Solar lights are environmentally friendly lighting and with a good set, you can create an ambience that lets you enjoy your garden long after dark. Powered by solar panels, they absorb daylight and convert it to electrical energy, charging your lights so they’re ready to go at night.

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Unlike mains-powered lights, solar lights are cheap and easy to install, and because these eco-friendly lights are powered by the sun, they’ll save you money on electricity bills and batteries. With the right lights, you can have effective, automatic garden lighting that won’t break the bank.

Solar lights can be used purely for ambience and decoration, or can have a more practical function such as illuminating a path or providing security lighting. Some of the most popular types include:

  • Fairy lights: Think of the lights on a Christmas tree - they have small, dim LEDs, narrowly spaced along a wire, and are ideal for decorative lighting.
  • String lights: The bigger, brighter cousin of fairy lights. Also on wire, but the bulbs of string lights are spaced out more widely than fairy lights, and are much brighter, for festival-style illumination.
  • Spotlights: These solar lights are used for lighting up a single area or highlighting trees and shrubs. They also double as security lights, as they’re good for dark spots that could use brief bursts of bright light, like the front of sheds when you're locking or unlocking a door, or alleyways when you’re putting the bins out. If you’re looking for gentle mood lighting, these might not be for you.
  • Fence lights: Small up or down lights, these sit on fence posts or can be mounted on walls, for lighting all the way along your boundary.
  • Stake lights: These tend to be spiked stakes with bulbs at the top that provide low-level lighting, ideal for guiding the way along a path or softly lighting flowerbeds.
  • Solar lanterns: LED bulbs housed in lanterns, designed to be hung up or freestanding on a table or patio.

Solar lights are powered by internal rechargeable batteries, charged through the day by a solar panel. The brighter the day, the more power is stored by the battery and the longer the light will shine. Light is produced by one or more LEDs; at dusk they turn on automatically, until turning off when the sun comes up. Solar energy can be used in the garden to power simple mechanisms like the water pumps in solar water features or - in this case - light bulbs, to make solar lights.


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Buying solar lights - video


Best solar lights at a glance:

Our expertise

We put a range of solar lights to the test, using them in urban, suburban and rural gardens across the country. We’ve put these lights through months of different lighting and weather conditions. They’ve seen wind, rain, hail and sleet; cold snaps, heat waves, and even dust from the Sahara. As we evaluated each one, we assigned them scores, and the models that topped the test were awarded a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy. Each review has a detailed list of pros and cons for clarity and has been rated according to set up, features, performance, and value for money. Only the stand-out solar lights have made our list, so you can buy with confidence.

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Buying solar lights - video

In every review we award the outstanding products our coveted Best Buy award. To see these and the others we recommend, browse our pick of the best solar lights below:


Best solar lights in 2023

Madison solar drop bulb lights

RRP: £39.99

Our rating: 4.8/5

Madison solar drop bulb lights BBC Gardeners World review
Madison solar drop bulb lights BBC Gardeners World review

Pros

  • Good quality with thick sturdy cable
  • Helpful hanging holes
  • Choice of three power saving lighting modes
  • Two spare bulbs included

Cons

  • No replacement bulbs available

A BBC Gardeners' World Magazine Best Buy winner for the best solar lights for parties, we were immediately impressed by the quality of these large, vintage-style string lights. With 10 glass bulbs strung along a thick UK weatherproof cable and a generous 3W solar panel, they're good looking and easy to use.
The lights come carefully packaged in cardboard and take around ten minutes to put together. All that's needed is slotting the stake together and into the solar panel and screwing in the bulbs - just take care to screw the bulbs in well or they will come loose and turn off in windy weather. The lights have a power button, so you can turn them off before you go to bed to protect wildlife and save energy , and there are also three light settings to choose from. Simply press the button on the back of the panel once for the brightest setting, then again for the first power saving mode and a third time for the dimmest power saving mode. The solar panel is frost resistant and large enough to power the lights through even grey winter days and the lights switch on as soon as the light starts to fade at dusk. They have a runtime of up to eight hours and in our test throughout the summer, they lasted through the night and right up until dawn. They come with two spare bulbs and a one year warranty. Our only niggle with these lights is that you can't buy replacement bulbs, so they have a finite life, once the bulbs start to go.

