Solar lights are an increasingly popular option for homeowners who want to enhance their yards and outdoor areas with extra light, without increasing their energy bills. These lights run entirely off the power they absorb from sunlight, which means they don't require electricity or professional installation.
Choosing the right outdoor solar lighting can be a bit overwhelming. There are many types, styles, and brands available in the market, making it hard to know what’s right for your home. Walk into your local Home Depot or Lowe’s, and you’ll probably find an entire aisle that’s filled with various solar lighting options in all shapes and sizes.
In this guide, we’ll provide an overview of how solar lights work, the benefits, the available styles of lights, and who makes some of the best solar light options.
What Are Solar Lights?
Solar lights are devices that capture the energy of the sun using solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity that is stored during the day using a small rechargeable battery (often lithium-ion, nickel-cadmium, or lead-acid) and then released as light when it's dark outside using an LED bulb.
Solar lights are a low-emission, energy-efficient, easy-to-install, and virtually maintenance-free way to illuminate the exterior of your home.
Popular uses of solar lights outdoors include lighting your yard, illuminating a path or steps, identifying an address, keeping tabs on what might enter your fence, decorating your garden, providing a security light, and more.
To accommodate those outdoor lighting needs, several different options and styles exist. You can choose from compact spotlights that can be placed almost anywhere, to larger lantern-style fixtures that add a welcoming glow to a porch, and nearly everything in between.
How Does Solar Light Technology Work?
Your average solar light features a small solar panel, a solar battery that typically uses rechargeable lithium-ion technology, and one or more LED light bulbs. The solar panel absorbs sunlight during the day and uses that electricity to charge the battery, which then powers the LED light when it gets dark outside.
The downside of this technology is that the amount of charge for your solar lights can depend on the weather for the day or the amount of sunlight your home receives. Without enough sun, your solar lights won't be able to hold onto as much charge, and won't be able to stay lit through the night.
Benefits of Outdoor Solar Lighting
Choosing solar lighting to illuminate the outside of your home comes with several benefits:
- No Wiring Needed: You can typically set them up in just a few minutes, making them the perfect option if you aren’t comfortable installing electrical wiring and don’t want to hire an electrician.
- No Electricity Bill Impact: Since they don't rely on electricity from the power grid, you won't increase your energy bill when using them.
- Longer Lasting: Because they use LED bulbs and solar panel technology, solar lights typically last longer than other types of lighting.
- Eco-Friendly: They’re powered by renewable energy from the sun instead of fossil-fuel-based electricity from the grid.
- Flexible Uses: Because they don't need access to electrical outlets, outdoor solar lights are particularly useful for outdoor spaces, meaning you can install them almost anywhere.
- Automatic On-Off: Solar lights are designed to turn on automatically when it’s dark outside, and then turn off when the sun comes back out, so you don’t need to remember to switch them on and off each day to get coverage from dusk to dawn.
- Improved Safety: They make your home safer by illuminating areas that might otherwise be dark.
- Light During Blackouts: If the power goes out at your home, solar lights will still provide some illumination that can help you get around since they don’t rely on power from the grid.
Types of Solar Lights
The style of solar light you choose usually depends on how you want to use the lights, how many hours of sun exposure per day that location gets, and your overall decorating aesthetic.
- Solar Deck Lights: Generally used with a 3-inch post or deck mounting hardware to provide ambient light for pathways and walkways, these low-voltage solar yard lights are available in various styles and finishes.
- Solar Spot Lights: These focused beams are great for accenting a specific area of your home, such as a wall, tree, or bush, making them perfect for solar landscape lighting.
- Solar Lanterns: Usually designed to hang from a hook, post, or exterior wall, solar lanterns provide accent lighting for patios and gardens.
- Solar Pathway Lights: Similar to, but smaller than post lights, they’re designed to shine brighter at ground level, making them ideal for illuminating lawns, gardens, and paths, as well as staircases and walkways with specific solar step lights.
- Solar Motion Sensor Flood Lights: These solar security lights turn themselves on when they detect nearby movement, making them great for safety and security, and for areas that don’t need constant light.
- Solar Christmas Lights: Solar string lights are great for temporary holiday lighting, as well as any area that needs more overall ambiance lighting when the sun goes down.
How To Choose The Best Solar Lighting For Your Home
The solar lighting industry has experienced enormous growth over the past few years, thanks to improvements in the underlying technology like batteries and LEDs. Homeowners can now enjoy the benefits of solar LED lights at a fraction of the cost of traditional lighting, and LED light bulb technology lasts longer, shines brighter, and is less expensive than ever before.
