We spent more than 40 hours researching 10 solar lights. As we researched, we gathered data from manufacturers and read consumer reviews. None of the lights we evaluated are perfect, but the Sunforce 82156 is the brightest and one of the most affordable options, making it the best for most people.
LE Lighting 6500001-DW
The LE Lighting 6500001-DW costs less than any other solar light we looked at, while nearly matching the quality of our top pick, the Sunforce 81256.
Kenroy Home KEH-60503
The Kenroy Home KEH-60503 is an attractive way to add lighting near pathways and on decks without visible wiring, though this means it can take longer to install.
The Sunforce 81256 is a good solar light that you can mount on your garage, shed or fence. It has the brightest LEDs among the solar lights we looked at, 850 lumens.
This is many times brighter than the competition and helps it illuminate objects in a 30-foot radius. The motion sensor helps save battery for when the light is needed. The 15-foot wire that connects the light to the solar panel gives you a lot of flexibility to get the best exposure to sunlight during the day. This is an affordable light, costing around $35 on Amazon.
This solar light has three dials that let you adjust the sensitivity of the motion detector, how long the light stays on when triggered and how much daylight will turn it off. This flexibility is nice, since it lets you customize the light for your needs. In looking at online reviews, we noticed that customers reported problems with the dials being overly sensitive, which can make adjusting the reaction of the motion sensor more difficult. Other issues we came across say that this light's weatherproofing isn't very good and that sometimes defective units came in the box. Despite these drawbacks, customers on the whole have a positive opinion of the Sunforce 81256. The light comes with a one-year warranty.
The LE Lighting 6500001-DW is a good value for a solar light, costing around $28, which also makes it the cheapest solar light we looked at. The light puts out around 160 lumens, which means it isn't as bright as the Sunforce 81256, though it shares most of the adjustable features and is similar in appearance.
The cable that connects the unit to the solar panel is 16.4 feet long, though the panel mounts on a yard spike if needed. This is a good light for basic outdoor solar lighting, especially if you don't need a super bright option.
The similarities between the LE Lighting 6500001-DW and the Sunforce 81256 are almost uncanny. We found that both products share many of the same customer issues. In particular, customers seem to notice that the adjustable light, motion and timer dials can be very sensitive, making them difficult to adjust. We also noticed some weatherproofing issues in the customer reviews we read. Although the difference in price between the two models is only a few dollars, the LE Lighting 6500001-DW is nearly as effective, if not as bright. As with the other solar lights we looked at, the LE Lighting 6500001-DW has a one-year warranty.
The Sunforce 82156 is a good solar light you can mount on your garage, shed or fence. Its LEDs release 850 lumens of light, making it the brightest solar light we reviewed.
These bright LEDs allow the Sunforce 82156 to illuminate objects up to 30 feet away. Also, motion sensors allow it to turn on only when needed, which saves battery life. A 15-foot wire connects the light to its solar panel – that’s long enough to find a spot where the panel can get good exposure to sunlight during the day. However, the wire is very thin and has to be handled carefully so it doesn’t get severed or detached when you mount the light. The Sunforce 82156 is affordable, costing around $25 on Amazon. You use three dials on the bottom to adjust the motion detector sensitivity as well as how long the light stays on after it detects motion and how much daylight will turn the light off. While most of the online reviews we read were very position, several customers complained of issues with the light's weatherproofing, and one customer said the light’s performance declined at the peak of the rainy season. This light comes with a one-year warranty. Overall, it is a solid option and a great deal for the price.
Best Pathway Lights
The Kenroy Home KEH-60503 is a good option for pathway, garden and deck lighting. We like the weather-resistant design that you can install in multiple ways.
For example, you can hide the cables that connect the five lights and solar panel by burying them in your garden or hanging them under your deck. This makes the Kenroy lights an attractive option for exterior path lighting. The lights even come with the necessary drill bit for installing in wooden decks. Because you need to hide the cables, it can take longer to install these lights than other solar lights. This string of lights is available on Amazon for about $45, which makes it a good value for a starter set of solar lights.
