Nighttime visibility is important.
It’s essential for your safety if you’re travelling home from work after the sun goes down, or if your children are coming home from extra curricular activities from school or a friend’s house.
Heck, it’s even just good so that the pizza guy doesn’t trip over a garden gnome. But the thing is, it’s expensive to keep your outdoors lit up constantly… unless you use solar lights.
These aren’t those dim, horrible plastic totems from the 90s – these are the best solar lights on the market, giving you extra visibility, and utilizing solar energy far better than we could do decades ago.
Brighter, better, and environmentally sustainable so you aren’t drawing from your energy bill every time you want to be able to see outdoors.
Let’s take a look at what the best of the best, and get your outdoor area shining.
Best Outdoor Solar Lights Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Best Overall – Aootek Solar Lights with Reflectors
Kicking it off with the cream of the crop, Aootek comes out with some serious firepower in terms of visibility and overall charging time.
These solar lights have 120 LEDs in each of them, giving you plenty of brightness at a 270° angle to cover more of your available yard space.
As the best outdoor solar lights, they have large panels that allow for massive consumption of solar energy, so you don’t have to leave them under the sun and then replace them in their original spot.
So far, so good, but it’s about to get even better. Everything has an IP65 waterproof rating, as well as a high heat proof rating so that you don’t end up frying them on a hot day.
With up to 2200mah of energy storage, they convert the sun’s rays into energy and store it deep inside of the lights until nighttime hits, at which point the solar sensor turns off.
One really cool feature is the PIR motion inductor, which has a 26 ft range and detects when anything runs across it. Even if it’s just a raccoon passing through the yard, Aootek is going to pick up on it, light up the night, and keep you safe, or at least aware of what’s going on around you.
For solar panels, you get a 20.5% conversion rate, which is something that we never could have dreamed of with those peg lights in the late 90s. But not everything here is sunshine and rainbows.
You only get a one-year warranty, and because this runs off of lithium-ion batteries, they can eventually be overcharged and be less effective. On average lithium-ion batteries will lose 20% of their maximum charge capabilities after 500 charges.
That’s something you can’t, but if the batteries you received were already on their way out, then you’ve only got that one year to really find out and see if it’s a manufacturer defect or not.
Runner up – Beau Jardin Solar Pathway Lights
Remember those peg lights from way back in the day?
Well, now they’re ten times better, and they actually look good at the same time. Beau Jardin wins the spot for the best solar landscape lights, because you can light up your path through the night, right up to your front door, and it only takes five minutes to place these.
Made out of high-grade, rust-proof stainless steel, as well as durable glass that’s designed to hold up to nature’s beauty and destruction, you’ve got plenty of years on these before they start wearing down.
The only part that’s really going to look bad after a while is the ABS plastic in the construction, but the weathering on the stainless steel is going to look pretty awesome.
On average, on a mildly sunny day, you’ll be able to store enough energy to run these for eight to twelve hours, thanks to the high capture solar panels on top.
Beau Jardin made the glass lenses in a very particular way so that it refracts more light, but each bulb is only about 15 lumens, so you’re going to have to place them kind of close together, just like in the photographs on their sales page.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially since you get 8 in a pack and you want to primarily use them for pathways at night. Two packs could be enough for the average walkway, and perhaps even along the driveway as well if you fancy.
Thanks to the IP65 waterproof rating, these will hold up against basic rain, snow, and they’re durable enough to hold up against some scrapes and bruises along the way as well.
Overall, they’re beautiful to look at, decently effective, and they come from a company with a reputation for being excessively friendly with great customer service. It’s a good set of lights, and helps upgrade your curb appeal during the day as well.
Alternative – Solar Deck Lights by Sunface
We all need a little more clarity at night, and now that you’re adopting solar energy for your outdoor needs, Sunface and their solar deck lights can finally give you that ambience and visibility that you so desperately need.
As the best solar garden lights on our list, these output excellent, close-to-home light that comes down onto your garden beds along the side of the shed and house, as well as shrubbery alongside the windows in your side yard. There are seven color-changing light settings, all powered by the LED lights that produce a high volume of brightness.
You get six in a pack, and if you wanted to go on a value war with the other brands we’ve reviewed, on a light-by-light basis, you could cover more ground with Sunface and their solar deck lights.
With 180° angles and light escaping from multiple areas, they give off a low glow that gives plenty of space in between them, so you can adjust their distances the right way without overcrowding your yard.