If you want to know what to consider before installing solar lights around your home, the following questions will help you invest in the right outdoor solar lights for your property:
What do I want to do with my solar lights?
Solar lighting comes in two general categories, giving you the freedom to choose based on your needs and preferences:
- Ambient Lighting: Provides a soft glow that illuminates paths or walkways, making it ideal for safety.
- Accent Lighting: Provides bright, focused illumination in key areas, such as the front door or deck, making it ideal for security.
How many solar lights do I need?
To determine how many lights you will need to illuminate a desired outdoor area, consider the amount of space you have, and measure the distance between any trees, bushes, or existing lights. Then look at the amount of square footage that each solar light is expected to illuminate, and divide that number into the overall square footage that you calculated to determine the quantity of lights you’ll need to provide adequate coverage.
If you’re looking for a motion-sensing solar light for security purposes, they have different sensor ranges, detection angles, and light coverages. You’ll want one that can sense movement at the appropriate distance, and can provide enough light to cover the area that you want to be protected, so you may need a larger light with larger solar panels or a bigger battery to get the proper coverage from dusk to dawn.
Where do I want to install solar lights?
As we learned earlier, solar outdoor lights come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from tiny solar-powered garden ornaments to large, heavy-duty spotlights that can light up your driveway or a path through the woods. This means you can place the lights in a range of locations to meet a variety of lighting and decoration needs.
Solar lights work by converting the sun's energy into electricity that powers the light. The more sunlight they receive, the brighter they will be. If your yard has lots of shady areas, you have to be more strategic and intentional about where you place your lights and how many you install, and you might need an option with an external solar panel that can be located where the sun is expected to shine.
Can I install this solar light on my own?
Most solar lights are self-contained and designed to be installed in minutes with no professional help. Some can require a professional to assist with installation, so we recommend that you review the manufacturer's requirements and directions before purchasing.
Features To Compare With Purchasing Solar Lights
- Battery - Make sure to research how long the battery is expected to last, both in terms of daily hours of light that it can provide, and expected lifetime of the product.
- Brightness - Some lights are brighter than others, so you’ll want to compare brightness and pick one that’s appropriate for your needs. For security purposes, brighter is often better, but for ambience, too much super bright light can actually be a bad thing.
- Temperature - White light LEDs also come in a variety of colors (often called temperature) with some casting a more blue ‘cool’ white, and others having a more yellow ‘warm’ white, so make sure to pick one that matches the mood you’re looking for. (You can even get solar lights that can change temperature, or turn any color of the rainbow.)
- Warranty - Make sure to pick a light from a brand that’s willing to stand by their product with a strong warranty, and replace the solar light if anything goes wrong within a reasonable amount of time.
Best Brands for Outdoor Solar Lights
The key to finding the best lights for your home is to focus on quality over aesthetics. Yes, you want attractive lighting, but it also needs to be sturdy. That will make all the difference in how long they last and how well they illuminate your space. To accomplish that goal, you should invest in the best solar lighting from leading companies, whether you’re looking for smaller solar garden lights or a full solar-powered security system.
Brightech has been a leader in solar-powered outdoor lights for over 10 years, and their solar-powered string lights are a great way to add ambiance to an outdoor space.
Hampton Bay is Home Depot’s in-house brand, and makes everything from spotlights and path lights to solar LED flag poles and decorative fixtures.
JackyLED offers a variety of solar light options, including security-focused wall lights that can output more than 1,000 lumens.
Ring has a variety of solar light styles that includes path lights, spotlights, stoplights, and wall lights, and many can connect to the Ring App to enable smart lighting benefits like turning on when motion is detected, or when a security camera needs to record.
Sunforce has products that can help illuminate your entryway, walkway, driveway, front lawn, or backyard, with customizable settings and durable housings to meet all of your lighting and security needs.
Light Your Home With Solar Lights
Outdoor solar lights are a great choice for people who want to illuminate their yards, gardens, and walkways at night. If you're looking to spruce up your home, solar lighting is a great way to add light without the hassle of running electrical lines or replacing batteries all the time.
These systems don't draw energy from your home, so you won’t increase your utility bill, and once they’re set up, you don't have to worry about them. They'll just keep working for you automatically, day after day.
If you're thinking about installing solar lighting around your home, you should first decide what kind of lights you want and where you want them. There's a wide range of options available, including floodlights (for security), spotlights (for highlighting key features in your yard), string lights (for creating ambiance), and more.
If you’re also interested in installing solar panels so you can power your entire home with solar energy, including your interior lights, talk to Palmetto today. You can get started today with our Free Solar Design and Savings Estimate to see how much you could save by going solar, and take the first step towards a home that’s powered by clean, green energy.