The best solar step lights in 2021 are not always the most expensive. When you’re looking to buy a solar step light for your garden, deck or porch, it’s important to take into account 6 essential considerations and not just how much light they emit and their price point.
We’ve compiled a list with reviews of the top 10 solar step lights that we know of to suit your home.
The solar step light is one of the best lighting solutions for your steps, and it’s simple to install. Solar energy has opened up a host of possibilities to light up places around your home that were once too involved and expensive to install for the majority of households. Thanks to the convenience of no wiring required, these self contained units charge themselves in the day from the free power of daylight and discharge that green energy at night.
They are called step lights as each unit has been designed to be small enough to be mounted on the riser of a step with the appropriate brightness to cast a glow over the tread below. However, although in theory they will work on any step, those steps should ideally be facing the sun at some point in the day for a quicker and fuller charge of the rechargeable batteries for a longer run time at night. So the answer is not the step itself but the direction and built environment around them that is a key consideration.
Let’s take a look at the key considerations for a successful choice.
So how do you choose the best step light for you amongst so many options on the market? We have taken the fundamental choices that you need to take and explained what to look out for.
Alongside the brightness of the light, the solar panels are a key factor in your decision making. They are the gateway to the energy capture so they need to be as efficient as possible. The direction your steps are facing and how much daylight and direct sunlight they receive will influence how much energy is stored, so a full charge time is achieved quicker with the best panels.
There are three types to consider: mono-crystalline silicon, polycrystalline and thin film amorphous silicon. The best type for you will depend on where you live (the latitude), the amount of sunlight available and how big they are .
The best solar panels for charge time are mono-crystalline silicon, but they can also be the most expensive. Polycrystalline come in a close second and amorphous thin-film is third because it doesn’t convert light as efficiently as the other two types of solar panels.
This means that you will need to look for the mono-crystalline silicon panels if you are looking for the best solar charge time.
If your steps receive a shaded amount of daylight then opt for the models with the larger panels as well as the best you can afford.
So just how bright should a solar step light be?
The best solar lighting products offer a brightness range between 20 and 100 lumens. This is the ideal balance of light output for most applications, without being too bright or not bright enough.
If you plan to light every 2 or 3 steps, then opt for a brighter output so the light will spread across them all, otherwise the lower outputs are best suited to individually lighting each one.
It makes sense that the higher the output, the more energy that is going to be required to run it. So the duration of illumination in each unit will depend on the design choices of panel size, type and wattage of LED. Each manufacturer offer their best estimate of how long each should run on a full charge, usually around 6-8 hours is sufficient for the evening hours before most people are asleep.
If you need your step light choice to run all night then the advice is to choose a motion sensor model that saves energy for when someone uses them. This may not look great from a distance which is the point of most garden lighting schemes, as the steps will remain dark or dimmed down until movement detected.
Avoid the 4000K cool whites or above unless you want a clinical crisp white which will feel brighter but not flattering. The cooler colors of LED are more efficient so some manufacturer’s prefer this option. Our recommendation is to opt for around a 3000K warm white for your garden LED lighting.
Generally speaking, the lower cost models will bring the LEDs directly to the front of the light without any diffusion through a frosted lens, you’ll know when you see lots of dots all lined up in rows. Although they will be facing downwards towards the step, if you have a flight of stairs that will at some point be seen towards head height then glare should be considered so avoid this cheaper design technique.
The best anti glare solar step lights hide the LED source up into the product and shine the light down or behind a frosted polycarbonate lens so it’s diffused.
The depth of a step light will help you decide on whether to mount your choice on a side wall and light across the treads or be shallow enough to mount on the riser of the step. Ideally a step light should be recessed into the riser but the majority of solar versions include the panel so they have to be surface mounted.
The issue with many low cost importers into Amazon is their indiscriminate labelling of a product to be a keyword so you find them when searching but in reality the depth of many is frankly too dangerous to mount where they would cause a trip to most people but especially children.
We therefore label our selections with our opinion on whether suitable for positioning on the riser or not.
Our choices have been selected according to the best we can recommend in each of these key considerations, helping you how to make your own choices.
This small fixture has an on board choice of either warm white or a very cold white, which can be handy if you want the same product in various areas around the home and garden but a feeling of more brightness say down a passageway or at the entrance of a workshop or garage. The decorative diffuser casts a patterned light across the surface it is mounted on.
A very smart stainless steel quite low profile solution that should meet most needs. Typical low level output for a step by step illumination, loved by the many that buy it.
This smart step light integrates into the Ring family of products for full adjustability via the Bridge that is sold separately and connects all the ‘Ring’ world of smart products together onto one system. This will allow for motion sensing grouping, so if one senses movement it will turn on the group together which is handy. Also the brightness settings allow for dimming which is a great feature.
Although all the LEDs are on show which to us is a little unsightly, the payoff is a better output and brightness than most other models with a larger panel using the best tech to match the increased power demand.
For the cosier feel of night time illumination, this is the product for you. The amber colored diffuser warms the light to a candle like light with a very decent output. The panel has a more direct charge than many others for a very efficient charge. Suitable for fences and walls too.
Well made stainless steel product with a good sized and quality panel. A great budget all rounder 8 pack.
This is more of a fence design but still ideal for stairs when mounted at the side to light across the treads. The output is a little on the low side at 7 lumens, however this is sufficient as a night time glow which is all a step needs and helps with the longevity in run time.
The lower brightness and LED source hidden within shining the light downwards, wins our best anti-glare category.
Chosen for the black good quality plastic that is an anti-corrosion alternative to the many stainless steel models out there that can tarnish over time. It is a budget anti-glare option, offering some protection with the LEDs mounted higher up behind a warm white diffuser. Good sized and quality panel give it an efficient charge time at a very good price point.
Large fast charging very bright output model with a bronze coloring that suits the outdoors.
An all round glow that demarks the changes in levels with a low profile form factor that allows it to be positioned without worry of tripping. A very long run time will keep them on all night.
Check out the very best solar lights we can find and review for use all around your house and garden.
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