Complete Guide to Outdoor Solar Lights

Solar lights are a greener, cost-effective, and hassle-free alternative to regular lights. Outdoor solar lights are ideal for illuminating outdoor spaces. They are used for decorating houses as well as for security purposes. In the past, solar technology was expensive and solar lights were not affordable. Nowadays solar lights are becoming popular and affordable. Modern technology has made manufacturing solar lights inexpensive and has increased their efficiency.

If you have dark areas around your house or want to decorate your exterior and don’t wish to spend too much on wiring and an electrician, solar lights are your solution. They can be installed anywhere around your house with exposure to sunlight. Many solar lights also come with separate solar panels connected by a wire. This is so you can install solar lights wherever you want and place solar panels in the sunlight.

Solar lights come in different shapes, sizes, styles, and colors and have many applications. Choosing the right type of solar light according to your needs might be overwhelming. That’s why I have done all the heavy lifting and have written a detailed guide on outdoor solar lights to help you decide whether solar lights are perfect for you or not. So stick with it!

What is Solar Light?

It is a portable light fixture and can be placed anywhere exposed to sunlight. It doesn’t require an external electrical source to illuminate. Solar light utilizes sunlight to work. It absorbs the energy from sunlight throughout the day using the solar panel and converts it into electrical energy. The energy is stored in its batteries and is used at night to light up the dark areas.

How do Solar Lights Work?

Solar lights consist of four main parts: photovoltaic cells constituting a solar panel, batteries, charge controller, and LEDs.

Solar Panel: The solar panel absorbs sunlight. When sunlight strikes the surface of the solar light’s panel. The excited electrons separate from the negative layer and are attracted to the positive layer. This cycle keeps repeating and creates an electric current. The current is then transferred to the batteries.

Batteries: The batteries receive the current from solar panels throughout the day and store it for the night.

Charge Controller: The charge controller acts as an intelligent device. It saves batteries from overcharging and over-discharging thus increasing battery life. It also stops the reverse current flowing from the batteries to the panel at night. The charge controller also regulates the amount of current, and temperature and minimizes hazards to protect the solar lights.

LEDs: The LEDs use energy stored in batteries to illuminate your outdoor space. Most solar lights use LED lights. They are cheap, energy efficient, run on low voltage, and have a long lifespan.

Light Sensors and Automatic Control: Many solar lights can turn on by detecting motion and auto-on-off. Light sensors and automatic controls perform those tasks.

Types of Solar Lights

I have divided solar lights into two categories.

According to the Light Output

There are three types of solar lights according to their light output. Dusk to dawn, Motion activated and timer controlled. As you can see from their names, they are obvious.

Dusk-to-dawn: These solar lights have sensors that detect darkness. They turn on at night and turn off in the morning automatically. Dusk-to-dawn solar lights are hassle-free and don’t require you to operate them. In areas with limited sunlight or in winter, dusk-to-dawn solar lights may struggle to last the whole night.

Motion-Activated: These lights turn on automatically when they detect someone moving in their range. They have motion sensors that sense human and pet movement. Motion-activated solar lights are good for security. They turn on automatically when someone comes close and will help keep burglars and thieves away. These are suitable choices for regions with limited sunlight as they save battery life.

Timer Controlled: These solar lights allow you to set a timer when you want them to illuminate and turn off. You will have complete control over these lights. You can easily set their operating hours.

According to the Application or Design

Outdoor Solar Lights.

There are various solar lights for different applications. I have mentioned some of them below.

Solar Pathway Lights – As the name suggests solar path lights illuminate your pathway. These lights have stakes at the bottom that goes into the ground on the sides of the pathway. Pathway lights have solar panels attached on top. If you are considering pathway lights, make sure your pathway gets enough sunlight to charge them.

Solar String Lights – These solar lights have a string that attaches multiple bulbs and is connected to a solar panel that is placed in the sunlight. Solar string lights are used for decoration but are not practical when your purpose is to get enough light. They are called fairy lights and add a beautiful ambiance to your patio, garden, or backyard. These can also be used indoors. You can place them in a bowl or wrap them around trees or poles.

Solar Spot Lights – These lights are bright and have a narrow beam. You can use them to illuminate a specific spot in your outdoor space. These can be used for security purposes. Solar spotlights can be placed on gates, poles, or at any high point.

Solar Flood Lights – These lights are bright and mounted high to illuminate your entire garden. These lights are made for practicality and security.

Solar Wall Lights – This is the right option to illuminate your outdoor walls. You can buy solar wall lights with motion detection to be alerted when someone passes by your house boundary. When installing them make sure they get enough sunlight and are not covered with shed of a wall.

Solar Step Lights – This is an excellent option to illuminate your stairs at night. Solar step lights are attached to each step and provide effective lighting. They also look nice.

Solar Lanterns – Solar lanterns are portable and can be hung anywhere in the garden or indoors. They add esthetic looks and are bright enough to illuminate your surroundings.

Pros and Cons of Solar Lights

Solar lights have many benefits over regular lights however there are also a few drawbacks. Before buying a solar light, you must consider its pros and cons. Following are the pros and cons of outdoor solar lights.


Cost Effective: Solar lights are a cost-effective solution to outdoor lighting needs. As they are not connected to the grid, there is no electricity bill. You just need to spend one time and solar lights will illuminate your garden for years.

No Wiring Required: Solar lights don’t require wiring. You can place them anywhere you want with light exposure. You can even try different positions for installing them. They save you wiring and electrician costs.

Eco-Friendly: Solar lights are more environmentally friendly than regular lights. By using sunlight, they do not require fuel-based electricity.

Easy Installation: Solar lights are easy to install. They don’t require wiring and other stuff. They usually come in one unit or easy-to-assemble form. You might need some assistance depending on where you want them placed. Like poles or high places.

Safety: Solar lights are safe to use and enhance safety. As they don’t require wiring or plugging in. This minimizes the risk of shock when someone comes close to the wires. Also, they detect motion which enhances security and keeps burglars away from your house.

Hassle-Free: Solar lights automatically turn on when it’s dark and turn off in the morning. The light sensor detects light levels. So you don’t need to turn them on and off daily.

Last Longer: Solar lights are made of durable materials and are mostly waterproof to withstand heat, cold, rain, and extreme weather. Solar panels last for 20 to 25 years and LED lights have a life expectancy of 50000 to 100000 hours. However, batteries have a life expectancy of 2 to 4 years and need replacement after that time period. Low-quality lights may not be that durable so do research and buy good-quality lights.


Dependent on Sunlight: To work efficiently solar lights need direct exposure to sunlight. Otherwise, they may not last as long as the manufacturer claims. You can place solar lights anywhere you want but you need to consider light exposure. Solar lights even work on cloudy days or without direct sunlight but their efficiency will be reduced by half or more. Check out the list of best solar lights for cloudy days.

Need Frequent Cleaning: Dirt and debris accumulate on the surface of the panel, blocking the light from hitting the surface. This reduces solar panel efficiency. You need to frequently clean the layer of grime caked on the surface of the solar panel. This also happens in snowy regions. Solar panels are less efficient when they are covered in snow. It is therefore necessary to remove the snow from the solar light’s panel.

Need Battery Replacement: Solar lights last for a long time, but their batteries need to be replaced after a few years. Batteries have limited charge cycles and usually last for 2 to 4 years.