Dimensions: 7.25m in total, 45cm between each light, 3.3m from panel to forst bulb. Bulb hangs 19cm from cable

Buy the Madison solar drop bulb lights from Amazon and Solar Centre


Usboo solar string lights

RRP : £12.99

Our rating: 4.5/5

Usboo Solar String Lights - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine
Usboo Solar String Lights

Pros:

  • Bright light, but soft enough for atmospheric lighting
  • Great value
  • No rust or obvious weathering
  • Compact solar panel
  • On/off switch
  • Eight lighting modes

Cons:

  • No warranty
  • Slow to turn on

A BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy winner for the best string lights, the plastic bulbs on the Usboo Solar String lights have a bubble glass effect, which casts soft light in all directions. They’re bright but have a golden glow, so your space is well-lit without being overwhelmed by light. After months of testing, they had no rust or obvious weathering, and have an excellent IP64 weatherproof rating. The solar panel is discrete and unnoticeable in a border, and thanks to an on/off switch as well as eight lighting modes, they’re easy to use and offer a range of lighting options. These lights are also available as a multicoloured set. However, there’s no warranty with these solar lights. We also found that while they turned on every night, they could be a little slow to turn on after overcast days.

Dimensions: ‎6.2m (4.2m of lights, 2m from panel to first light)

Buy the Usboo Solar String Lights from Amazon.


Sunna solar flame lantern

RRP: £149.99

Our rating: 4.5/5

Haloo Sunna Solar Flame Lantern BBC Gardeners' World Magazine review
Haloo Sunna Solar Flame Lantern BBC Gardeners' World Magazine review

Pros

  • High quality
  • Good features
  • Weather resistant
  • Choice of size and colour

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Tricky to clean
  • Doesn't give off a lot of light

This large, well built lantern has a contemporary design and makes a striking feature on the patio, deck, or by the front door. We awarded it a BBC Gardeners' World Magazine Best Buy for the best solar lantern for patios. It only casts a gentle glow, which is not bright enough to eat by but it creates a lovely ambience and would be very atmospheric if you had a few dotted around. It's sturdily made from metal with a strong handle to carry it around and although it's reasonably heavy at 3.6k, this helps make it feel substantial and together with the wide base, ensures it remains upright.It has a Roman numeral sundial design around the large solar panel and beneath this is the long bulb that offers a choice of three settings - solid, candle or flame, both of which flicker atmospherically. This can be adjusted by a large switch on the side of the panel and comes on as soon as the light levels drop. It remains on for six hours until automatically switching off and this useful feature ensures the light doesn't stay on all night if you forget to switch it off, with the on/off switch that's situated beneath the panel. The lantern is waterproof and feels durable and long lasting but it is awkward to clean if leaves and dust blows in through the slats and settles on or around the light. Despite its high cost it's value for money, comes with a 12 month warranty and there's a choice of two sizes (50.8 cm and 63.5cm) and three colours. The lantern comes in grey, forest green or textured brown.

Dimensions: 51 cm x 29 cm


Damasque solar lantern

RRP: £34.99

Our rating: 4.5/5

Damasque Solar Lantern - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine
Damasque Solar Lantern

Pros:

  • No assembly
  • Easy on/off switch
  • Great atmospheric effect
  • Replacement panel / bulb available
  • Stood up well to the weather

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Takes up room in storage

Winner of a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy Award for Best solar lantern, this steel globe lantern has an antique bronze finish and an intricate Moroccan-style pattern that creates a beautiful display as the light shines through it. The bulb and batteries sit under the solar panel in the top of the globe and this simple unit is easily lifted out to turn the light on and off. It also doesn’t need any assembly, though you’ll need to charge it in a sunny spot in the off position for 48 hours. After this, turn it on and when the light levels drop it will flick on and provide up to six hours of bright light. Great for a party or around an al fresco dining table the lantern can be stood on the ground or on a table or hung up from its handle. It has no flashing modes and is a reasonable price, towards the higher end of the lights in our test for one light, but it comes with a one-year warranty and the solar panel/bulb/battery unit is replaceable and available from a number of retailers for a small charge, making this elegant solar light a great sustainable investment.

