Solar Powered Garden Lights

Tested and Reviewed by Fred-in-the-shed

Updated 6th July 2018

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

The Biggest Solar Security Wall Lights

The Best Solar Feature Lighting

History of Solar Lighting

Solar Spot Lights

Best value - Most Reliable Solar PIR Wall Lamps

Solar Shed Lights

Solar Fairy Lights

LED Bulbs To Replace GU10 Halogens

 

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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 12 LED MPOW 8 LED

 

The Best Solar Feature Light Ever!

 

 

 Cinoton Solar Garden Light, 96 LED IP65 Waterproof Flickering Dancing Flame

 

 

Biggest Solar Light With 68 LEDs!

Now Under testing -  68  LED  Lamp

This new 68 LED lamp has a remote control for changing settings without taking it down!

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.

Price - approx £26

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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 light your garden but will disappoint you.

 

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

Over the last 16 years I have been testing many types 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

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

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

Another common problem is that most 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". 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.

Most types of solar powered lights sold cheaply by all and sundry use a small photovoltaic panel that uses one small AA or even AAA size battery to power a single LED bulb. This type of "light" is really just a twinkly way marker at best and most pack up after a year or so.

If you want " Twinkly Waymarkers" then just make sure you don't pay too much for them.

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

 

This is my garden in 2017, completely lit by solar lighting.

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Solar Spotlights

Early expensive models Tested and Reviewed by Fred-in-the-shed

This stainless steel one cost me £55 back in 2010!

By 2015 you could buy a more powerful, waterproof  LED Solar Spotlight like this for around £15.

As well as the simple cheap solar lights I also tested some of the more expensive models that used larger photovoltaic panels and larger batteries.

Most of these still only used a couple of LED bulbs so the result was not worth the added expense and all of these more expensive lamps failed to work after a couple of years at most.

The first solar powered garden light that actually impressed me was this one shown above.

It had a large solar panel charging 3 AA batteries that power 9 LED bulbs.

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

 

 
 

THEN THINGS BEGAN TO IMPROVE

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 good ones are also more reliable, now they are properly sealed to prevent moisture getting in.

In 2013 I tested the ( brown lamp) from a company called Solar Technology International LTD.

I still have 4 of them and they have given 4 years of good service. They cost nearly £50 each and have now been discontinued.

The black plastic model from GRDE is also virtually waterproof (IP65 rated) 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 £12.

Performance is similar to the Brown coloured Solarmate Trento but not as bright, the body is plastic not metal.

As with all the lamps on this page they will stay in my gardens and form part of my long term testing of solar garden lights

A cheaper alternative to the best solar powered garden spot lights

Now available in white, fixed colours or colour changing!

 T-SUN LED Solar Spotlights ,4 LEDs

 

Solar Spotlight with Separate Panel

Ideal for less sunny locations.

I am now testing a trio of small spot lights but with a separate panel. This gives you more options with your lighting.

After 2 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.

 

Esotec Trio 102140 Solar-Powered Spotlights Set of 3

 

Colour Changing Solar Spotlights

 Liqoo LED Solar Powered Lamp Light with 3 RGB Spotlight Panel Underwater -Pond Or Garden Lighting Waterproof IP68

I am also testing these COLOUR CHANGING spotlights and a single panel triple spot COLOUR CHANGING version which gives you more options on the effect.

I have found that the colours changing makes the lights stay on longer, probably as red LEDs require less energy.

The single spot version has a dual brightness setting whilst the triple spot is fixed but the build quality is superior with an IP 68 rating that allows the lights to work underwater. I am so impressed with these I now have 3 sets and my garden is multi-coloured all through the night. ( 1/2 on dull winter days)

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Solar Powered Security Lights (PIR Activated)

Small Solar Wall Lamps

  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.

This way more light can be given out over shorter periods, making the light more comparable to normal lighting.

COMBINATION PIR OR "STAY ON" WALL LIGHTS

The black "wedge" type model is most popular.

There are many variations but the best version I have found is this one below.

This low price but advanced version has 8 LEDs, a bigger panel, good PIR range.

AND a superb 14500  Li-ion battery. It is easy to fit, just one screw required.

The MPOW model is versatile with 4 switchable modes of operation.

It can come on at half or full power as soon as darkness falls or it can come on only for 30 seconds when someone approaches after dark.

Single Mpow 3-in-1 LED Solar Motion Sensor Light

 Mpow 3-in-1 LED Solar Motion Sensor Lights, (2 Units)

Mid Size Models

24 LED Model With New Side Facing LEDs

This 24 bulb model is even better and also has 3 settings so you can choose the brightness and when it comes on.

It has the same but single, REPLACEABLE - RECHARGEABLE  BATTERIES as the larger models

It is a good alternative to the 32 bulb LED lamps and nearly as bright

For around £18 it is a very impressive light with hundreds of 5 star rated reviews

Please use the link below to purchase whilst supporting Fredshed

 Solar Motion Sensor Security Lights, Mpow 24 LED Solar  Waterproof Security Light

 

The Latest and Biggest Solar PIR Wall Lamp With 102 LEDs

Mpow 54 LED Security Garden Solar light with 120 Degree Wide Angle Motion Sensor

 Mpow 102 LED Solar Lights Motion Sensor

 

 

36 LED LAMP WITH HUGE SOLAR PANEL

 

InnoGear 36 LED Solar Lights Outdoor Motion Sensor Security Light with Mounting Pole

Pair of solar Wall Lamps  450 Lumens  36 LED

This amazing solar light is the most useful I have found due to its large panel, 2 batteries and extended bracket.

