Some folks say that switching out your old light bulbs for high-efficiency LED bulbs is one of the easiest ways (and most impactful for the level of effort needed) to conserve electricity and cut down on your utility bill.
To take that one step further, another simple thing you can do is to swap out your outdoor garden, pathway, or yard lights for solar lights—especially if you have them turned on regularly every evening.
It’s a win-win: You don’t have to compromise on safety around the outside of your home, and you can keep the lights on using clean energy, pretty much for free. (And for seniors or older folks, having outdoor lights on at night can be as much about security as it is about seeing tripping hazards in the yard.)
So, which are the best solar lights out there (and we’ll look at a few indoor options too), and what should you look for as you’re shopping for lights for your home?
Let’s look at some of the top outdoor solar lights for your home. In this post, we’ll look at these super unique solar lights, lanterns, and lamps:
- GoSun SolarLamp 600: The best no-fuss solar cabin lights
- Biolite SolarHome 620: A “next-level-up” solar light system for keeping a whole off-grid home lit
- GoSun SolarLamp 50: The best solar camping light
- LuminAID Bloomio Gem: The best solar-powered pool lantern
- Biolite SunLight: Best solar lantern for camping and wayfinding
- Techko Solar Almond Integrated LED Garden / Path Light: A beautiful, modern solar path light
- Goal Zero Torch 500: The best emergency solar light that’s built for extreme conditions
- Bonus: Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 Lantern: Not technically a solar light—see why it made the list
But first, let’s look at how solar lights work.
How do solar lights work?
Essentially, solar lights, lamps, or lanterns use sunlight to generate electricity.
Depending on the type of solar lights you’re using, they may hook up to a separate portable solar panel (learn more about those) or have a solar panel built right in (like the GoSun SolarLamp 50 on the list below).
Because of this, you should place your solar lights and/or panels somewhere where they can get the maximum amount of sunlight—no trees or tall buildings shading them. This is important because most solar lights take between half a day to a day to fully charge, and a full charge can typically keep a lamp powered for five to 10 hours.
(For most people, this should be fine, unless for some reason you need to have your solar lights on from dusk all the way until dawn.)
Okay, now let’s look at some lights.
What are the 8 best solar lights?
1. GoSun SolarLamp 600: The best no-fuss solar cabin lights
Brightness: 150 lumens per light; 600 lumens across all four lights
Time to fully charge: Unlisted
If you’re planning to set up an off-grid solar lighting system, then the GoSun SolarLamp 600 is versatile enough to light up your cabin, outdoor patio or deck, yard, and more.
It comes with everything you need to set up your solar lamp quickly:
- An 8-watt solar panel
- 4 solar lamps
- A solar control box
- A power cable
Since it comes with four solar lamps, you’ve got quite a bit of flexibility in terms of your solar light setup. Use them to light up a patio or deck outside, or four different rooms, or maybe a large room inside:
Oh, and you can use the SolarLamp 600 to charge your mobile devices too via a handy USB port. We like a versatile lamp!
Features we like:
- 2 brightness modes – dim and bright
- USB phone charging – Doesn’t have to just be a phone either (it can charge any device that charges through USB)
- Pretty versatile setups possible with the four solar lights
- Power output: 8 watts
|💡 Pro-tip: When you’re looking at how weatherproof a solar light is, pay attention to the IP rating. (We’ve got more details on what these numbers mean below.) There should be two digits—the first digit tells you how much protection that lamp or lantern provides against solids like dust, and the second digit tells you how well it’s protected against liquids. (Like rain!)|
2. Biolite SolarHome 620: A “next level up” solar light system for keeping a whole off-grid home lit
Brightness: 100 lumens per light; 400 lumens across all four lights
Waterproof? Yes—no IP rating provided, but from the website: “In fact, rain helps keep the panel clear of dust for better performance. Just make sure that after heavy storms the panel is clear of debris and has not shifted.”
Time to fully charge: About 6 hours with direct sun
Don’t call it just a solar light. BioLite’s SolarHome 620 will not only keep your home or yard lit, it can also charge your devices via solar power—oh, and it’s a radio too.
Not ready yet to invest in a solar array for your home, but still interested in using solar power? This is a great way to dip your toes into solar without spending tens of thousands of dollars.