Dimensions: 22cm x 23cm

Buy the Damasque Solar Lantern from Crocus and Amazon


Firefly garden solar light

RRP: £14.99

Our rating: 4.8/5

Firefly garden solar light BBC Gardeners' World Magazine review
Firefly garden solar light BBC Gardeners' World Magazine review

Pros

  • Eye catching design
  • Easy too use and store
  • Simple on/off switch
  • Weatherproof

Cons

  • Ideally you need more than one
  • Flops after a while

This striking light creates eye-catching dots of light that sway in the wind and float above your plants when dotted through borders or along a pathway. It comes in two parts with six bulbs arranged on the end of bendy prongs with the solar panel at the base. It's very easy to put together, simply slot the light into the long metal stake and switch it on. The switch is conveniently situated on the back of the solar panel and also gives you the option of flashing or continuous light modes and on a full charge the light has six hours of run time and comes on as soon as it's dusk. The plastic coated prongs are weather proof and light well, even through wintering and although ours started to flop after a few months, this didn't detract from the effect of them at all. We would love a number of these dotted through borders around the garden and awarded it a BBC Gardeners World Magazine Best Buy award for the best solar light for borders. It's compact and easy to store and comes with a one year warranty.

Dimensions: 35cm lights + 7cm base + 32cm spike


Solar Fluted marker light ten pack

RRP: £21.99

Our rating: 4.5/5

Solar Fluted Marker Light Ten Pack - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine
Solar Fluted Marker Light Ten Pack

Pros:

  • Simple, stylish design
  • Easy-to-use
  • Attractive glow
  • Great value
  • Long lasting

Cons:

  • No on/off switch

Winner of a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy Award for Best Stake Lights, these lights are ideal for guiding the way or dotting through beds in the garden. The stylish design has a brushed steel finish, and the fluted plastic gives off a lovely star shaped glow around each light. Assembly is easy and each light just needs charging for 48 hours in a sunny spot before use. After this, turn them on and they’ll light up as soon as the light fades, staying lit for up to six hours. Our one quibble is the absence of an on/off switch to override the automatic setting, so they will stay on late into the night. The pack generously includes ten lights, and comes with a one-year warranty, so overall they’re great value for money.

Dimensions: 36cm x 4.7cm

Buy the Solar Fluted Marker Light Ten pack from Crocus and The Glow Company


T-SUN LED solar spotlight

RRP: £17.99

Our rating: 4.5/5

T-SUN LED Solar Spotlight - BBC Gardeners' world Magazine
T-SUN LED Solar Spotlight

Pros:

  • Excellent weather resistance (IP65)
  • Bright
  • Easy-to-use
  • Adjustable angle of lights and solar panel
  • On/off switch
  • Multiple colours available

Cons:

  • No warranty
  • Can be slow to switch on
  • Conspicuous solar panel

This Best Buy-winning solar spotlight is remarkably good value. The brightest on test at a whopping 250 lumens, we like the adjustable bulb and solar panel angles, as well as the effective stake for positioning it at the base of trees. The on/off switch is handy, too. You can also take the stake out and screw the light to fence posts or walls if needed. We found that it gave dramatic lighting to trees and shrubs and would make a great light for a shed or alleyway. While the light is very white, these spotlights are also available in a range of other colours if you’d like a softer effect. However, bear in mind this light doesn’t come with a warranty, and can be slow to turn on after dark. Like all solar spotlights, the solar panel is relatively large, so can be hard to hide.

Dimensions: ‎29.01cm x 9.5cm x 34.01cm

Buy the T-SUN LED Solar Spotlight from Amazon


The best of the rest

Although some models didn’t quite achieve a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy award, they still have great features that make them worth recommending. Browse our pick of the best of the rest on test.

Best solar string and fairy lights

Snowdrop colour changing solar USB lights

RRP: £34.99

Our rating: 4/5

Snowdrop Colour Changing Solar USB Lights BBC Gardeners' World Magazine review
Snowdrop Colour Changing Solar USB Lights BBC Gardeners' World Magazine review

Pros

  • Remote control and USB charging option
  • Bead lights make them sturdy and easy to wrap
  • Long run time
  • Power saving mode to save energy

Cons

  • Remote control only works close up
  • No white light
  • Cost

These pretty LED fairy lights have beads strung along the cable which makes them easy to wrap around trees or pergolas to stunning effect. They're don't take long to put together, you just need to attach the panel to the stake and there are 50 bulbs dotted along the cable which can be charged by the large solar panel alone or by USB, using a universal USB - C cable. This is best done indoors, which can be tricky depending on where the lights are strung. On full charge the lights have a run time of 10 hours and the charging point and on/off and mode buttons sit behind the panel. However, these lights also come with an intuitive remote control that allows you to change colour and mode rather than bending down and fiddling behind the solar panel. We found it worked best quite close to the lights and didn't work at a distance, which was a bit frustrating but using the remote is still easier than the mode button on the solar panel. The best feature of these lights is the number of colours and combinations available, with single colours in every shade of the rainbow to choose from and show at the same time. We couldn't find a simple white light in all that choice but they make a great feature for parties and for Christmas, plus they have a power saving mode that almost doubles their run time in the winter. Our lights however, did need a USB boost once the light levels stated to drop on dull days in the autumn and winter. They're reasonably pricy for the length of lights but they come with a one year warranty.

