Solar Powered Garden Lights

Tested and Reviewed by Fred-in-the-shed

Updated 9th June 2021

Solar Powered Garden Lights - Are they really environmentally friendly?

Which Are The Best Solar Powered Garden Lights?

I test the latest ranges with the latest technology

On This Page

Best value - Most Reliable Solar PIR Wall Lamps

The Best Solar Feature Lighting

History of Solar Lighting

Solar Spot Lights

Solar Lights For Passageways

Solar Shed Lights

Solar Fairy Lights

 

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Currently Under Testing

The Latest Solar PIR Security Lights

The Most Powerful Solar Spotlight

 

Lepower 8 Led, GDRE 10 Led, Crazyfire 32 Led Mpow 8 Led

 

Best Value - Latest Model Solar Security Lamp

200 LED Model With 3 Mode Option

This 200 bulb model is a superb design and has an IP65 rating which makes it UK weatherproof.

It is easy to fit and only requires one hole to be drilled for the screw which is then hidden behind the light.

The on/off switch is also hidden at the back but can be easily accessed by lifting the light from its one screw fitting.

I have 2 of these under testing (one in a harsh marine environment) and am very impressed with the performance.

This model has now been replaced with a 286 LED version and is available at a reduced price for a pair on the link below.

 Solar Lights Outdoor 【286 LED & 2600 Lumen】 Upgraded Solar Motion Sensor Security Light with 3 Lighting Modes, 2500mAh (2 Pack)

Make sure you instal this light in a sunny position and try the 3 mode options to see what suits you best.

 

 

 

The photo does not do the light justice as I mounted it under a tree to test it and shadows are produced.

Mount it high up on a sunny facing wall for maximum effect.

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THE HISTORY AND EVOLUTION OF SOLAR GARDEN LIGHTING

 

 

THIS IS HOW IT USED TO BE

Cheap solar lights are what I call - "Twinkly Waymarkers"

They will NOT illuminate your garden but WILL disappoint you.

 

Early Basic Models Tested and Reviewed by Fred-In-The-Shed

Over the last 20 years I have been testing hundreds of solar powered lights and my conclusion is that overall most have not been "environmentally friendly", and most were a waste of money.

The small amount of "free" energy they produced was outweighed by the fact that the batteries and plastic parts lasted 2-3 years at most and become landfill.

BUT THINGS ARE CHANGING

This is my garden in 2020, completely lit by solar lighting.

 

Most solar lights fail, (including the expensive models) due to poor rubber seals allowing moisture to corrode the batteries and electronics.

Occasionally some last many years.  One of my cheapest lamps lasted 8 years before the plastic became brittle and shattered. (Most lasted 1-2 years.)

Another common problem is that many batteries will not survive the freezing temperatures of the British winter. So if you don't take them out they will likely fail or even rot away the circuit boards.

Another common problem is degradation of the plastic covering to the photovoltaic panel caused by Ultraviolet light. Eventually the covering shatters and your lamp becomes landfill as spare parts are not available.

With the old style cheap small solar panels the lights would only ever work if placed in an open, south facing aspect.

If the panels don't generate enough power the batteries will fail over time.

 Most "solar garden lights" don't light up much at all and are what I call "Twinkly Waymarkers". A better application for solar lighting is when it is used with PIR detection so the light only comes on when someone approaches.

The cheapest solar powered lights use a small photovoltaic panel that uses one small AA, or even smaller AAA size battery to power a single LED bulb. This type of "light" will not function through a UK winter and most pack up after a year or so.

A single bulb, single battery solar powered garden light should not cost more than £2 per unit.

 

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Solar Spotlights

Early Expensive Models Tested and Reviewed by Fred-in-the-shed

In 2010 the stainless steel one cost me £55 and lasted 18 months!

In 2013 I tested the brown spotlight that cost over £40 each.

It lasted 3 seasons and died from damp corroding the circuit board - the most common cause of solar light to landfill

By 2015 you could buy a more powerful, waterproof LED Solar Spotlight like the black one for around £15

 

 
 

Latest and Best Solar Spot Lights

Stand Alone LED Solar Spotlights  with Built in Solar Panel

Thanks to advances in PV panels, LED bulbs and Li-ion batteries, solar spot lights are now more powerful, and cheaper.

The black plastic model above is IP65 rated (very water resistant) and has a simple 18650 3.7v Li-ion battery you can replace if the original ever fails.

It comes with a ground spike but can also be wall mounted, average price around £15.

I have several of these giving out differnt colours and absolutely love them, especialy the green ones.

The one pictured has been in my garden for 5 years and is only now showing signs of UV damage around the panel edges

Available with white LEDs, fixed colours or colour changing!

T-SUN LED Solar Spotlights ,4 LEDs

 

Solar Spotlight with Separate Panel

Ideal for less sunny locations.

I also have these 3 small spot lights linked by one separate panel. This gives you more options with your lighting.

After 5 years I am very impressed, it has been the most reliable consistent lamp set in my garden.

Another set in a challenging marine environment is still working too.

If you want coloured spotlights I am currently testing 2 metal cased blue ones that run off a large panel.

So far they are very good and you can also have green coloured LEDS.

