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There are many locations around the exterior of your home where you might want to install lights—along pathways, over doors, and on stairs, just to name a few—but it can be tricky to find outlets for all these fixtures, especially if they’re far away from your house. That’s why so many people turn to outdoor solar lights, instead. These lights don’t need to be plugged in, making them a breeze to install, and they’re also eco- and budget-friendly, as they don’t use any electricity.
Outdoor solar lights are available in a wide range of styles, including everything from regular area lights to spotlights, floodlights, wall lights, and more. Most models automatically turn on at dusk, using the solar energy they collected throughout the day to provide light all night long, allowing you to use them for both security and aesthetic purposes.
Here, the best outdoor solar lights to install around your home.
Best Overall: Ever Brite Motion-Activated Outdoor LED Area Light
Dimensions: 11.3 x 2.2 x 8.1 inches | Battery Life: Not listed | Wattage: 4.8 | Brightness: 320 lumens | Color Temperature: 6,000K
Motion detection up to 30 feet
Can be mounted anywhere using included adhesive
No adjustable settings
These motion-activated solar lights from Ever Brite are an easy way to light up your yard. Each unit is around 11 x 8 inches and contains bright white LED bulbs that brighten any time they sense movement—ideal for using over your garage door, on a shed, or even beside your front door.
These solar lights can be installed on virtually any surface using the included 3M adhesive, and there are no tools or wiring necessary. (Alternatively, they can be mounted with screws for a more permanent installation.) The lights remain on a dim setting as soon as it gets dark outside, and when they sense motion within 30 feet, they increase to full brightness until no further movement is detected. The lights are weatherproof, so they can be placed anywhere outdoors, and they’re useful for a wide range of applications, making them a top choice for most people.
Best Budget: Mainstays Classic Column Solar Powered LED Path Light
Dimensions: 1.85 x 3.1 x 14.8 inches | Battery Life: Not listed | Wattage: Not listed | Brightness: Not listed | Color Temperature: Not listed
Easy to install stakes into ground
Light is not very bright
The Mainstays Solar-Powered LED Path Light is an extremely affordable option to provide some light in your yard. The simple path lights are mounted on stakes that can be inserted into grass or dirt, and they have a solar panel on the top that soaks up the sun during the day, allowing the light to stay bright all night long.
These path lights are just under 13 inches tall, and they’re made from durable all-weather black plastic. They have a dusk-to-dawn feature that automatically comes on at night and shuts off in the morning to save battery power, and while they might not be the brightest lights, they’ll certainly look charming lining your walkway.
Best for Winter: URPOWER 2-in-1 Solar Lights with LED
Dimensions: 10 x 8 x 4 inches | Battery Life: Up to 9 hours | Wattage: Not listed | Brightness: 200 lumens | Color Temperature: Not listed
Work better than other options on cloudy days
Multiple installation options
Some solar lights don’t perform well in the winter, as their panels don’t draw enough energy from the waning sun. However, the URPOWER Solar Lights are ideal for year-round use—they’re frost-resistant and waterproof, and reviewers say they deliver bright light for hours, even on cloudy winter days.
The URPOWER Lights offer two brightness levels and deliver 200 lumen output with their four LED bulbs. The lights can either be stuck in the ground using the included stakes or mounted to the wall with screws, and you can adjust the light and solar panel separately to get them at just the right angle. The lights automatically turn on at night and off in the morning, and the spotlight-style is perfect for illuminating your home, backyard, landscaping, and more.
Best Flood Lights: Link2Home Outdoor Solar Light Low Voltage LED Flood Light
Dimensions: 7.6 x 1.2 x 4.3 inches | Battery Life: Up to 12 hours | Wattage: 8 | Brightness: 350 lumens | Color Temperature: 6,500K
Bright light with motion detection
Last up to 12 hours per charge
Automatically shuts off at dawn
Only light up 180 degree angle
Short motion detection range
If you’re planning to use solar lights to keep your home safe at night, powerful flood lights like these from Link2Home are a must. The 350-lumen LEDs kick into bright light mode any time they detect motion within 16 feet, illuminating your home and yard, and the light will stay on for 30 seconds before returning to its stand-by dim mode.
