Outdoor Solar Lights: Your Ultimate Buying Guide

Today, I will show you what to look for when choosing outdoor solar lights – from type of solar, wattage, battery…you will learn lots more here

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Last updated on May 11th, 2023 at 11:01 am

Choosing outdoor solar lights should be a straightforward process. However, it is only possible with the correct information.

For instance, you should know:

  • Types of light bulbs; you can choose LED solar outdoor lights, Compact fluorescent (CFL), or halogen bulbs
  • Model of solar panel
  • Charge controller
  • Battery, etc

Let’s look at some fundamental aspects about outdoor solar lights:

How Outdoor Solar Lights Work

The outdoor solar light is made up of a solar cell, LED light, photoresistor and a NI-Cad rechargeable battery. The solar cells in the outdoor solar lights produce energy that will charge your battery during the day.

At night, your outdoor solar lights will stop producing energy. The photoresistor in it will detect the absence of light which will activate your battery hence turning on the LED light.

Outdoor solar lights
Illustration of how outdoor solar light works. Photo credits: Baode Lighting Group

Benefits Of Outdoor Solar Lights

Installation of outdoor solar lights is very simple. This is simply because you do not require wiring to be done or any other power sources.

This will make it easy for you to mount them in the ground and install them where required. Also, you have a guarantee of not having power bills since it does not use electricity.

Wattage Vs. Voltage Of Outdoor Solar Lights

The voltage of the outdoor solar light is way smaller compared to its wattage. This is because you get wattage by getting the product of voltage and current.

Therefore, if you have more voltage it means your outdoor solar light will be brighter. So, in any case, the voltage of any outdoor solar light has to be less than its wattage. The wattage of the outdoor solar light is the energy used to ensure the light illuminates.

Factors To Consider When Buying Outdoor Solar Lights

Solar lights
Solar light for outdoor: Photo credits: EXC Streetlighting

Solar And Battery Storage

Your outdoor solar light uses energy from the sun that is collected by solar photovoltaic cells and stored in the battery which you later use for your lighting need. Always look for a solar panel and battery combination that will offer you a large hour capacity.

Also, check the ratio between your solar panel and battery in terms of luminaire energy draw. This will ensure your panel is sufficient to charge your battery as well as the battery can run the light for multiple hours.

Illumination Levels

There are recommended levels of light levels for outdoor solar lights. The amounts recommended are prescribed as footcandles that measure the light falling on a surface. The 3:1 ratio is recommended which is the ratio between brightest and darkest ratio.

Passive Infrared Sensor

This is included in your outdoor solar light to help with the conservation of battery life. The sensors will work by measuring infrared from objects with temperatures above absolute zero-emitting infrared radiation hence detecting movement.

Lighting Efficacy

The rating is measured in lumens per watt. This rating is very important since it informs you of how much energy is generated compared to how much is consumed.

Ensure your outdoor solar lights do not have high lumens since they are not always the best. Also always pay attention to how well your outdoor solar light luminaire focuses its lightly.

Outdoor Solar Lights With A Motion Sensor

Most outdoor solar lighting systems have a motion sensor.

The sensor detects a moving object and triggers the bulb of the LED bulb to illuminate light.

By doing so, your outdoor solar light conserves energy.

Outdoor Solar Lighting Systems Installation

Yard outdoor solar lights
Yard outdoor solar lights. Photo credits: IDLights

First, choose the type of outdoor solar light you want to install. Dig a foundation into the ground, after that, fix the post that comes with the solar fixture into the dug pits.

Ensure the post are well driven on the ground since any mistake will be notified when your lights come on. You then place your solar lighting devices in a position where they will get full sun exposure.

Ensure there is no shadowing on the panels as it affects the charging of the battery. If in shadowed areas use a remote solar panel.

When you want to gain the most efficient use of LEDs rather than bulbs since they will make the illuminated area much brighter. For more illumination, always use a conventional low voltage lighting system when installing.

Outdoor Solar Lights Vs Indoor Solar Lights

Outdoor solar lighting systems are weatherproof and can withstand harsh weather conditions, unlike other solar lights. The outdoor solar lights as the name suggests are manufactured to illuminate in open uncovered areas while solar lights are used to light enclosed areas.