Designed for off-grid homes, the SolarHome 620 packs down into a kit the size of a shoebox, and is relatively easy to install. It comes with everything you need, including:
- A solar control box
- A 6-watt solar panel
- 2 hanging solar lights + 1 motion sensor solar light
- An 18-foot cable to daisy chain your lights
This control box is your solar power HQ—it powers the three hanging lights that this kit comes with, it has two USB ports for charging your phone, and even contains an MP3/FM radio system:
And because the SolarHome is so versatile, it’s actually already being used in over 100,000 homes across western Kenya. Very cool.
Features we like:
- One of the hanging lights has a motion sensor so that the light turns on only if there’s someone there. To help conserve energy, this lamp is built with a “seeing eye” that turns on the light when it detects movement. A great feature to have in an outdoor light to keep pathways well lit.
- Multifunctional control box that controls not only the lights themselves, but also contains a USB charging port, radio, and MP3 player. Plus it also contains a solar light itself, which means you actually get a fourth light!
- The solar lights can be controlled individually—each one has an on/off switch with three different brightness settings.
3. GoSun SolarLamp 50: The best solar camping light
Brightness: 50 lumens; 20 lumens on the low brightness mode
Waterproof? Yes—IP rating unlisted
Time to fully charge: About a day with direct sun to fully charge the battery
Runtime: 6 hours on the lower brightness setting
With a built-in solar panel, GoSun’s SolarLamp 50 is the very portable little cousin to the SolarLamp 600, which is meant to light up a small home or cabin.
There are no wires or cables needed, and you’ve got two brightness settings depending on how much light you need.
It weighs only six ounces and fits neatly into a backpack—not meant for keeping an off-grid home lit or anything, but it’s great for camping.
4. LuminAID Bloomio Gem: The best solar-powered pool lantern
Brightness: Unlisted, but this seems to be more of a recreational light—if you need actual task lighting, there are other more robust solar lights on this list
Time to fully charge: 17 to 21 hours via solar, 2 hours via micro USB
Runtime: 14 hours
|💡 Pro-tip: If you’d prefer a solar light with a shorter charge time, LuminAID also has the Bloomio Twist, which charges within 12 to 16 hours under bright, unobstructed sunlight. (And it’s in a different shape too!)|
The Bloomio Gem is a Bluetooth-enabled solar lantern that you can control with your phone using LuminAID’s very easy-to-use app.
Like BioLite, LuminAID’s solar lights are built with off-grid applications in mind. Specifically, this one can tackle different climates because it’s waterproof—and not only that, it floats too. If you’re looking for solar lights for your pool, the Bloomio Gem is a nifty option that’ll do the job.
You can control both the Gem and Twist through the iOS or Android app on your phone, which is also where you can choose the color of the lighting, set up an on/off schedule, and more:
The good thing is you can still use these solar lights without the app—you don’t need the app to turn them on and off or to adjust the brightness modes, but you do need it to change the colors and set up a schedule.
And if you’re worried about having enough sunlight to charge this solar lantern, it also charges via a micro USB cable (full charge in only two hours). It does take a bit of a longer time to fully recharge using the built-in solar panel, but the impressive runtime makes up for it.
Features we like:
- Scheduling feature that lets you automatically turn the Bloomio Gem on and off at specific times, and what’s really cool is that you can sync it to turn on at sunset
- It collapses down into a one-inch thick package
- Literally hundreds of different colors to choose from to set the perfect mood lighting
5. Biolite SunLight: Best solar lantern for camping and wayfinding
Brightness: 100 lumens, dimmable
Time to fully charge: 7 hours via solar, 2 hours via micro USB
Runtime: 50 hours
With an integrated solar panel and no cables to trip over, the SunLight comes in two colors (teal and grey) and a convenient kickstand too for easier angling to catch the maximum amount of sunlight. (Angle it directly at the sun.)
It also has different color settings and a fun “Party” mode. Hey, sometimes you just want to have a little fun on camping trips. We get it.
The most impressive thing, though, has to be the eye-popping 50-hour runtime, highest out of all the solar lights here by far:
It’s only the size of an ice cream sandwich, and is a perfect friend to have if you’re camping or will be outdoors on your own at night.