These flood lights have a sleek, flat panel that you can mount on your home, porch, or garage, and they’ll automatically shut themselves off at dawn. They can operate for up to 12 hours on a full battery, and they require around 6 to 8 hours of sunlight to charge. The Link2Home lights are weather-resistant, so you can mount them anywhere, and they’re easy to install with a power drill and a few screws.
Best Spotlight: Frontgate Pro Series VI Solar Spotlight
Dimensions: 5.25 x 6 x 12.25 inches | Battery Life: Up to 10 hours | Wattage: Not listed | Brightness: 60 lumens | Color Temperature: Not listed
Oversized panels perform better in cloudy conditions
Solar panels separate from lights for optimal placement
You can easily illuminate the front of your home, your landscaping, or a flagpole with these high-end solar spotlights from Frontgate. The lights come in a set of two, each of which sports a weatherproof cast-aluminum housing and aluminum stake. The high-efficiency 60-lumen LED lights are brighter than standard solar lights, and each spotlight comes with a corresponding solar panel with a 20-foot cord, allowing you to place it in the best spot for maximum sunlight during the day.
Each spotlight is just over 12 inches tall, and the crystalline solar panels are 4-3/4 x 16-1/4 x 6-1/4 inches—this oversized form provides better performance on cloudy days and during the winter. The lights can stay on for up to 10 hours at a time, and they automatically shut off in the morning to conserve battery power.
Best Wall Lights: Hampton Bay 2-Light Black Solar LED Outdoor Wall Lantern
Dimensions: 3.5 x 4 x 8 inches | Battery Life: Not listed | Wattage: 1.25 | Brightness: 10 lumens | Color Temperature: 3,000K
Attractive design with textured glass
Reasonable price for set of two
Low light output
The Hampton Bay Solar LED Wall Lanterns are the perfect option to mount on either side of your door. The lights, which come in a pack of two, resemble traditional outdoor sconces, but they’re solar-powered for quick and easy installation.
These wall lights are each 8 x 4 inches and have an output of 10 lumens—not the brightest—but rest assured they’ll illuminate your porch or deck in warm white light. The fixtures have a beautifully textured glass inside a durable black plastic housing, and dust-to-dawn technology automatically turns them off and on at night.
Best String Lights: Pottery Barn Solar-Powered Color-Changing Indoor/Outdoor LED String Lights
Bulb Type: LED | Number of Bulbs: 24 | Wattage: Not listed | Cord Length: 24 feet
Color-changing LEDs with 14 light settings
Lights can be charged via USB on cloudy days
How pretty are these solar-powered LED string lights? They would be the perfect decoration for your patio, deck, or other outdoor space! The lights come in both 12- and 24-foot options, both of which have one bulb per foot, and they offer 14 color-changing modes that can be selected with the attached controller. So whether you want plain white or holiday-themed hues, these lights have you covered!
These string lights can be used inside or out thanks to their weather-resistant cord, and the bulbs are impact-resistant—just in case they get blown around in the wind. The lights come with a USB solar panel that stakes into the ground to keep them powered up without any electricity, and you’ll love the way they look when displayed in your yard.
Best Step Lights: JACKYLED Solar Step Lights
Dimensions: 3.2 x 1.1 x 3.9 inches | Battery Life: Up to 10 hours | Wattage: 0.2 | Brightness: 30 lumens | Color Temperature: 6,000K
Several colors available
Include an on/off switch
Easy to install
Not recommended in extremely cold temperatures
Not only are step lights pretty, but they can also help keep your family safe by providing better visibility on stairs at night. The top-rated JACKYLED Solar Step Lights are a perfect eco-friendly solution for any set of stairs, as they come in five colors and a variety of pack sizes, allowing you to buy as few or as many as you need.
