A Complete Guide to Outdoor Solar Lights

Illuminating outdoor spaces around your house can be costly if you depend on electricity from the grid. The areas are also affected by blackouts usually due to extreme weather events. Outdoor solar lights offer a solution to the cost and outage problems.  

What are outdoor solar lights? They are photovoltaic devices that use the sun’s energy to light up exterior spaces around your home during the night. The products continue to grow in popularity as more people embrace solar energy. 

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    Advantages of Outdoor Solar Lights

    Here are the reasons why solar lights are better than gas or electric lights when it comes to illuminating outdoor spaces.

    Easy to Install

    Solar lights are easy to install because of their unique design. Many of them come as one unit, which makes the installation process simple. Also, those with different parts come with connecting plugs that make it easy to fit pieces together.

    Thus, the lights do not require complex wiring and trenches, like when using power from the mains.

    The smooth process also means that you don’t need to hire an expert to do the installation. You can do the job yourself, thereby saving on costs. However, depending on the type of solar light and where you want to place it, you might want to call a professional.   


    Outdoor lighting is a crucial part of exterior design. How well you design the lighting system has a significant influence on your home’s appearance at night.

    With solar lights, you can turn your imagination about lighting up your outdoor spaces into reality. This is because they can be installed anywhere around the home, unlike gas and electric lights, which have many limitations.

    For instance, you can install solar lights on trees, near the pool, on exterior walls, in the flower garden, or on the fence.

    The flexibility allows you to mix up different lighting techniques to bring the desired result.

    For example, you can combine uplighting, downlighting, moonlighting, silhouetting, path lighting, and doorway lighting for beautiful outdoor spaces.  

    Garden lights

    Safe to Use

    The installation of solar lights does not require you to dig through your garden to install electric cables. Also, there are no longer live wires left hanging around. Thus, they eliminate the risk of people, especially children, coming into contact with live wires, resulting in electrocution.

    Furthermore, many solar lights operate with a low current, which reduces the probability of a fatal accident occurring.    

    Enhances Security in Your Home

    Solar lights help keep your home safe. They ensure that every space outside the house is illuminated, which keeps burglars away even when nobody is home.

    Some outdoor lights are built with motion sensors, and light up or brighten up when they detect movement. The feature is vital for home security.  

    Comes in a Variety

    The lights come in a wide range of types, shapes, styles, colors, and sizes. With the variety, you can be sure of finding devices suitable for every outdoor space in your home. For instance, you can find suitable lights for your pathways, walls, yard, patio, or deck.

    Requires Low Maintenance

    In addition to being durable, solar lights are low maintenance. This is made possible by their design, where there are a limited number of cables, sockets, and other accessories. Thus, there is a reduced probability of wear and tear, so there is no need for regular upkeep.

    All you might need is to ensure there is no shading on the panels since it can reduce the efficiency of the lights. Although the accumulation of residues is rare because rain cleans the solar modules, it is advisable to check for bird droppings, leaves, and dust regularly.  


    Many solar-powered outdoor lights have a lifespan of over 20 years. 

    They last longer because they can withstand harsh weather. For instance, they are resistant to heavy rains, heat, and snow.

    Thus, you don’t have to worry about extreme weather destroying outdoor lights as the seasons keep changing. Just make sure your solar lights are secured or removed during extreme wind conditions like hurricanes.

    Pathway lights


    Solar lights generate electricity using inexhaustible energy from the sun. By using solar-powered lights, you will be using less electricity generated by fossil fuels. Thus, they are environment-friendly because the generation process does not emit pollutants into the atmosphere.


    Solar lights will reduce your energy bills significantly. Once installed, they continue generating enough power to light up outdoor space for years. As a result, you won’t have to worry about how much energy outdoor lights consume each month.

    Hence, although some high quality solar lights might be expensive, you save a lot of money in the long term.

    Guaranteed Lighting During Blackouts

    Solar lights are self-contained units, which means that they are independent of the grid. This makes them perfect for your home because they are not affected by power outages.

    Solar lights, therefore, ensure that you have the power needed to illuminate outdoor spaces at night. As a result, your home to stand out whenever the area is affected by power outages. At the same time, they discourage thieves who might decide to break in during a blackout.  

    Solar-powered lights
    Photo credit: eliduke on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SA

    Automatic Turn On and Off

    Solar-powered outdoor lights automatically turn on during the night and off at day-break. The feature eliminates the need to go around switching them on and off each day.  

    The design also helps preserve power during the day so that the inbuilt batteries can charge to full capacity.

    Read More: The Best Solar String Lights For Your Home

    How do Outdoor Solar Lights Work?

    Each outdoor light comes as a complete unit with three essential parts: a panel, rechargeable battery, and lights.

    The solar panel absorbs energy from the sun during the day, which it converts to electricity. The generated electrical power is stored in a battery and used to light up the device at night. 