The installation is as simple as it gets, and they even include the mounting screws to go into wood board siding. However, Sunface has a bit of a chip on their shoulder when it comes to the warranty.
You only have a one-year warranty which strictly protects you from manufacturer defects and nothing more. Apart from that, you do have a 60-day money-back guarantee, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’ve seen brands offer far less.
Your solar panels come with a decent waterproof rating that allows you to sleep easy when it starts raining outside, but I wouldn’t trust them in a heavy rainstorm.
Most garden lights, solar or not, aren’t going to have hurricane levels of protection, but the thing with these is that you have to unscrew them from the siding on your home or shed (or fence), so it’s a lot more tedious when you’re trying to bring things inside when a weather alert pops up.
Alternative – Baxia BX-SL Solar Flood Lights
Baxia has a powerful, focused beam of light from each of their four solar security sensor lights, which helps to really shine a spotlight on targeted areas of your yard. So… why did it make it this far down the list? There’s a few reasons.
For one, they’re security lights, so you’re not able to flick them on unless you trip the motion sensors. They don’t have a daylight detector, so they don’t just flip on when the sun goes down. If you enjoy having that bright yard at night for sense of security reasons, you are going to hit a snag here.
For any solar powered outdoor lights to output this level of brightness, you’d have to color me impressed. Baxia does a fantastic job at focusing their 28 LEDs into the 120° FOV of this light, but because of how narrow that FOV is, you have to position two of them to shine from different angles on wider walkways and doors.
You get an IP65 waterproof rating, which is the standard for any outdoor lights, so you’ll be good in rain and inclement weather.
The solar panels on the top of these house-mounted lights are angled by about 35°, so the sun hits it from different angles throughout the day instead of a cut-and-dry, top-only solar panel. That gives you a bit more time to actually soak up the sun’s rays.
You need about eight hours of direct sunlight to fully charge these, so don’t expect good performance on the first night. They’ll be tripped by a stray cat, and not shine quite as bright as you’d expect. Give them an extra day to ensure a full charge before seeing if there’s a manufacturer defect.
Speaking of which, it’s important for you to know that Baxia includes a one-year warranty with their lights, which basically only covers manufacturer defects. It’s not the best, but given the price and expected 3-5 year lifetime of these, it’s not bad, either.
Alternative – Greluna Solar Wall Lights
Last but not least on our list, we have Greluna bringing in eight inexpensive, mounted solar lights. This is the best budget-friendly option, but it’s going to come with some flaws, so hold up one second.
These are the best solar lights for yard spaces that get a lot of sun, and I say that because they’re going to need a lot of sun. The panels aren’t as energy efficient, and they’re also not too big or pulled away from the house. These are fairly small, so you’re going to run into a little bit of an exposure problem.
However, they output 10-12 hours of light on average, so after a few days of it getting half-charges here and there, it should be enough for most nights. While there are some exposure issues, installation is probably the easiest part about this entire pack.
With a durable ABS construction, these weigh just 0.3 lbs each, but withstand nature’s wrath in many forms. There’s an IP65 waterproof rating as well, so your panels and lights will be protected from a bit of rain here and there, they will just need to be brought in during heavy storms.
Enact the warm white or color changing modes to make things a little fun. It’s great because you can change the atmosphere from, “I want to see where I’m walking to get to my car at night,” and “It’s party time.” You get the screws, a short six-hour charge time in ideal conditions, but what you don’t get is a clear-cut answer on the warranty.
You might find yourself stumbling around in the dark just a bit here, so contact their customer support to see if they cover anything more than short returns and manufacturer defects.
Outdoor Solar Light Buying Guide & FAQ
Are Solar Outdoor Lights Any Good?
Solar lights are excellent for outdoor use, but not something you would charge outside, and then bring indoors. They’re good for what they’re good for, but they’re not the most versatile things in the world.
These solar lights work well for small amounts of lighting, and that’s all you can really ask on a per-light basis. Because they’re not going to be as bright as wired LED lighting, you may need more, but they’re a one-time buy for five to ten years of lighting.
How Much Money Does Outdoor Solar Lighting Save?
If you were to use four 20W lights to illuminate the outdoors, for eight hours a night, for one year, you could spend an excess of $80.00 up to $200.00 depending on how much lighting you actually need. That’s insane.