It is powered by a REPLACEABLE Lithium-ion 3.7v battery and has 36 LEDs giving out a massive 450 Lumens

I am seriously impressed with this light and if you put it high up in an open position it should be able to light a small patio on its own.

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.

That is why I buy lots of them and test them myself.

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Solar Feature Lighting

Lighting for Effect - Not Performance

Over the last 16 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

 Cinoton Solar Garden Light, 96 LED IP65 Waterproof Flickering Dancing Flame

 

Under testing since May 2017 - Amazing Solar Tiki Torch - Flickering Flame Effect! 

I have 2 of these amazing lamps, these are the most impressive solar lights I have ever seen.

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

Also 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

The Solar Globe Light

         

I have had over 5 years of use from my Solar Globe and this is because I was able to change the rechargeable batteries.

Also being a globe all rain runs off it and not into it. When I changed the batteries I also re-sealed the battery compartment with silicon to make sure water did not get in. I rather like my Solar ball as it changes colour in sequence and lasts for hours.

It can be seen from 20-30ft away and would make a nice present that should last longer than most other solar novelty lights.

Smart Solar Garden Magic Globe Colour Changing LED Light

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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.

PowerBee ® Endurance Deluxe Solar Fairy Lights 100 Quality 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 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 but gave off a reasonable amount of light.

A much better solution if you want this shape of lamp is a low voltage mains powered kit like the one on the link below.

These are easy to fit and will be far more reliable and brighter than solar.

 Luxform Global 12V Starter Set Nantes (3 Pieces)

 

 
 

PIR lamps with separate solar panels and solar shed lights

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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The Kensington Solar Wall Light

 The Solar Centre Kensington Solar Wall Light

This light is the length of a standard British brick

This stylish light has a large solar panel and enough battery power and bulbs to throw out a useful amount of light for extended periods.

It comes on automatically with darkness so gives out a constant light until the batteries run out.  At nearly £30 it is expensive .

I have 2 low down on my walls to light up pebbles in my beach garden. The oldest of my 2 lamps has 1 out of the 6 LEDs failed - which is disappointing considering how long LEDs are meant to last, and how expensive this lamp is at nearly £30. However these and one solar curve lamp the only solar powered lights that have survived and still work in my seriously storm battered beach garden.

The light from the Kensington also shines outward not down, so it is more suitable on low walls and not high up where it may shine in your eyes.

As the solar panel is fixed to the light it must be located on a bright south facing wall otherwise it will not generate enough power to make the light last long.

In my south facing location the Kensington Solar Light works all year round apart from the darkest stormiest days and in the summer it often stays on until dawn.

 

Older Designs That Were Very Good

Solar Motion light with 32 LEDs!

This is an older model and has 4 settings so you can select the brightness and when/how it comes on.

2 - REPLACEABLE - RECHARGEABLE Li-ion Batteries

It comes with a fitting template for drilling 2 holes, a good quality screwdriver and screws.

It is not the latest design but works well and is a good price.

(Black) Solalite 400 Lumens 32 Led SMD Solar Powered Pir Motion Sensor Security Light

 

Older Design PIR Wall Lamp - The Curve Solar PIR

I fitted 9 of the Curve solar motion lights around my house 3 years ago.

Each is similar to a 40w bulb and have worked well for 3 years, 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.

Light output is 100 lumens and equivalent to standard 40w light bulb.

The curve is IP64 rated and is very water resistant.

Sadly the batteries in the Curve are wired in and non-replaceable so when the battery goes -its landfill. However my ones have all lasted 3 years.

The Solar Centre Curve Solar Motion Light

 

Click here to see my special page dedicated to LED Torches

 

 

 
 

Fredshed Tip - Replacing GU10 Halogen Ceiling Spotlights With LED

Premature Failure Of LED Bulbs

Always keep your receipts when you buy LED or Low energy bulbs because despite the manufacturers claims of longevity they can fail early.

Life spans of bulbs are measured with them being left on for thousands of hours but in the real world we turn our lights on and off and the sudden surges can cause degradation and reduce the lifespan. Also these are hi tech bulbs and if the manufacturing process was not spot on then again this can be a cause of premature failure.

Also please be aware that NOT ALL LED BULBS ARE DIMMABLE. If you want dimmable LED bulbs then they will cost more and you will likely need a new dimmer switch too as the old style are not usually compatible. Dimmable LED GU10s are good but they do not dim so gradually as halogen bulbs, they seem to either dim or bright to me but still effective.

If you have a receipt you may be able to get a replacement. Especially if from a known manufacturer like Philips

 

Philips 8718291789994 5 W (50W) 3000 K 36D GU10 LED Spot Light Bulbs - White, Pack of 2

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