The installation of outdoor solar lights is easy and uncomplicated compared to other solar lights that require wiring.

Disadvantages Of Outdoor Solar Lights

The efficacy of your outdoor solar light is determined by the season. This simply means that in summer you will generate more electricity, the battery will be charged faster but in winter the energy generated is minimal and charging of the battery is slower.

The solar panels of the outdoor lights just live everything else will deteriorate from UV- rays. Also, wind and dirt particles are a threat to solar panels.

Test Quality Solar Outdoor Lights

You can use the following tests to know the quality of the outdoor solar lights.

  • Initial screening method
  • Market check method
  • Quality test method

These tests are all done in the laboratory. If the outdoor solar light goes through the stated test and passes, it shows that it is of good quality.

Solar outdoor lights must comply with RoHS, CE, UL, CCC, IP Rating and NEMA (For those with enclosure).Remember, these are not the only certifications. They vary depending on the area of jurisdiction.

Components Of Solar Outdoor Lights

Solar lamp
Solar lamp – Phot Credits: Wikimedia

The outdoor solar light is composed of how to make outdoor solar lights brighter or dimmer the following.

  • The photovoltaic panel; when the light is out the panel generates electricity from the light.
  • Battery; this is used to store the electrical energy generated from your panel.
  • control electronics; this includes sensors, that detect motion, switch on and off the light and protect components of the system.
  • light fixture; used to illuminate the area where the outdoor solar light is mounted.

LED lights are used since they are energy efficient and less expensive.

Outdoor Solar Light Specifications

Whenever you are buying outdoor solar lights, always specify the following:

Type Of Brightness

This is majorly based on the purpose of your outdoor lighting. The brightness is measured in terms of the lumen so you are advised to pick one that is effective for you.


Also, batteries come in different types. When getting one for your outdoor lighting, choose one that is small but has high capacities.

Solar Panel

Solar panels are available in different types. Always choose one that is effective and not very expensive.

Making Solar Outdoor Lights Brighter Or Dimmer

To make your outdoor solar light brighter by cleaning your solar panel. Since the panels are outside, they are prone to attracting dust particles and water, and this makes them less bright.

If your batteries are malfunctioning, it means less power is directed to lighting the LED light hence making it less bright. This can be corrected by buying a new functioning battery.

To make your outdoor solar lights dimmer by replacing the light switch with a dimmer switch. This switch will help you dim the outdoor solar light to your desired level. It’s the easiest way of dimming outdoor solar lights.

Advantages Of Outdoor Solar Lights

You do not require wires for installation of these lights making them easy to install, safer and has no messy wires. The lights use sun UV rays to generate the energy required hence no electricity is required making them not only energy-efficient but also ecofriendly.

The lights are low maintenance since you only require a clean panel after installation. Besides, the outdoor solar lights are easy to install because all you need is to unpack them and put them in your desired location.

The outdoor solar lights do not require high investment when it comes to purchasing them and also when installing you can do it without hiring a professional making them cost-effective.

Types Of Outdoor Solar Lights

Outdoor solar lights are available in different types depending on where you use them and how they are mounted.

Wall-mounted Solar Outdoor Lights

These outdoor solar lights are attached directly to a wall, post or step. They are placed in a way that your LED light bulb is placed below and on top, you place the solar panel. These types are ideal when it comes to brightening outdoor patios and decks.

Fence Lights

The outdoor solar lights are attached to the fence. The lights will provide a gentle glow on your fence like a marking off for your yard’s boundaries at night.

String Lights

The outdoor solar lights are used to add a party atmosphere to your outdoor space. The lights can be hung on a tree and also string on a fence.

Others are flood lights, remote control string lights, flood lights with motion sensor, etc.

Material For Solar Outdoor Lights

The material suitable for making outdoor solar lights should be weatherproof. It should withstand harsh environmental conditions without affecting its performance.


What Causes Solar Lights Failure?

Many reasons may cause solar lighting systems to fail. They include:

  • Faulty switch
  • Battery not charging
  • Faulty solar panels
  • Dirty solar panels therefore may not get enough light
  • Battery not charging or faulty battery
  • Lose or broken wire connections
  • Faulty bulbs

More Resources:

Light Wattage

Types Of Light Bulbs

Solar Lamp

Wattage For Outdoor Lights

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