Solar lighting can save you hundreds of dollars per year, and when you consider the fact that they’re equipped to last for five to ten years, you could save over a thousand dollars in the lifetime of your solar lights.
That means that even if you invest a hundred dollars, you’re getting a potential +1,000% return on your money, and you never have to worry about your lights going out if there’s a power outage to boot.
Do Solar Lights Work in Winter?
You know that gloom and doom feeling that casts over your head in winter? It’s because of the cloudiness we always see up in the sky, the grayness of it all. That’s usually caused by precipitation freezing in the atmosphere above, and blocking out some sunlight.
Your solar lights can absolutely work in the winter, and they still charge pretty well, but there’s a catch (isn’t there always?). You’re not going to hit peak performance. If you would normally have ten hours of decent sunlight, you would need fifteen hours of sunlight to produce the same level of charge to your solar panels.
That’s because there is still less light coming down through the clouds than you’re normally used to, so it’s charging, just at about 50% capacity. This means you might not see these lights on when you get home from work after the graveyard shift, or that they’ll be a very light, low glow. Either way, they’re still going to work and run just fine, just a little less illustriously.
Does Rain Ruin Solar Lights?
Well, this used to happen. If you have horrible nightmares of late 90s and early 2000s solar lights, like the ones you would use to light a walkway to your door, then yes, those would get ruined by the rain.
Because we were all still figuring out how to optimize these solar lights (while increasing the efficiency of the panels themselves), nobody really thought about condensation being a problem.
You have warm light, rain is usually colder than the heat produced by a light, and then boom: condensation forms on the inside of the plastic lens. Nowadays, we’re actually using glass lenses on these, and they’re locked in there pretty tight to prevent moisture from seeping in through the cracks. No more moisture buildup to ruin your bulbs.
On top of that, you’ll notice the common theme between all of these solar lights: IP65 waterproofing. It’s nothing fantastic, but IP65 allows you to keep these outside during light rain, to even a gentle shower, but should not be thought of as a bulletproof jacket against rain storms and hurricane-like weather.
These are still able to endure water damage, it would just take a ton of water to actually do it.
How do I Maintain my Solar Lights?
The best thing you can do is monitor them. Inspect the solar panels on top and ensure there are no cracks, and nothing is blocking sunlight from charging the lights.
Since most solar lights are going to include glass lenses on their lights, because they just work better, you aren’t going to have a problem with fogging and eventual blurring like you would with the plastic caps on the headlights of your car.
If it appears as though some of your solar lights are undergoing a lot more damage, whether it’s from falling debris from a tree or what have you, then just switch its place with the least impacted solar light in the bunch, and you’ll be good to go.
Do Solar Lights Need Sunlight or Just Daylight?
They need sunlight, not just daylight. Think about it like this: in the middle of winter, when you’re being blinded by the sun, you’re not being blinded by direct sunlight.
In fact, it’s the reflection of sun off of snow banks and ice-covered building sides. It’s not like the sun is just turned up super high.
The same thing works with conducting solar energy. Unless you’re using concentrated mirrors and beams, like many solar plants in Africa do, you’re not going to charge these with refraction of sunlight. These are good solar panels, but they’re not high-performance panels like you would find on a rooftop installation to charge your home.
These panels need direct sunlight to absorb the power of the sun. If you’ve ever seen those videos of solar panels still bringing in some wattage during cloudy days, I want to clarify that it’s absolutely possible, because some sunlight is still coming down.
However, none of the solar panels on our list even cost $20.00 per panel, per item. They’re not high-end, they’re high functioning, and that’s what we want for a simple DIY yard application like this. They need direct sunlight, but will still get a very modest charge on cloudy days, depending on the level of overcast.
What About Moonlight?
Moonlight is just reflected sunlight, so can it really charge your solar panels?
The short and unwanted answer is: no, they still need direct sunlight to get any charge whatsoever.
It’s funny to see people talk online about how they think solar panels will eventually be lunar panels. I can’t tell the future and what technology holds, but there’s no way that your walkway lights are going to run off the moon.
Light up the Night
It’s time to light up your home without hemorrhaging your energy bill on it.
With good solar lights at your disposal, you’ll be able to keep an environmentally friendly, fully lit pathway at night, and hold onto the peace of mind that comes with extended visibility.
To make your home as energy efficient and green as possible, switch your current outside flood lights and opt for solar lights in the yard instead.