8 best solar-powered lights
Use the latest eco-friendly illuminators to keep your garden or driveway lit at night
Solar-powered lights are useful for lighting a garden path at night or in decorative, multi-coloured versions to make your balcony look bright and welcoming.
They charge up during the day (so make sure they have an uninterrupted view of the sky rather than in the shade), and release their pent-up energy as light after dusk.
The bigger the solar panel, the brighter the light, obviously. Batteries in solar lights generally last a couple of years – keeping them clean is important as residue on the solar panel can affect charging. And, of course, they pick up all their power for free from the sun. Most lights have solar panels built in but separate solar panels generally equals brighter light.
Grey days are less effective for charging but still manage some charge. From fully charged you should expect four or five hours of illumination – though rarely the eight or 10 hours promised. Still, you don’t want to be up all night, do you?
Testing involved ease of set-up, whether an extensive first charge was required (hint: give them at least one full day’s charge the day before that al fresco dinner party) and whether they only gave off enough light for decoration, were strong enough to light a path safely, or provided full-on illumination. Whether the light gave off a cold blue-white, as most do, or a warm, yellow hue more like a candle, was also considered.
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1. Philips myGarden Dusk Solar Powered Wall Light: £46.50, Amazon
Nobody does lighting quite the way Philips does, which has championed the use of LEDs in everything from domestic bulbs to its versatile Hue smart lighting. Its solar lights are brighter than most rivals and come in various styles such as downward-facing posts, upward-facing lights and more industrial wall-mounters. This wall light has a big solar panel on top, meaning you get more light for longer from the LED for a good six hours. It’s simple to set up and has great build quality. You can also choose a version with a built-in motion sensor. Strong enough to easily see if that’s an olive or a beetle in your salad.
2. Blooma Aurora LED Solar Stake Light: £17, B&Q
The Blooma set of six lights is durable and well-made, especially for the price. The LED is housed in solid glass – though be sure to tighten the lid properly as it can feel loose. You can choose between white light and colour-changing settings and each light is powered by a rechargeable AA battery. Like most here, this set is very easy to set up and works well. Although these devices are compact, the light they give out is impressive and several together are enough to read by.
3. The Solar Centre Lumify 300: £60, John Lewis
Okay, so they’re not cheap but you get so many of them. Yes, 300. The total length of the line is 32m with lights every 10cm for the last 30m. You can wrap them around trees and bushes or drape them over objects. Though these are predominantly decorative, sheer force of numbers means they’re a strong light source. The quality here is good and in the winter when there’s less sunlight to help, you can also charge the lights via USB.
4. Home Solar Colour Changing Lights: £16.49, Argos
The posts are made of stainless steel, so they look and feel pretty good. The lights change colour and though they’re not the brightest on our list, there’s enough of them (18) to create a decent effect. The solar panel on top each one is big enough to dominate each lantern, but even so, direct sunlight is recommended to ensure enough charge. Decorative, primarily.
5. Blooma Nessus Solar Garden Light: £6, B&Q
The price is pretty keen on the Nessus so it’s no surprise that the build quality is not outstanding, opting for plastic pretty much everywhere. Still, it doesn’t look bad, especially at night, so makes a great garden-edge definer to prevent guests splashing into the koi pond. The light is not that bright, giving a silvery glow, unless you switch the LED to multi-coloured, which glows from one shade to the next quickly. It comes with mounting straps to attach to places where you can’t dig the pole into the ground.
6. Philips myGarden Dusk Solar Powered Post: £74.99, Amazon
Another bright light from Philips, this one is designed to effectively light a path or lawn and cast a glow across a garden. Philips has calibrated this light to cast a warm white light (some LEDs lean more towards blue which can give a cold feel). The easily accessible light switch means you can either leave it to automatically switch on at dusk – like most lights – or let it charge each day. Neat design, too.
7. Blooma Lelantos Blue LED Solar Deck Light: £15, B&Q
You have to charge these lights for two days, turning them off at night, to fully charge the battery (so don’t buy them on the day you’re having a party). Even then, don’t expect them to stay bright all night long, or anything like, though a good three hours is possible. You can put them on decking or straight into the ground. They are pretty bright and the aluminium and stainless-steel build is great. Also available with white LEDs. These are better at showing the decking off atmospherically, say, than providing full-blown light.
8. Khara White LED Solar Stake Light: £8, B&Q
There’s no colour option with the Khara, but since you get 10 for just £8, it’s no surprise some corners have been cut. Each light stands around nine inches high when you’ve planted it in the earth. There’s very little light given out by them but they work well as tiny, decorative bulbs that are attractive when grouped together.
Solar-powered garden lights offer cute garden lighting with minimal effort or maintenance, no cables or complicated set-up. Most of the cheapest lights are more for gentle decoration rather than bright lighting. If you need more light, plump for one of the Philips products here which are very effective. For exceptional decorative effect, the Solar Centre Lumify 300 is exotic and pleasing. And the best value lights here are the Blooma Aurora LED Solar Stake Lights which are good quality for a very low cost.
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