6. Techko Solar Almond Integrated LED Garden and Path Light: A beautiful, modern solar path light
Brightness: 174 lumens
Time to fully charge: 7 hours via solar, 2 hours via micro USB
Runtime: 12+ hours
Techko’s Solar Zen Lanterns are some of the most aesthetic solar path lights we’ve seen.
You’ve got two color options: amber or white Light, and the lantern casing is Zen-inspired, giving you the feeling that it’s lighting the path to a serene garden just beyond.
The design is probably the most unique thing about it, and with a runtime of over 12 hours, you’re pretty much set for the evening after a day out in the sun.
This light isn’t just pretty, though. It’s hardy too! With an IP65 rating, this solar lantern is totally dust-tight and is even protected against low-pressure jets of directed water from any angle. What that means: this Solar Zen Lantern will pretty much withstand most weather conditions outdoors. (If you know a blizzard is coming though, put it away!)
Features we like:
- Automatically turns on at dusk and off at dawn
- Probably the most aesthetically pleasing solar light of the bunch
7. Goal Zero Torch 500 multi-purpose solar torch: The best emergency solar light that’s built for extreme conditions
Brightness: 500 lumens
Time to fully charge: 23 to 46 hours via built-in solar panel; 4 hours via USB or hook-up to an external solar panel
- Spot Light (low power): 50 hrs
- Spot Light (medium power): 7.5 hrs
- Spot Light (high power): 3.5 hrs
- Flood Light (low power): 50 hrs
- Flood Light (medium power): 7 hrs
- Flood Light (high power): 3 hrs
If you think you’ll ever need an emergency light outdoors at night, then the Goal Zero Torch 500 is the solar flashlight for you.
It has both a spotlight and floodlight option depending on what type of light you need, and like many of the other solar lights on this list, it can recharge through either the built-in solar panel or USB-C port. It also has a 5200 mAh battery that can charge your phone or other small mobile devices too.
It’s rated at IP67, which means it’s protected against dust, sand, and debris, and it can be submerged in up to one meter of water—for at least 30 minutes. It’s built for the elements.
Features we like:
- The impressive IP67 rating which means it can be used underwater with no problem—the only other solar light on this list with an IP67 rating is LuminAID’s Bloomio
- The spotlight and floodlight options
8. Bonus: Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 Lantern & USB Power Hub: Coolest retro-style lantern with hand crank option
Brightness: 600 lumens
Time to fully charge: 6 hours via external solar panel or USB
- One side lit (low power) 320 hrs
- One side lit (high power) 5 hrs
- Both sides lit (low power) 180 hrs
- Both sides lit (high power) 2.5 hrs
- 10 minutes of light per minute of hand-cranking
Okay, this one is kind of a “cheat” option because it’s not technically a solar light, but we thought it was so cool that you can hand-crank to charge this one. No batteries needed and a sustainable power source? We’ll let this one slide even though technically it’s not solar-powered. 😉
(You can charge it via an external solar panel though!)
At 600 lumens, this is the brightest light on the list, and it can even charge your devices since it has a built-in battery.
The only downside: it’s not waterproof.
Features we like:
- The internal lithium battery that lets it do double duty as a charger for phones and small USB devices
- The collapsible legs that let you stand it up like a retro style lantern
- The crank that lets you power it up even when there’s no sunlight or other electric power source—every minute of cranking gets you 10 minutes of light
- The multi-directional lighting that gives you 360 degrees of light—or you can extend the runtime by only turning half the solar lantern and saving on power
1. What are the benefits of using solar lights?
Compared to your typical outdoor lights, solar lights have a few advantages:
They help you save on your electricity bill.
This is probably the biggest benefit of using solar lights—they’re powered by sunlight, which is free. In most cases, they’re more than worth the investment.
They use clean energy.
On a related note, energy sources like sunlight and wind are a more eco-conscious alternative in that they’re renewable and sustainable. You can’t “use them up” and they don’t harm the environment like fuel or gas.
Unlike conventional outdoor lights that need to be plugged in, you can have your solar lights pretty much anywhere in your backyard or around your home! (As long as they can get sunlight, of course.)
But typically, you won’t have to deal with as many wires and cables since the lights get their energy directly from the sun. If your solar lights have to hook up to solar panels, then there might be wires involved, but many of the solar lanterns and lights in our list above can be moved around easily.