Each of these lights is around 4 x 3 inches, and they’re designed to be mounted to steps using screws. After 6 to 8 hours of sunlight, the solar-powered units will light up your stairs for 8 to 10 hours, providing 30 lumens of output, and when they’re on automatic mode, they’ll turn on at dusk and off in the morning. The JACKYLED Solar Step Lights are weatherproof, so they can be mounted in wet locations, but for optimal performance, they shouldn’t be exposed to temperatures below 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
The best overall outdoor solar light is the Ever Brite Motion-Activated Outdoor LED Area Light (view at Home Depot). It's a versatile option that can be mounted to any surface and will detect movement up to 30 feet away. However, if you're looking for spotlights that don't require any installation, check out the Frontgate Pro Series VI Solar Spotlights (view at Frontgate), which boast oversized solar panels and high-efficiency LED lights.
What to Look for in Outdoor Solar Lights
Outdoor solar lights fall into three general types based on their light output: motion-activated, dusk-to-dawn, and timer-controlled lights. Since stored solar energy is a limited resource, it’s important to consider when you want the solar lights to shine and for how long. Timer-controlled solar lights give you the most control, since you can specify the time for the lights to turn on and for how many hours they should stay illuminated.
Dusk-to-dawn solar lights use a sensor to automatically illuminate when daylight begins to dwindle and remain on until the sun starts to rise the next day. In winter regions with limited sun, dusk-to-dawn lights may have trouble storing enough solar energy to stay bright for an extended period of time each night. Motion-activated lights only activate when triggered by movement and conserve solar energy reserves. This style is often used for flood lights or for specific lighting needs, like outside your back door.
The location where you want to use solar lights will determine what type of installation is required. Some outdoor solar lights mount like traditional light fixtures, using screws. However, adhesive-mounted lights offer a quicker alternative or can be used for more temporary installation. When it comes to path lighting, solar lights with a stake are quick and easy to install—just push them into the ground and you’re ready to go.
Look for how many lumens an outdoor solar light produces to determine how bright it will be. How much brightness is required will depend on the setting and application you have in mind. The brightness of outdoor solar lights ranges from as little as 5 lumens for landscaping ambiance to 350 lumens or more for a strong spotlight or floodlight.
How do outdoor solar lights work?
Outdoor solar lights typically contain several key components, including a solar cell, rechargeable battery, photoresistor, and of course, a light bulb. During the day, the solar cell converts the sun’s rays into electricity, which is then stored in the battery. At night, the photoresistor detects the absence of light and switches the light on. The light then stays on until the battery runs out or the photoresistor detects light again in the morning.
Do outdoor solar lights need direct sunlight?
When solar lights are placed in bright, direct light during the day, they’re able to collect more energy in their batteries, which means your light will stay on longer at night. So for best results, you should place your solar light in a location that gets several hours of direct sunlight. However, solar lights will still work in indirect light or on cloudy days—they just won’t collect as much energy and may not stay on as long.
How do you install outdoor solar lights?
To install solar lights, you’ll want to follow the instructions that come with the product you purchase. Some lights are designed to be mounted to a wall using screws, while others are stuck in the ground on stakes. However, you’ll want to arrange the unit’s solar panel in a way that it will get several hours of sunlight throughout the day for best results.
Where’s the best place to install outdoor solar lights?
To get the best results from your outdoor solar lights, you’ll want to place them in a location that gets six to eight hours of direct sunlight during the day. If they’re designed to be mounted to a wall, consider placing your lights up high where they’ll be closer to the sun. You’ll also want to ensure your lights aren’t in an inconvenient location, such as in the path of your lawn mower or blocking a window.
How long do outdoor solar lights last?
In general, the batteries in outdoor solar lights will typically last three or four years before needing to be replaced—some brands sell replacement batteries, while others require you to buy a whole new fixture. You can help to increase the lifespan of your solar lights by cleaning the panels regularly and protecting them from harsh winter weather.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Camryn Rabideau, a freelance writer for The Spruce. She loves incorporating solar lights in the landscaping of her home, and she currently has a set of Home Zone Security Solar Wall Lantern Lights (view at Amazon) to light up her chicken coop at night. To make this list, she considered each solar light's type, installation, and brightness.