your solar lights are exposed to enough solar energy during the day to keep your property illuminated at night.

Solar garden lights

Solar garden, lawn, and path lights are relatively low-cost products; they typically cost somewhere between $3 and $40 per solar light, depending on quality, aesthetics, and other factors. You will want to consider things like hours of light provided and where you will be placing the light, in addition to the visual aesthetics of the solar lights themselves and what you want them to look like on your property.

Buyer’s guide: solar lawn, garden, and path lights

ItemCost per lightHours of light on a full chargeLight bulb wattage equivalence 
Hampton Bay Solar LED Path Light$3.30Up to 8 hours1 watt
GIGALUMI Solar Pathway Lights$7.17Up to 10 hours1.2 watts
Smart Solar Integrated LED Pathway Light$8.48Up to 8 hours1 watt
Gama Sonic Garden Solar Path Light$39.998+ hours7 watts

Hampton Bay 

Hampton Bay makes a wide range of outdoor solar lights for you to choose from. The option above comes in many different metal finishes, and they offer many highly rated designs at different price points.

Gigilumi 

Gigalumi has a vast selection of traditional outdoor solar lights on stakes that are perfect for lining walkways or gardens. Some of their options do not include batteries, so be sure you are aware of this before making a final purchase decision.

Smart Solar 

Smart Solar lights are well-rated on consumer websites and offer a variety of styles to suit your needs. The outdoor solar lights we have listed above are a bright copper finish, just one of the options to use if you are looking to match metal finishes to other outdoor items. 

Gama Sonic 

This is a higher-end brand of outdoor solar lights that promises longer hours of light on a full charge and sleeker designs. If you are looking for a certain aesthetic to blend in with other lighting on your property, or do not want a traditional solar garden light look, this might be the brand for you.

Outdoor solar string lights

Another popular solar lighting option is outdoor solar string lights. Unlike solar garden lights, these products often come with a separate unit to house detached solar cells. Solar string lights can provide lighting around a firepit or a deck, and have the added benefit of not requiring an extension cord or close proximity to an outdoor outlet. Instead of attaching to an extension cord, they hook up to a small solar panel that can be placed in a sunny spot like the edge of a roof to charge up its battery during the day.

solar string lights

Solar string lights are more expensive upfront than traditional string lights, but you’ll save money over time by not using electricity from the grid. You can expect to pay between $10 and $30 for a standard set of solar string lights.

The products listed below are great options to replace current outdoor string lights or add solar outdoor lights to your backyard setup. Outdoor solar string lights can be used year-round, and are also a great option for holiday decoration. If you’re looking for Christmas lights, be sure to check out our article on solar Christmas lights to learn more.

Buyer’s guide: outdoor solar string lights

ItemCost per stringLengthNumber of bulbsHours of light on a full chargePlacement of solar panel
Britech Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights$29.9927 feet12 bulbs5-6 hoursAttachable to roof or ground stake
Brightown Outdoor Solar String Lights$28.0329 feet25 bulbsUp to 16 hoursAttachable to roof or ground stake, USB charging option available
Sunthin Solar String Lights$28.3227 feet13 bulbsUp to 8 hoursAttachable to roof or ground stake, USB charging option available

Britech

The Britech lights are a great option for lighting areas of your property away from a house or shed. Their solar panel can be set in the ground with a stake, allowing you to put these outdoor solar string lights up around a firepit or near a pool. This brand has solar string lights in different bulb shapes and designs to suit your needs.

Brightown

Brightown’s outdoor solar string lights have the highest bulbs per foot ratio, which means even one strand can do the job of adding a little flair to your patio or deck. Many of the Brightown outdoor solar string lights are able to be charged with a USB plugin as well, just in case you’re hoping to use them on an overcast day where they may not be able to get a full charge.

Sunthin

Similar in price to the other options, the Sunthin outdoor solar string lights are another great option for solar string lights. They are chargeable by USB in addition to their solar panel.

Solar motion sensor lights

Solar motion sensor lights can be used as security lighting around your property. Solar motion sensor lights will often come with a larger solar panel than solar garden lights in order to power a more robust LED. A traditional motion sensor flood light system can be replaced with solar powered motion sensor lights that do not use your home’s electricity. 

solar motion sensor lights

A common use for solar motion sensor flood lighting setups is as security lights near a front door or garage, or to illuminate driveways and walking paths that do not need to be constantly lit up during the night. Buying a solar flood light will cost more than solar garden lights, as flood lights are more powerful and require a more robust solar setup. 