Dimensions: 6.8m (5 metres of lights, 1.9 metres from panel to first light)

Buy the Snowdrop colour changing solar USB lights from Solar Centre


Carnival solar festoon lights

RRP: £39.99

Our rating: 4.3/5

Pros:

  • Two-year warranty
  • Tough plastic bulbs
  • Discrete solar panel
  • On/off switch
  • Multiple lighting modes
  • Three metre lead

Cons:

  • Average IP rating
  • Dim
  • Slow to turn on

These string lights are good quality and although the bulbs look like glass, they’re made of tough plastic and more than capable of holding up to accidental knocks. The solar panel is discrete, and they’re easy to control through an on/off switch and eight lighting modes. There’s also generous three metre lead of cable between the panel and the first light, so there’s a lot of slack to play with when you’re setting these up. However, despite being a white light we found these lights a little dim, especially from a distance. They could also sometimes be slow to turn on, and have a weather resistance rating of IP44.

Dimensions: 7.75m (4.75m of lights, 3m from panel to first light)

Buy 20 Warm White Carnival Solar Festoon Lights from Lights4fun


Smart Solar 100 warm white string lights

RRP: £24.95

Our rating: 4/5

Smart Solar 100 Warm White String Lights - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine
Smart Solar 100 Warm White String Lights

Pros:

  • Easy to assemble
  • Great for trailing
  • On/off switch
  • Strong, mellow glow

Cons:

  • Functional look
  • One year warranty

With 12 metres of cable and 100 lights these are just the thing for trailing through a hedge or shrub and provide an enchanting warm glow. They’re easy to assemble and use, simply slot the spike into the stake and allow the lights to charge for 48 hours in the off position. Once fully charged, they’ll stay lit for up to six hours. They have an on/off button and the choice of steady light as well as flashing modes. The flexible cable means they drape, loop and trail well. Available in different lengths, including 50 (7m) and 200 (24m) lights, there’s two metres between the solar panel and the first light so it’s easy to place in shade while ensuring the panel is still catching the sun. They come with a warranty of a year.

Dimensions: 12m (10m of lights, 2m from panel to first light)

Buy 100 Warm White String Lights from Sarah Raven


Lumify USB solar fairy lights - white 100 LEDs

RRP: £39.99

Our rating: 4/5

2048-1365-gw-solar-lights-Lumify-USB-Solar-Fairy-Lights (1)

Pros:

  • Solar panel can be mounted on a wall, or staked in the ground
  • USB charge indicator light
  • On/off switch
  • Eight different modes
  • No weathering

Cons:

  • Comparatively expensive

This string of solar fairy lights has 100 white LEDs along 10 metres of wire, which means they’re ideal for running along fences, or using to decorate eating areas. There’s also two metres of cable between the solar panel and the first LED bulb, so check this provides enough distance if you need to position the panel in the sun and string the lights up in a shady spot. We like that it comes with a stake as well as a wall mount, which gives plenty of flexibility when it comes to setting up your solar panel. If you have a north-facing garden and charging outdoors is an issue, there’s also a USB cable, which provides enough power for 12 consecutive nights on a single indoor charge. While they turn on and off automatically you can also do this manually by using the on/off switch. As with many fairy lights on test, you can choose between a range of different modes, and these lights offer eight options, from a steady glow to various flashing sequences. We also like that they have a power saving mode, which reduces brightness but doubles the runtime during overcast conditions and winter months. Despite all the features, these lights are expensive compared to the other options we tested and come with just a year’s warranty.

