Renewables are today’s hot topic and dusk to dawn solar lighting plays a key part in providing light around your home and garden with the lightest of carbon footprints. However, that being said, the choice for solar light is often more about saving money than the environment and with these products it’s great that we can do both.
There are lots of reviews online for solar lighting and some of it is quite techy, so as lighting professionals we needed to be confident that our product choices are easy to understand and will deliver on their intended illumination from a design you can be pleased with. So we’ve compiled a quick list of the details you need to know when buying solar dusk to dawn lights together with the shortlist of our researched best recommendations.
Table of Contents
|Lutec Curtis 300lm Motion Sensor Wall Light|
|Neat effective auto on motion sensing wall light that provides an ambient illumination at a great value with style.|
|Check Current Price
|Lutec Curtis 300lm Motion Sensor Wall Light||Porch or Patio Light||Check Current Price
|Brightech Ambience Pro||LED String Lights||Check Current Price|
|HM City 120 LED Wall Light||High Output Wall Light||Check Current Price|
|AmeriTop 128 LED Adjustable Flood||Best Floodlight||Check Current Price|
|Biling 12 Solar Landscape Spots||Landscape Light||Check Current Price|
|Baxia BX-SL-101 Outdoor LED Lights||Best Budget PIR Wall Light||Check Current Price|
|Letmy Solar Pathway Lights (8 pack)||Path Lights:||Check Current Price|
|DBF 30 LED Waterproof Stainless Steel Step Lights||Step Light||Check Current Price|
|INCX Solar Ground Lights||In Ground Uplight||Check Current Price|
Dusk to dawn lights sense the level of daylight through the use of a photocell that only allows power through to the light source when measured dark enough. In other words they turn on at dusk when the sun goes down and off at dawn when the sun comes up (1).
The description of ‘dusk to dawn’ describes this light sensing functionality that can be applied to any light fitting. It is not a description of any particular type of solar light but is used generally to stop the lighting coming on in the day with their automated on and off functionality and therefore reserving battery power.
These are some of the main types:
Security lighting needs to provide a high level of brightness over a wide area, so lots of power and lumen output is needed. The solar systems with external PV Cells allow you to find an optimum position to harvest the suns energy independent of the position of the light fixture.
This security light incorporates the solar panel into the design of the fixture but still with some flexibility to adjust the panel to direct towards the sun. A cluster of LED chips are positioned to maximise output and efficiency.
A barn and yard light is designed to be mounted at high level on the side of a building for a broad 360 degree output usually through a polycarbonate diffuser. The PV Cell is incorporated on top facing the sky.
The description of flood lights is synonymous to security lighting; both provide large amounts of light. The Flooding Light or Street Lighting tends to be a product designed for mounting on a wall or pole that directs light into a space more effectively than most other types.
Our roundup of the best solar lighting selects the first choice within all categories and more.
You tend to buy best when you know more so take a shortcut and follow this lighting design professionals checklist. Some seem obvious but mustn’t be overlooked.
What is the primary reason for wanting light? Do you need it for low level walkway illumination so a smaller low output light will be sufficient or mounting high needing large amounts of light? The more output required tends to become a more commercial design which may not suit every home environment.
The sun… through a Photovoltaic Cell that must have access to a good source of daylight and preferably direct sunlight. No wires, no switching so be aware less control compared to traditional electrical power sources.
Brightness of LED light is measured by the lumen output ie 1000lm. Do not equate the higher the wattage with more light created.
There are a variety of types of white light available from LED sources. The warmer the light the lower the degree of kelvin, i.e. 3000K is a warm white whereas 6500K is a very cold daylight color which can feel brighter but is not a comfortable white light to be in if relaxing.
The ability to personally adapt the functionality of a light fitting allows you to select it in the knowledge that it is likely to have a mode that suits your requirements. Brightness, color, how long the light stays on for and dimming down to a standby level of light when movement isn’t detected are just some of the options. There is more to dawn to dusk lighting than simply turning off and on.
The energy harvested from the sun is stored in rechargeable lithium ion batteries, the higher the capacity the more energy the battery will supply to the light source. That capacity is measured in units of electric charge called mAh (milli ampere per hour). A larger capacity does not always mean larger in physical size (2).
There are three factors that influence the capacity of a solar panel, the size, the material it’s made from and amount of access it has to solar irradiation. The bigger the PV Cell and the more direct it can be positioned to direction of sunlight, the more energy is harvested in the limited number of daylight hours each day. The efficacy of that conversion into energy is now better down today with monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar cells (3).
Each solar light should give an approximate time required for a full battery charge and some even differentiate between a sunny fast charge day against a cloudy slow charge day. A solar panel will still charge out of direct sunlight but the process is considerably slower and likely to not be a full charge by night fall and in turn shorten the run time in the evening.
The length of illumination is dependent on the energy stored and the wattage of LED being used, so a manufacturer should estimate a run time on a full charge to give you an idea. Many dawn to dusk lights will not come on and stay on all the time but to aid longevity only stay on for 30-45 seconds if movement is detected with a PIR sensor.
How far the light will spread out from the fixture is useful to know and without actually testing it we are all at the mercy of the manufacturer’s buying guides. We like to look at any previous customer comments too to add some real world info as there isn’t a useful metric to compare models to each other.