They’re easy to set up…
Another big perk of solar lights is that they’re usually pretty easy to set up. You might have to experiment a bit with the angle of the lights’ solar cells or panels so that they can absorb as much sunlight as possible, but most solar lights don’t require you to hire an electrician to set them up.
(This is much more convenient, especially if you compare it to the process of putting up solar panels on your home—learn more about those types of solar panels here.)
… And they’re easy to maintain!
The nice thing about solar lights is that after you set them up, all you have to do is let them do their thing. You don’t need to change any batteries—once in a while you might have to give the solar cells a good wipe just to make sure there isn’t any debris or dust on them that’s blocking their ability to absorb sunlight, but that’s pretty much it.
2. What are the brightest solar lights?
On this list, the brightest solar light was the Goal Zero Torch 500 multi-purpose solar torch at 500 lumens. Most solar lamps and lanterns are around the 100-lumen range.
Mood lighting and other decorative solar lights tend to be lower in lumens (and less bright), while security lighting and pathway lights are brighter since they’re meant to keep you safe.
3. Do solar lights need the sun to work?
Not always! Some solar lights have other charging options (for example, via a USB charger) in case you’re not getting a lot of sunlight that day, which means that technically they don’t need the sun to work.
Of course, if you do have access to sunlight, it’s better since it’s a free source of power for your solar lights.
4. Do solar lights work in winter?
Yep. The temperature isn’t what allows solar lights to work—it’s the amount of sunlight they can capture. Even in the winter, your solar lights should work fine if it’s a clear, sunny day. (Learn more about the amount of sunlight that different areas of the US typically receive.)
5. Are outdoor solar lights waterproof?
Some are, but not all of them! Make sure to read the product descriptions first if you absolutely need solar lights that are waterproof.
The first digit in an IP rating refers to protection against solids, while the second digit refers to protection against liquids like rain. Here are the details for each number:
- (or X): No special protection. Not rated (or no rating supplied) for protection.
- Protection from a large part of the body such as a hand (but no protection from deliberate access); from solid objects greater than 50mm in diameter.
- Protection against fingers or other objects that are less than 80mm in length and 12mm in diameter (this is usually stuff like accidental finger contact).
- Protection from entry by tools and wires that have a diameter of 2.5 mm or more.
- Protection against solid objects larger than 1mm (like wires, nails, screws, larger insects and other potentially invasive small objects and tools).
- Partial protection against dust that may harm equipment.
- Totally dust-tight. Full protection against dust and other particulates, including a vacuum seal, tested against continuous airflow.
- (or X): No protection.
- Protection against vertically dripping water, like condensation. This means that there should be no damage and the components should work fine when the solar light is upright.
- Protection against water droplets deflected up to 15° from vertical
- Protected against spray up to 60° from vertical.
- Protected against water splashes from all directions. Tested for a minimum of 10 minutes with an oscillating spray (limited ingress permitted with no harmful effects).
- Protection against low-pressure jets (6.3 mm) of directed water from any angle (limited ingress permitted with no harmful effects).
- Protection against direct high pressure jets.
- Protection against full immersion for up to 30 minutes at depths between 15 cm and 1 metre (limited ingress permitted with no harmful effects).
- Protection against extended immersion under higher pressure at greater depths. The exact numbers are set and advertised by the manufacturer and may include other factors like temperature fluctuations and flow rates, depending on equipment type.
7. What to look for in a good outdoor solar light or lantern
There are a few key things to look for in solar lights as you shop.
- How long does it takes the battery to charge?
- How many hours of light does a single charge give you?
- How bright is the light? If you just want mood lighting in your backyard, then you won’t need as many lumens compared to if you need task lighting. (And most solar lights have dimming options.)
- Does it have auto on/off features? Some solar lights automatically turn off in the morning and turn off at dusk, which helps you save electricity.
- Do you want different colors? Some basic solar lights let you toggle between warmer or softer light, while others have a full-on party mode with 10 (or more!) different colors to choose from.
What are the best solar lights or lanterns for your home?
We hope you found this list helpful! Remember to mind your IP ratings if you want a solar light that can withstand the elements, and don’t forget to check out the warranties for each brand.
Now that you know what some of the best outdoor solar lights are, which ones will you choose?