Buyer’s guide: solar motion sensor lights

ItemCost per lightMotion sensor capabilitiesMotion sensor distancePlacement of solar panel
LEPOWER Solar Security Lights$44.99YesUp to 72 feetDetachable solar panel
GLORIOUS-LITE Solar Security Lights$38.24YesUp to 72 feetDetachable solar panel, light run time of up to 50 minutes at full brightness
TBI Security Solar Lights$32.48YesUp to 40 feetAttached solar panel

LEPOWER 

This solar motion sensor light provides motion-activated flood lighting to your property. The light is charged by a solar cell attached with a cable, allowing you to place the solar cell in more direct sunlight than where you may want to place your light. 

GLORIOUS-LITE

These Glorious-Lite solar motion sensor lights are able to be charged by a detachable solar cell, which attaches to the lights via a cable. They also have a run time of up to 50 minutes at full brightness, which lets them double as a floodlight if you are ever in need of bright outdoor lighting at night for a more extended period of time than the solar motion sensing light offers.

TBI 

The TBI Security Solar Lights are the cheapest option for solar motion sensor lights, but are still able to provide motion sensing light technology. Be sure to place them somewhere that can accommodate the attached panel and allow adequate sun exposure to charge the light; unlike the other options it cannot be removed.

Solar lanterns

Larger options are available to illuminate deck or garden areas or replace lighting such as post lanterns outside of your home. There is a wide range of solar lanterns available to meet your lighting needs. From hanging solar lanterns to solar lanterns on posts, these lighting options have the added benefit of needing no electrical wiring and are designed to withstand the elements, so they can be placed anywhere on your property. The price of this type of outdoor solar lighting reflects their larger size, and may cost from $15 to hundreds of dollars depending on the lighting you are looking for.

solar lanters
Image from Amazon

Buyer’s guide: solar lanterns

ItemCostHours of light on a full chargeAutomaticPlacement
GreenLighting Solar Post Light$17.49Up to 8 hoursYesFence/deck post-mount
Pasamic Solar Wall Lanterns$22.49Up to 12 hoursYesWall-mount
Greluna Solar Lamp Post $50.988 hours on “low” light setting, 6 on “high”YesOn post
Gama Sonic Victorian Bulb Double Headed Lamp Post$348.0824 hours on “low” light setting, 12 on “high”YesOn post

GreenLighting

The GreenLighting outdoor solar lanterns are a good choice if you’re looking for solar lanterns to mount on your deck or fence posts. They sit on top of 4×4 or 5×5 posts and charge during the day, turning on at night to light up areas of your property. GreenLighting makes a variety of styles of this type of mounted outdoor solar lantern to fit different design goals.

Pasamic

Similar to the solar post lights, the Pasamic solar lanterns can be mounted on the outside walls of your home, or on fence or deck posts. The version of Pasamic’s outdoor solar lanterns linked above hang from the hooks that are mounted, but there are many styles of solar lanterns to choose from. They come equipped with different light settings and can turn on and off automatically.

Greluna

If you are hoping to replace your post lantern with a solar lantern, or add lighting to a backyard or garden, the Greluna solar lantern comes mounted on a post. This is one of the more affordable options for pre-mounted solar lanterns, and allows you to add lighting where you may not have an existing fence or other structure.

Gama Sonic

This is a higher-end brand of outdoor solar lights that promises longer hours of light on a full charge and fancier designs. If you are looking for a certain aesthetic to blend in with other lighting on your property or to replace an existing light this might be the brand for you:  it’s a double headed post lantern that looks like a typical post lantern you may already have. 

Solar flagpole lights

If you have a flagpole in your yard, you may be interested in solar flagpole lights. These outdoor solar lights illuminate the flag, so you don’t need to worry about your flag going dark during the night. Solar flagpole lights sit on top of your flagpole or attach to the flagpole itself, and point upward. Each solar flagpole light is equipped with its own individual solar panel that charges during the day, providing the light with all of the electricity it needs to keep your flagpole lit up throughout the night. 

solar flagpole lights
Image from Amazon

Many flag codes require any flags flying at night to be lit, so a solar flagpole light is the perfect way to ensure you are following flag codes and don’t need to take down your flag every night and put it back up every morning.

