Solar Powered Garden Lights

Tested and Reviewed by Fred-in-the-shed

Updated 16th February 2024

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

238 LED Model With 3 Modes

This 238 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.

The on/off mode switch is at the front (and rubber civered) so you can quickly chose between 3 modes.

These newer lights now have bulbs in the side panels for wider light coverage.

The multiple LEDs give a more even spread of light which is much better than the earliest models that only had 4 LED bulbs! .

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

Buy a pair of these 238 LED solar PIR lamps

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

Larger models with up to 430 Led's are available like the one below which I am also testing.

430 LED Extra Wide Solar PIR

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.

 Many solar garden lights don't light up much at all and are what I call "Twinkly Waymarkers".

Buy new improved pack of 10 decorative solar path lights

A best 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 spotlights that cost £40 and one still works!.

The other 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.

I now have several of these in different colours and they are probably the most reliable solar lights you can buy.

 

 

 
 

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 different colours and absolutely love them, especially the green ones that light my palm trees.

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, but did manage to cut the wire once when pruning carelessly.

I have another set in a challenging marine environment with salt spray is fully working too.

If you want to light a balcony or gazebo or a tree these lights are ideal.

Make sure that the panel is as high up as possible in the most sunniest position.

 

Esotec Trio Solar-Powered Spotlights Set of 3

 

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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.

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

 

29 LED LAMP WITH LARGE SOLAR PANEL

 

This style of solar light is ideal for passageways due to its extended bracket.

This puts the light directly above you and the solar panel is also better placed further out from the wall.

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

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

Sadly this simple lamp has been discontinued but I am trying the one below which should be even better as it has more Led's and remote control.

So far it has been good and I love the remote control for changing settings.

The lamp does not extend as far as the old model but is enough to work well.

The remote is very handy and the lamp has a colour coded indicator bulb for each setting so you can see its status.

New 60 LED version with remote control

 

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Solar Feature Lighting

Lighting for Effect - Not Performance

Over the last 23 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

 

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 4 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)

There are many cheaper copies of these in the shops but if you want the best ones with 96 LED bulbs then use the link below.

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 were notoriously bad because the small solar panel could not 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.

New Improved Pack of 10 Solar Pathway Lights

The best model I found was the Solarmate Roma Light, made from 314 grade stainless steel. It was very expensive and has been discontinued but my one still works after 8 years!

A good option for lighting a pathway are these lamps with a single super bright bulb facing downwards,  see link below.

Pair of solar pathway lights as recommended by Fred

This model has 2 light level modes and my ones light for between 3-8 hours depending on time of year.

 

PowerBee Saturn Solar Garden Lights

 

 
 

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 EVO SMD which works well and lights up the inside of my shed at night as soon as I open the door.

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

Solar Shed Lamp

Colour Changing Shed Light

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 can be 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 7 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 originally sold by my friends at Solarcentre UK but is no longer available.

 

 Zenith Warm White Solar Powered Outdoor Wall Light

The curve has been 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 is made from metal, has a 12 month warranty from a UK company and uses a superior black solar panel.

 

 

Click here to see my special page dedicated to LED Torches

 

 
 

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