While the lights are good for marking where pathways are, they're not very bright compared to most other solar lights and the lights point upward, which means they won't necessarily light the path itself. Unlike some of the other lights we looked at, Kenroy Home KEH-60503 doesn't have a motion sensor to turn its lights on as needed, however you can use a built-in timer to turn the lights off automatically four, five or six hours after dusk to save on battery power. Kenroy Home cover the KEH-60503 with a one-year warranty.
Why Trust Us?
We've tested a variety of products in-house at ShopSavvy such as smartphones, solar chargers, smart thermostats and other equipment. This experience has helped inform many of our conclusions relating to other equipment. We apply exacting standards to each product we test, primarily focusing on performance and user-friendliness. We design our tests to simulate typical consumer experiences.
When, as in the case of solar lights, we do not test the physical product ourselves, we apply the same due diligence to make sure our information and conclusions reflect the mission of ShopSavvy.
How We Tested
We researched 10 solar lights (three of which are no longer available) and evaluated the specifications and pricing of each. Our research to date has taken over 40 hours. In lieu of physical testing, we looked at each product's customer reviews to find its strengths and limitations. Our final decisions are also informed by years of experience with general product testing and evaluations.
What to Look For
Type of Light
The type of solar lights you buy depends on their intended use. Standalone solar lights work best for small areas that don't need much light. Strings of lights work best for walkways, though some can be mounted higher near patios. Post- or wall-mounted solar floodlights are excellent options to install near doors and on patios.
The level of brightness can vary considerably in solar lights. In general, solar lights won't produce as much light as ones connected to the electrical grid, but they can be effective in places where you want more ambiance, security and safety. If your focus is ambiance and illuminating walkways, then you don't need solar lights with high light output, as measured in lumens. However, if you plan to use the lights for security and illuminating walkways, it's best to choose brighter lights with high lumen ratings, preferably with motion sensors to save on battery power.
Quantity & Range
The number of lights to buy depends on the range of each light and the size of the area you want to illuminate. Depending on their intended use, solar lights can cast light from a range of 2 feet up to 38 feet. Lights with shorter ranges usually come in multi-packs, making them ideal for pathways and near landscaping features. In this setup, you want the light footprint from each unit to extend as far as that of nearby units; whether or not the light patterns overlap comes down to your personal preferences. If you want lights for outdoor parties or security, they should illuminate a larger area, but you won't need to buy as many.
Some solar lights let you change the batteries when needed to extend the life of the lights indefinitely, though this also means you need to buy replacement batteries occasionally. There are also solar lights with permanent batteries that you can't replace, instead you must replace the whole unit when it no longer works. Lights without replaceable batteries often cost less than the other type, but may be more wasteful.
Although most solar lights have only one setting, some are adjustable to work during the day as well. This is useful in shaded areas such as garages or workshops. However, using a solar light during the day in addition to the nighttime can drain the battery quicker.
|Product||Price||Overall Rating||Performance||Design||Rechargable Batteries||Motion Detection||All-Weather||Lumens||Warranty||Wall-Mounted||Ground Stakes||Material||Number of Lights Included||Number of LEDs|
|Sunforce 82156||View Deal||4/5||10||5||✓||✓||✓||850||1 Year||✓||-||Aluminum, plastic||1||60|
|Kenroy Home KEH-60503||View Deal||4/5||6.3||10||✓||-||✓||100||1 Year||-||✓||Polycarbonate Plastics||5||5|
|LE Lighting 6500001-DW||View Deal||4/5||9.3||5||✓||✓||✓||160||1 Year||✓||-||Aluminum, polycarbonate plastic||1||60|
|Gama Sonic Barn 6||View Deal||3.5/5||7.8||4.8||✓||$||✓||110||2 Years||✓||-||Cast iron||1||6|
|Luceplan Sky||View Deal||3.5/5||7.5||5||✓||-||✓||800||1 Year||-||✓||Die cast aluminum, polycarbonate diffuser||1||8|
|Luceplan Solar Bud||View Deal||3/5||6.3||4.8||Sold Separately||-||✓||800||1 Year||-||✓||Anodized aluminum||1||3|
|Frontgate Solar Stud||View Deal||2.5/5||5.8||4.5||✓||-||✓||50||1 Year||-||✓||Plastic, integrated solar panels||5||5|