As an LED chip is a miniature light source, they are clustered into ‘arrays’ to unify as a single source of light when all turned simultaneously. The more LED chips, the larger the light source. This enables a manufacturer to make a solar source of light from a small step light to large street lights.
Decorative sources of dusk to dawn light will encapsulate the LED source and PV Cell into a pleasing package that suits the intended style and hides the battery. It is fair to say the more light that is required from the light, the more utilitarian it ends up looking, bordering on the ugly!
Your exterior lighting is subject to all weathers with the solar panel needing to be in unabashed direct sunlight and therefore exposed to all the extremes. In general plastic is the best choice for outdoor use compared to other materials, resisting UV light, they can be fade resistant and very durable (4). Powder coated metals and non corrosive aluminium are also suitable choices.
All exterior electrical products, even battery supplied solar lighting, should be protected against the ingress of moisture. If not always for the protection of an electrical shock as some run as extra low voltage, it’s for the longevity of the product. Certifications of IP44 as splashproof and IP65 as water jettable are commonly seen.
PIR motion sensors (Pyroelectric Infrared Sensors) are commonly found on dawn to dusk solar lighting to allow it to choose what to do when movement from a human or animal is detected. The lens over the sensor determines the width of detection range and specified in degrees (5). For example, a 270 degree detection range is very wide and will pick up everything near it, whereas a 90 degree angle will only detect movement mostly in front of it and not be triggered by peripheral movement. The more your light comes on the more energy is used so the right choice of sensor can stop possible wastage from unwanted passers by.
There are not many uses for an artificial light source in the day, so the precious electrical charge is reserved for the dark, ready for action at dusk and switched off automatically when the sun comes up in the morning. This is the main form of control for most solar lights as they are not connected to a lighting circuit.
The light source can also be switched off automatically when nobody is near it (see PIR above) and can also turn off after a predetermined duration. Each model has different characteristics.
Infrared hand held remote controls are available in some solar lighting for a neat method of interacting with a single or group of solar lights. This added level of control can also be useful where individual control of specific lights is needed, for example you want some lights to turn on with a motion sensor but others not.
The main consideration for solar lighting installation is ensuring the location is suitable for charging. Apart from that there are no cables and switches required so install is relatively easy and often at a DIY level of difficulty.
The advise is to buy as well as you can afford as solar lighting will give you incredible value for money. There will be a little maintenance required as the rechargeable battery will need replacing at some point but apart from that the lifespan is long with no running costs!
Any product that carries more than a one year manufacturer’s warranty is worth considering over other less confident designs for exterior lighting. However, do not be fooled by limited warranties that look good at possibly 3 years but only cover a part of the product. Much of the dawn to dusk solar lighting market is at the budget entry level end and that can only mean a lower build quality.
This cleaning styled wall light will come on automatically at nigh, perfect to discretely illuminate almost any area, porch, garden patios, side alleyways etc
This 27′ Italian bistro vintage style set of 12 waterproof dawn to dusk outdoor LED bulbs have a soft white 3000K color and will run for 5-6 hours on a full charge of 6 hours direct sunlight, less on a cloudy day. Compatible for multiple groups to be joined together for long solar string light sets.
Impressive functionality and compact design. Offering 3 modes of lighting: 1. Full brightness day or night. 2. Constant low dim until motion detected then full power for 30 seconds. 3. Motion detected dawn to dusk lighting permanently on for as long as the batteries last.
A floodlight needs to provide effective functional lighting and this solar solution meets that demand with a 800lm brightness with a 6500K daylight color of white light. You can equate this brightness to approximately 2 qty LED bulbs, not as bright as an electrically connected flood but great for solar.
This landscape and driveway light cleverly combines the solar panel and rechargeable battery into the top of the product, so each spotlight is free to be positioned at will in the ground with the spike or wall mounted using the optional bracket. 12 bright LEDs per spotlight provide an impressive option for either a 12 hr lasting ambient light or a high powered mode lasting 6 hours.
For more like this check out our Best Solar Driveway Lights
This motion sensing set of wall lights will not disappoint if you want a no fuss reliable general source of light that comes only at night for durations of approx 30 seconds each time.
Well made pathway marker lighting in a pleasing warm white color of light with the option of 3 selectable lighting modes: Low light, high output and an auto fade in and out the manufacturer calls ‘breathing’ mode! The level of output is appropriate to gently light a pathway for a decent amount of time.
Upgrade your steps with this budget conscious effective surface mounted method of illuminating outdoor steps. A discrete stainless steel design that has to array the LED chips on the surface for maximum output but directs them downwards to wash the step, reducing glare.
Up-lighting bushes and plants is an essential lighting technique for a beautifully lit garden. This pack of puck lights introduces just that style of illumination without the commitment of cabling and expense, allowing you to adapt your lights as the seasons change.
1. Photocells: https://learn.adafruit.com/photocells
2. Guide to Rechargeable Batteries: https://gogreenbatteries.co.uk/guide-to-rechargeable-batteries
3. How Much Energy Does a Solar Panel Produce: https://www.solarreviews.com/blog/how-much-electricity-does-a-solar-panel-produce
4. Why Use Plastic Outdoors? https://www.acmeplastics.com/content/the-best-plastics-for-outdoor-use/#:~:text=In%20general%2C%20plastic%20is%20the,%2C%20watertight%2C%20and%20fade%20resistant.
5. How PIRs Work: https://learn.adafruit.com/pir-passive-infrared-proximity-motion-sensor/how-pirs-work
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