 

Esotec Trio Solar-Powered Spotlights Set of 3

 LED Solar Spotlights ,5W Blue Waterproof IP65, Auto On/Off,2 Pack

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Solar Powered Security Lights (PIR Activated) For Passageways

One of the best applications for outdoor solar lighting is when it is used with PIR detection so the light only comes on when someone approaches.

Consequently more light can be given out over shorter periods, so a small and relatively cheap lamp can be used.

This wall mounted light has a long arm to cast a better light and to give the panel more sunlight

 

29 LED LAMP WITH LARGE SOLAR PANEL

 

This amazing solar light is the more efficiant due to its large panel, 2 batteries and extended bracket.

It is powered by a REPLACEABLE Lithium-ion 3.7v battery and has 29 LEDs giving out a massive 400 Lumens

I am seriously impressed with this light and if you put it high up in an open position it is ideal for lighting a side pasasge.

The solar panel measures approx 7.5 * 4.5 inches and produces 5W. It is also IP65 rated to resist water ingress.

The easy to use mode button gives 4 settings of brightness and control.

I totally love this light and have placed it in prime position to light my shed door!

All solar lights are made in China and then "branded" by different retailers.

However, some that look the same use different quality solar panels, LED bulbs and batteries.

InnoGear 29 LED Solar Outdoor Motion Sensor Security Light with Mounting Pole

 

 

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Solar Feature Lighting

Lighting for Effect - Not Performance

Over the last 20 years of testing products for this site I have tried so many solar fairy lights, solar Christmas lights, and all sorts of novelty lights.

Incredible 96 LED Flickering Flame Solar Torch Light

 

Aityvert Solar Torch Light Upgraded-Flickering Flames Torches Lights - 2 Pack

 

 

Amazing Solar Tiki Torch - Flickering Flame Effect!

I have 2 of these amazing lamps in my garden for 3 years. They are the most impressive solar lights I have ever seen.

They come on automatically and look like real burning flames, my visitors are really fooled!

The design is so effective they stay lit up all night most nights (excluding very dull winter days)

Solar Torch Lights, Outdoor Waterproof Flickering Flames

 

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Solar Powered Fairy Lights

Without exception these all come with a pathetically small solar panel and single cheap Ni-Cad battery.

I have tested dozens of them and many fail very quickly or get stuck on flashing mode and become annoying.

I really can't recommend many models as they are all similar and considered by the manufacturers to be a disposable item.

If you want to take a chance then use the links below as these were the best I found and have been working nearly 2 years now.

 Criacr 100 LED 10m Solar String Lights, Copper Wire style

PowerBee Solar Fairy Lights 100 Superbright LED's

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The Best Solar Powered Pillar Lamp

Solarmate Roma Lamp

 

Solar powered pillar lamps are mostly rubbish because the flat top panel cannot be large enough to gather enough sun to produce more than an hour or two of usable light. In my opinion any pillar lamp with a flat panel smaller than 4 x 4 inches is a waste of money. Even then you may only get a few hours of light from a sunny day.

The best model I found was the Solarmate Roma Light, made from 314 grade stainless steel. It was very expensive and has been discontinued.

A new solution is to make the solar panel tilt towards the sun like the one on the link below.

This model works well and gives off a reasonable amount of light for 3-5 hours.

 

PowerBee Saturn Solar Garden Lights

Litake Solar Garden Lights , PIR Pathway Lights  IP65 Waterproof Motion Senor

 

 
 

Solar powered Shed Lamps

(PIR detection lamps with separate solar panels)

The advantage with the separate solar panel is that it can be placed in the best (sunniest) position, but the lamp can then be placed where you want it, even inside a shed (assuming you have enough cable). I have tried many of these lamps and most have failed badly. The PowerBee units have a good spec and reasonable readers reviews.

I have a unit with the similar spec but using the amazing Nichia bulb from an obsolete manufacturer and it is very impressive. Sadly the supplier has disappeared which is common with solar lamps as they are all made in the far east and then made available to anyone to print their brand name on.

I am currently testing the  new EVO SMD which has replaced the old EV36 and Evo 56.

These previous models were found to have some water ingress issue so my friends at the Solar Centre have specified a new model with a higher IP rating.

SolarCentre® Evo SMD Remote Controlled Solar Floodlight

PIR lamps with separate solar panels are more versatile as they can be placed anywhere.

However they tend to be pretty ugly with wires visible or dangling between the 2 components.

The more components the more chance of failure - this is why I think this type of solar light is the most unreliable.

Lamps with built in solar panels are better but really need to be south facing in the UK

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Older Designs That Have Stood The Test of Time!

 The Curve Solar PIR Wall Lights

I fitted 9 of the Curve solar motion lights around my house 5 years ago.

Each is similar to a 40w (100 Lumen) bulb and come on at dusk most night, including winter.

The solar motion curve lamps have a 3.7v Li-ion battery and 16 LED bulbs!

     

This Curve was easily fitted to my south facing porch. It lights the entrance and signs.

When the PIR detects movement it lights up fully for 30 seconds.

The curve was sold by my friends at Solarcentre UK.

The curve is being replaced by the larger more stylish Zenith model.

My Zenith lamp works just like the Curve but has the option for a lower light power saving option.

It comes with a 12 month warranty from a UK company and has the superior black solar panel.

 

 

Click here to see my special page dedicated to LED Torches

 

 
 

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If you found my advice helpful you can support my work by returning to this page and using my links when purchasing your lights.

 

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