Dimensions: 10m (8m of lights, 2m from panel to first light)

Buy the Lumify USB Solar Fairy Lights - White 100 LEDs from The Solar Centre, and Amazon


Geo solar string lights, 10 LEDs

RRP: £22.99

Our rating: 3.5/5

Geo Solar String Lights, 10 LEDs - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine
Geo Solar String Lights, 10 LEDs - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine

Pros:

  • Easy to assemble and use
  • Auto or flashing mode
  • On/off switch
  • Nice feature during the day
  • No sign of weathering or rust

Cons:

  • Few bulbs for the price
  • Short length
  • One-year warranty

These modern lights have 10 bulbs set within geometric copper wire and give off a warm white glow. Assembly is simple – just attach the spike to the stake and charge for 48 hours in the off position before the first use. Once they’re fully charged, these lights will stay lit for up to six hours. The cable is short but these lights look good draped along a fence or branch and are particularly striking during the day. They can be set to steady light or flashing mode and turned off at the end of the night. They come with just a one-year warranty.

Dimensions: 3.8m long (1.8m of lights, 2m from panel to first light)

Buy the Geo Solar String Lights, 10 LEDs from Crocus


Best solar lanterns

Solar urbane black lantern

RRP: from £15.95

Our rating: 4.5/5

Solar Urbane Black Lantern - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine
Solar Urbane Black Lantern

Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • Versatile - hang up or stand on the ground or on a tabletop
  • Realistic candle effect

Cons:

  • No on/off switch

This pretty lantern needs no assembly other than leaving it to charge for 48 hours in the off position and is a good choice if you don’t have a south-facing garden, because you can leave it in the sunniest spot during the day to charge and then move it to a shady corner to add a warm glow once it’s dusk. While it looks as if it’s made from metal, it’s actually plastic, which means it won’t rust and is light enough to hang in trees and shrubs with thinner branches. However, this will make it less desirable if you’re looking for a sustainable option. In addition to hanging it up, you can also set it on the ground or on a tabletop next to seating or eating areas to enjoy the realistic flicker of the candle-light. It’s worth noting there isn’t an on/off switch to override the automatic setting, so it’ll stay on late into the night.

Dimensions: Small: 25cm x180cm diameter; Large: 36cm x 18cm diameter

Buy the Solar Urbane Black Lantern from Glow.co.uk and B&Q


TrueFlame USB solar crook lantern

RRP: £29.99

Our rating: 4.5/5

TrueFlame USB Solar Crook Lantern - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine
TrueFlame USB Solar Crook Lantern

Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • USB connection for quick charge
  • Versatile - comes with a crook to hang, or set on the ground or a table top
  • On/off switch
  • No sign of rust or weathering

Cons:

  • Comparatively pricey

We think this is a super lantern if you like traditional designs. Easy to set up, you simply need to attach the crook to the pole, but it does take three days to initially charge if it’s outside. However, it’s one of the few lanterns on test that comes with a USB cable. This lets you charge the light from a USB plug, which takes just a few hours and is a useful option if you can’t wait for it to be charged by sunlight or want to give it a boost if it’s overcast or wintery. After that, simply press the on/off switch on the base of the lantern for three seconds, and you’re ready to go. We like that this lantern is truly versatile thanks to a crook, pole and spike, which can be pushed into borders or the lawn, as well as a handle so you can hang it from a tree, or stand it on the ground or on a tabletop. It also features a power saving mode, to help increase performance if it hasn’t fully charged, and it has a one-year warranty.

Dimensions: 19.5cm x 12.5cm x 67cm, 84cm height with spike

Buy the TrueFlame USB Solar Crook Lantern from Solar Centre, Amazon, Glow.co.uk


Agadir garden solar lantern

RRP: £24.99

Our rating: 4/5

Agadir Garden Solar Lantern - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine
Agadir Garden Solar Lantern

Pros:

  • Striking design
  • Simple to use
  • Turns on quickly

Cons:

  • Slight rusting
  • Average IP rating

This striking solar lantern is just the thing for adding a gentle glow on a doorstep or in a dark corner and it looks beautiful hung amongst foliage. Quick to turn on after dark, it lit up even during the early sunsets before the clocks went forward and it's easy-to-use, with an on/off switch so you can save power and protect wildlife. However, it was pipped to the post by the Damasque lantern as its parts aren’t replaceable and its light is a little dim. You can create a beautiful atmosphere, but you can’t do much by the light. We also felt that the IP44 rating could be better, and after a few weeks we noticed rust at the corners of the lantern and under the handle at the top. That said, it comes with a good two-year warranty.