Buyer’s guide: solar flagpole lights

ItemCost per lightHours of light on a full chargePlacement 
Deneve Deluxe Solar Flag Pole Light$39.9918 hoursAbove flag, top of pole
Gefolly Solar Flag Pole Light$69.9912 hoursBelow the flag
Enrybia Solar Flag Pole Light$129.9918 hoursBelow the flag

Deneve

The Deneve solar flagpole light sits on top of your flagpole, illuminating the flag from above. This light has solar panels on the top and LED lights on the bottom. This top-of-flagpole solar flagpole light is in the typical cost range for this type of solar flagpole light.

Gefolly

This solar flagpole light from Gefolly has one light with a detached solar panel that lights the flag from below. It sits on the flagpole, with the solar panel attached to the flagpole at a different point, allowing your to optimize placement to charge your solar flagpole light.

Enrybia

The Enrybia solar flagpole light has three separate LED lights that light up your flag from below. They are powered by a solar panel that is also attached to the flagpole. This more expensive option has more lighting than other flagpole lights that light the flag from below, with three separate lights trained on the flag. 

Solar camping lights

Solar camping lights are a reliable camping light solution for car campers, backpackers, and through hikers alike. When purchasing solar camping lights, there are multiple factors that you should consider depending upon what type of camping you will be using the solar camping light for and what you need to get out of it. We’ve taken a look at some options for solar camping lights and considered their weight, charge time, and how much light you can get out of them on a full charge. 

solar camping lights
Image from Amazon

We also have listed out additional functionalities to note about some of the lights, including whether they double as a camping solar charger – having multi-functional items is essential to cutting down on backpack weight and generally limiting the items you need to worry about when you’re camping. The more your solar camping light can accomplish, the better!

Buyer’s guide: Solar camping lights

ItemCost per lightWeightHours of light on a full chargeCharge time to full chargeAdditional functionality
MPowered Luci Outdoor 2.0 Pro$27.966.1 oz50+ hours on lowest setting (of four settings)About 14 hours solar/3 hours via USBDoubles as solar charger, collapsible when not in use
Goal Zero Crush Solar Light$19.953.2 oz35 hours on lowest setting (of four settings)Varies based on sunlight/3.5 hours via USBCollapsible when not in use
KIZEN Collapsible LED Solar Lantern$19.995.96 oz10 hours on lowest setting (of three settings)Varies based on sunlight/4 hours via USBDoubles as solar charger, collapsible when not in use

MPowered

The MPowered solar camping light listed above is the “pro” version of their Luci light. The distinguishing feature of the pro version of their solar camping lantern is that it doubles as a charger, for cell phones and other items. This can come in handy if your phone is running low as you return to the trailhead, or if your handheld GPS or other device needs additional power while you are out and about.

Goal Zero

Goal Zero’s collapsible solar camping lantern is a backpacker’s dream. It is light, collapsible, and able to clip onto your pack after you break down camp. It packs a significant amount of charge for a small package, and, like the other options, can be charged via USB before you hit the trail to set you up for success.

KIZEN

The Kizen solar camping light combines the cheaper price point of the Goal Zero solar camping light with the charging feature of the MPowered solar camping light. This solar camping light is ideal for car camping or short trips because it does not have the longest run time, but does boast the added security of having a backup charger.

Other solar accessories


Looking for a different type of solar accessory? You may be interested in one of the products below!

Save money with a solar panel installation

Solar energy can do a whole lot more than power your outdoor solar lights. The best place to compare options for home solar installations is the EnergySage Marketplace. By registering your property to get solar quotes, you can compare offers side by side from qualified, pre-vetted installers near you and speak with an Energy Advisor to discuss which offer is the best for you. If you want to see how much you can save by going solar, check out our Solar Calculator for an instant estimate based on your unique property.


4 thoughts on “Guide to outdoor solar lights: what outdoor solar lighting solutions are available?

  1. Maria

    I can see numerous products in the market and get confused easily without knowing their specific type. As I know, there are various types of solars, and it may dificult to have the smart choice. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
  2. Hardy

    Thanks for a marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading it. Do I need to consider anything when buying and installing them?

    Reply

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