    LED lights are preferred in solar-powered lights because they consume less energy, are brighter than many traditional lighting materials, reliable, and durable.

    Types of Solar-Powered Outdoor Lights

    There are different types of solar lights in the market that include:

    Solar Pathway Lights

    The lights illuminate sidewalks, walkways, or paths in your home. They make it possible to see where you are going during the night.  

    The outdoor solar path lights come in a variety of sizes and shapes. You can place some of them flush with the ground, while others require you to position them several centimeters above the ground.

    Many solar pathway lights come in small sizes with low brightness. Thus, you might be required to install several of them for sufficient lighting.

    Outdoor Solar Spotlights

    Spotlights are brighter than many other types of solar-powered outdoor lights. They are, therefore, suitable for illuminating large and vital spaces around the home. For example, you can install them near the door, patio, garden, or in the driveway.  

    Depending on your need, you can choose to install solar spotlights on the ground by sticking them using the spikes provided. Alternatively, you can decide to fix them on the exterior walls in a way that allows them to illuminate a specific space.

    The main advantage of solar spotlights is that many have an adjustable panel for maximum exposure to sunlight.  

    Decorative Outdoor Lights

    The purpose of these lights is to enhance the appearance of the outdoor spaces around your home. Thus, their role is not to light up, as is the case with spotlights.

    The lights come in different designs, which helps with the decorations. For instance, decorative solar string lights allow you to spread the illumination over a long distance.   

    Since their primary role is to enhance the appearance, you can install decorative lights in different outdoor spaces around the home. You can also place them alongside other solar lights. For example, you can install them next to spotlights or pathway lights for a more appealing look.  

    Solar Floodlights

    As the name suggests, solar-powered floodlights are perfect for illuminating large spaces. They are among the brightest and have a wide beam spread. Thus, a single floodlight can cover a wide area outside the house, which eliminates the need to use several lights.

    Due to the high level of brightness, you can use outdoor solar floodlights to illuminate the backyard, front door, and garden spaces.   

    Outdoor Solar Lamps

    Outdoor solar lamps or lanterns can provide lighting to hidden or remote outdoor spaces around the home.

    One of the main advantages of solar lantern lights is that they are also suitable for outdoor activities such as camping. Most of them look like traditional kerosene lamps. Thus, they can be hung anywhere during the night, such as on trees. You can also place the PV device on the ground or a table.  

    Outdoor Solar Wall Lights

    The solar lights are designed for the walls so that they can illuminate the desired space. The lights come with accessories such as screws used to fix them on the wall of the house, exterior stairs, or perimeter wall.    

    Outdoor Solar Motion Lights

    Also referred to as solar security lights, the devices are unique since they react to movement.

    Unlike other types of solar lights that remain on the whole night, motion light turns on or brighten up when movement is detected. They then stay in that condition for a few seconds or minutes.

    Solar motion lights have varying sensing capabilities. For instance, some have a sensing range of 120o and other 180o. Some can detect movement within a short distance, while others have a long sensing distance.

    The purpose of solar motion lights is to enhance security in homes. They scare aware intruders by lighting up. As a homeowner, you can notice when they turn on and take the necessary action.

    Outdoor Solar Post Lights

    The solar lights work with posts. The acceptable material of the pole varies with the manufacturer.

    For example, some works with 4×4 or 6×6 inch wooden posts only. Such solar post lights are perfect for fence lighting around your home, provided that you have a wooden fence with suitable posts.

    Other solar lights work with metallic or plastics posts, some of which may be provided by the manufacturer.

    Outdoor Solar Christmas Lights

    The lights are designed specifically for the Christmas season. They come in different designs so that you can choose the one that suits your need.

    The different types of solar Christmas lights include:

    • Outdoor solar Christmas tree lights
    • Solar Christmas pathway lights
    • Solar Christmas string lights

    Solar Christmas lights work like traditional light that relies on the mains electricity but with added benefits. For example, they don’t lead to increased energy bills.   

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Solar lights come in a variety suitable for every outdoor space in your home. Therefore, where you will install the lights will depend on the type of light and where you want it to illuminate. The only requirement is that panel should be exposed to the sun so that it can charge the battery.  

    Some can remain on throughout the night, while others will last for a few hours. The number of hours a solar light will operate depends on several factors, such as whether it charged to full capacity during the day. Note that solar motion lights only turn on when they detect movement at night.

    Solar-powered lights can last for more than ten years. Storage batteries often last between 2-4 years, depending on the manufacturer and how well you use them. However, batteries are replaceable.

    • Someone may have used the switch to turn the lights off and forgot to turn it on. So, you should confirm if that is the case.
    • There is a probability that the battery did not charge to full during the day, even though there was enough sunlight. In this case, you should clean the solar panel to prevent shading.
    • The battery may be damaged such that it is unable to store enough power for use during the night. If that is the case, you should replace the battery.