Dimensions: 43cm x 15.5cm x 15.5cm

Buy the Agadir Garden Solar Lantern from Lights4Fun


Best solar stake lights

Mini London solar post lights

RRP: £34.99

Our rating: 4/5

Mini London Solar Post Lights - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine
Mini London Solar Post Lights

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • On/off switch
  • Power saving mode

Cons:

  • Two out of the four lights stopped working during the test
  • Comparatively expensive

These stylish stainless steel post lights, would look equally at home in a traditional or contemporary setting. There’s almost no assembly required, simply twist the spike into the base of the individual posts, peel off the plastic sticker protecting the solar panel and push them into the ground. Charge for 48 hours in the off position, and you’re ready to go. Automatically turning on at dusk there's also an on/off switch as well as a power-saving mode. This is a useful feature if you don’t have the optimal conditions to charge the solar panel as it slightly dims the light and doubles the run time, but you’ll need to lift out the solar panel to access these controls. The standard setting emits a soft glow that lasts up to 10 hours from a single charge in daylight, and strikes a good balance between illuminating a path, without the risk of interfering with wildlife too much. Recommended for use in a south-facing garden, on test they worked in a southwest-facing plot and turned on after overcast weather. However, two of the four lights stopped working during the test, and they come with just the average, one-year warranty. As they’re sold in a pack of four, if you pay the full RRP, they’re just under £9 each, whereas the other sets reviewed in our test included more lights and ranged from £2 to £6 per light. Each component of the light - the spike, light, solar panel - can be taken apart for compact storage. While we like the look of these post lights, as well as the level of light they provide, they don’t offer the best value for money.

Dimensions: 27.8cm x 6.1cm

Buy the Mini London Solar Post Lights from Solar Centre and Amazon


4 Marrakesh Moroccan solar stake lights

RRP: £24.99

Our rating: 4/5

4 Marrakesh Moroccan Solar Stake Lights - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine
4 Marrakesh Moroccan Solar Stake Lights

Pros:

  • Warm but bright light
  • Long stake
  • Compact
  • Plastic so no rust

Cons:

  • Fiddly to reach on/off switch
  • One light broke just as we finished the test

These lights are perfect for bringing depth to borders and flower beds. They cast warm but bright light with a gorgeous dappled effect thanks to the Moroccan-inspired pattern. We like the long stake, which allows them good clearance amongst most plants in a flowerbed and they’re compact, so they don’t take up too much room. Because they’re plastic, we didn’t see any rusting, weathering, or fading. We also love the two-year warranty. However, it’s fiddly to reach the on/off switch, and the instructions don’t show where to find it either. You have to pop the solar panel off these lights to switch them on, but if you don’t know this you could easily be surprised when they haven’t switched on. We also saw the value of running such a long test, as one of the four lights stopped working just as we were writing up our results.

Dimensions: 40cm x 6.5cm x 6.5cm

Buy 4 Marrakesh Moroccan Solar Stake Lights from Lights4Fun


Best solar spotlights

Set of 2 Atlas solar spotlights

RRP: £44.99

Our rating: 4.3/5

Set of 2 Atlas Solar Spotlights - BBC Gardeners' World
Set of 2 Atlas Solar Spotlights

Pros:

  • Long cable between lights and panel
  • No signs of rusting
  • Switch on early
  • Bright but golden colour
  • Two-year warranty

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Fiddly to set up

These lights are fiddly to set up, requiring them to be screwed into the solar panel as well as to the stakes. However, they’re hard-wearing and showed no signs of rust weathering after months outside. They offer fantastic brightness, but unlike some of the other spotlights we tested, they’re a golden colour, so they’re bright but never harsh to look at. We love the generous 4m cable, which means you have a lot of options with where you can put your lights. They switch on early, about half an hour after sunset, and look great in the dusk. We also love the generous two-year warranty. However, £40 is a lot of money for two solar lights.

Dimensions: 4cm x 4.5cm x 8cm for each light; 17cm x 13cm solar panel; 4m cable

Buy a Set of 2 Atlas Solar Spotlights from Lights4Fun


Lutec solar superspot LED spike light with integrated solar panel

RRP: £17.00

Our rating: 4/5

Buy now from Wickes (£16) and Outdoor-Lights.co.uk (£17.99)

Wickes Lutec Solar Superspot LED Spike Light with Integrated Solar Panel - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine
Wickes Lutec Solar Superspot LED Spike Light with Integrated Solar Panel

Pros:

  • Easy-to-use
  • Flashing mode
  • Can be screwed permanently in place
  • Above-average IP54 rating
  • No signs of weathering

Cons:

  • No warranty

This tough, no-frills spotlight has a large solar panel that produces a bright white light ideal for uplighting a tree, illuminating a sign or positioning near a path or steps. Available in inconspicuous black, it just needs the stake and spike putting together and it’s ready to go. There’s a choice between steady light and flashing mode and a large on/off switch if you need to turn the light off when you’re away, or at the end of the day. It comes with screws to give you the option of attaching it permanently to a deck but the bulbs in this light are not replaceable, so once they’re gone you will need to buy a new light, and this light has no warranty.

Dimensions: 15.6xm x 35.5cm x 10.2cm

Buy the Lutec Solar Superspot LED Spike Light with Integrated Solar Panel from Wickes and Outdoor-Lights.co.uk

Caring for wildlife

Solar lights are much kinder to wildlife than mains-powered lighting. Often emitting a dimmer glow, they’re less likely to disturb nocturnal animals. So that you don’t disturb bugs and bats, try to angle your lights towards the ground, and opt for dimmer, less harsh lights where possible. Ideally, turn off your solar lights before you go to bed, and ensure some areas of your garden remain in darkness.

Flying Pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) - Getty images

How to choose the best solar lights?

For such a small appliance, there can be a lot to consider. While not every manufacturer gives all these specifications, before you choose, look out for:

Solar panel size

As a rule of thumb, the bigger the panel, the brighter the lights, and the longer they'll stay lit. That said, lots of lights run perfectly well with smaller solar panels, so just check you're happy with the lighting effect they provide and their run time. For larger solar panels, like those that power solar spotlights, consider if the panel’s going to be visible, as it may be unsightly.

Cable length

With string and fairy lights, try to keep an eye out for how much cable there is between the solar panel and the first bulb. At least a metre of this lead-in is useful, as it means you have more flexibility when placing your solar panel. With enough cable, you can still put your panel in a sunny spot and trail your lights up a trellis a few metres away, even if it’s in the shade.

Brightness

Lumens is a measure of how bright your lights are. Atmospheric mood lights can be as low as 5 or 10 lumens while more practical spotlights are usually 100-200 lumens.

Lighting modes

Dimming, glowing, and twinkling light modes create ambience and enhance social areas of the garden but they'll also extend your lights’ lifetime and how long they’ll light up on a given night. Some lights also have a power saving mode, which reduces the brightness of the bulbs but doubles the runtime, so your lights turn on for longer during overcast weather and after the shorter hours of daylight in winter.

Motion sensors

Particularly relevant for solar spotlights, motion sensors make lights come on as you approach or when there's activity nearby. This can extend your lights’ lifetime and as they only light up in short bursts, they’re also less dependent on natural light levels, working just as well in the winter as the bright summer months.

On-off switch

A useful feature so you can switch off your solar lights and keep your neighbours happy and protect local wildlife.

Weather resistance

The ingress protection (IP) rating indicates how easily dust and water can enter electronics and therefore how weatherproof and water resistant lights are. You may have seen this if you’ve ever shopped for outdoor tech like wildlife cameras or wearable tech like sports headphones. This rating isn’t always given but if you see it, look for solar lights with an IP rating of 44 and above, which means they’ll be weather resistant.


How we tested solar lights

We tested a variety of solar lights, putting them through their paces in a range of urban, suburban and rural gardens across the country. They were subjected to changing weather and hours of daylight for over six months. They were then assessed according to the following criteria with equal marks attributed to each:

  • Set Up. Assessed the clarity of instructions, how easy the solar lights were to assemble and set up, how long this took, if any extra tools were needed and how easy the lights were to store over winter.
  • Features. Checked cable length, and IP rating and marks were given for on/off switches, multiple lighting modes, as well as any extra features such as power saving modes and USB charging .
  • Performance. This focused on the hours needed to charge and the lights’ runtime after a full charge. We looked at how soon after sunset the lights switched on, and checked the lights’ brightness to see if they provided practical or aesthetic lighting. We made sure to check if the lights worked on overcast days, and finally if there was any sign of degradation or rusting.
  • Value for Money. Considered all of the above plus any special features, RRP and warranty.

For more information on our testing process see How we Review.


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This review was last updated in November 2023. We apologise if anything has changed in price or availability.

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