    Replacing the battery is easy. Determine its location, which will vary depending on the design of the solar light. Open the compartment and then replace the rechargeable cell with a new battery of similar size and specification.

    No. Solar-powered lights turn on and off automatically, depending on the time of day. They make use of a photoresistor that blocks the flow of power from the battery to the LED lights during the day, turning off the light. During the night, the photoresistor allows power to flow to the LED lights, thereby turning it on.

    The purpose of the on and off switch is to give you control whenever the need arises.

    The switch allows you to limit the number of hours that you want the solar lights to run during the night instead of waiting on the automatic operation.

    The switch can also be helpful during winter when there is no enough sunlight. In such times, you can decide to turn off the light for a few days so that the battery can charge to full capacity.

    Solar lights are weatherproof. They are resistant to water, heat, and snow, which allows them to withstand the changing seasons. Therefore, they will continue to function normally even under extreme weather conditions.

    Yes. However, you might witness a change in performance. The battery might fail to charge to full capacity due to reduced hours of sunlight during the day. As a result, they will provide illumination for fewer hours during the night.

    Solar lights can charge even when placed in the shade. But they will not be as efficient in that position as when exposed directly to the sun.

    Thus, the battery will not charge as required, which results in reduced operating hours during the night.

    Therefore, install them in a location that is exposed to the sun for most part of the day.

    Yes. The devices use free energy from the sun to generate electricity. Thus, they will reduce your monthly energy bills since you will not be relying on the grid for outdoor lighting. 

    How to Choose Solar-Powered Outdoor Lights

    There are hundreds of solar-powered outdoor lights in the market. Therefore, choosing the best ones can be a challenge. However, you can make the process much easier by considering the following during the purchase:

    Your Needs

    First, determine why you want the lights. Here are some of the questions that can help you understand your needs;

    • Will the lights be used for security purposes?
    • Are the lights for decorative purposes?
    • Will the light be used to illuminate a specific object during the night?
    • Where will the lights be positioned?
    • What is the size of the outdoor space the solar lights will be illuminating?

    By answering these questions, you will get an idea of what type of lights you need for your outdoor space. For instance, you might realize that you require spotlights, floodlights, post lights, pathway lights, or decorative lights.

    Battery Specifications

    The battery plays a crucial role, where it determines the number of hours the solar light will last during the night. Therefore, you should pay attention to a battery’s specifications when choosing the lights. There are several factors you should consider during the process.

    First, determine how many sun hours the panel requires so that the battery can charge to the fullest. Choose the one that requires the least hours.

    Second, determine how many hours the battery can power the lights when fully charged. It is better to choose devices with a battery that can last for a minimum of 8 hours a night.

    Brightness and Color of the Lights

    The intended purpose of the lights will influence the brightness level.

    If you are buying spotlights or floodlights, make sure you choose the brightest from the list. Preferably, they should have an output of more than 100 lumens. However, decorative and Christmas lights should not be too bright, and especially when used together with other outdoor lights.  

    Therefore, decide on the purpose so that you can determine the most suitable brightness level. Alternatively, you can pick lights with a feature that makes it possible to adjust the brightness depending on need.   

    There are single-colored and color changing solar-powered lights. Therefore, the preferred color will depend on your needs, interest, or time of the year. If you require decorative lights, they should come in a variety of colors. The same applies to outdoor solar Christmas tree lights.


    Motion-sensing lights used for security purposes are the ones most affected by this aspect. The lights have varying sensing range and detection angle. Therefore, when making the purchase, it is better to pick one that senses movement over a longer distance and with a larger sensing angle.

    However, other factors, such as the size of the outdoor space, can also influence the choice. In this case, you don’t choose a light that will sense movement across the road or in your neighbor’s property.

    Appearance and Design

    You should consider the appearance and design of solar-powered lights. The primary purposes of the lights are to illuminate, but they should also add to the beauty of the home. This becomes important during the day when the devices are not in use but remain part of the garden. 

    Therefore, choose aesthetically pleasing lights. Make sure their appearance and design complement the qualities of your outdoor space during the day and at night.  


    Outdoor solar lights manufacturers claim that their products are durable. However, this does not mean you should not get a warranty. The lights may have an undetected manufacturing fault that may reduce its life span. That is why you should choose devices with a reasonable warranty period.  

    With a warranty, you can get a replacement should the device fail within the agreed time.  


    The guide has provided you with everything you need to know about outdoor solar lights. Using the PV devices, you can illuminate and decorate your home without incurring additional energy bills. Solar lights come in a variety, which means that they are suitable for every outdoor space in your home.     

    Best Outdoor Solar Lights

    Here are some of the best solar outdoor lights available in the market that are perfect for your home.

    • John Gathuita

      John is an electrical and solar technician, writer, and blogger who specializes in renewable energy, sustainability, and technology. He seeks to inspire more people to adopt solar energy and to work towards a sustainable future.