Buying Guide to Solar Step Lights for Your Deck, Porch, or Steps - Zacs Garden

Buying Guide to Solar Step Lights for Your Deck, Porch, or Steps

solar step lights - a set of stairs illuminated

THERE IS NOTHING QUITE LIKE sitting out on your deck with a nice glass of wine at the end of the day. Unless, that is, of course, it is walking down the steps, down the steps into your garden. The only problem is the steps are so dark at night, you can't see them well enough to risk it. So, instead of being able to walk down your garden paths, you are stuck to the deck.

Why live like this, when the only safe time to go wandering in your yard, is when the sun is shining, you are missing out on half the fun. Why not invest in solar step lights to make that trip down into your garden safe without having to go to the expense of hiring a contractor to install all the electrical wiring need for standard lights.

Solar Power Is the Answer

Let's take a look at the many benefits of solar powered step lights and then we'll take a look at what to look for when buying a set for the steps on your deck.

solar step lights - a man standing in front of switchboard looking confused

1. No Wiring to Run

One of the biggest reasons why many people don't go to the trouble of adding step lighting to the steps on the deck, on the porch, or in the garden, is quite simply they don't want to go the expense of wiring them in. While some of us can handle our wiring, not every city allows you to do so. Some require your work to be inspected once complete before signing off on your permit, some simply require all electrical work to be done by a certified electrician. Be sure you check with your local codes if you plan to wire in the lights. Or you could save time, money and effort by installing solar step lights.

2. Simple to Install

Installing solar powered step lights is very simple. First, you need to determine which side of your steps gets the most sunlight during the day. Then, using the screws or mounting kit provided, you install the light. It just doesn't get any easier than this. No holes to drill (except maybe pilot holes, no wires to run, just a light to install.

3. Last for Many Hours

When used in conjunction with LED bulbs that consume very little energy, you can expect your solar step lights to burn for several hours. Be sure to check the specs for any lights you are considering buying. Each manufacturer has their own length of illumination time based on the type of batteries and solar panels used. Many can now last all night long providing there is plenty of sunlight during the day.

4. No Running Up Your Power Bill

If there is one thing you can count on today, it's that everything you add to the electrical circuits in your home will increase your bill. Yep, even those “low voltage” step lights that run on a transformer. It might not seem like they would add that much to your power bill, if they get left on all night long, every night of the week, the costs are going to add up. With solar powered step lights, the only energy you need is some good old-fashioned sunlight. This is still free and provides more energy than you could use in a life time.

5. Plenty to Choose From

When it comes to finding the right style and color, you may just find that solar step lights offer more styles and colors than standard 110V type lights. There are single lights, each of which has their own solar cell panel, strings of lights connected to a central solar panel, even individual dot lights that can be wired to a central solar panel.

They come with metal housings, plastic housings, clear lenses, colored lenses, antique styles, art Deco, art nouveau, and so many more. The color list is long enough to satisfy just about any tastes an outdoor décor.

What Should You Look for In Solar Step Lights?

Like most things for your backyard, you should never just jump at the first set of solar step lights you come across in the store or online. This is the worst possible way to buy anything and the best possible way to end up with solar step lights that don’t work as well as they are advertised to or simply don't work at all.

When you go out looking for solar step lights consider these things very carefully.

Charge

This is how long the batteries are going to keep the lights burning if they are left on all night long. Each manufacturer lists this in their advertising or on the package. If you come across any that don't pass them by.  With lithium ion batteries, they are typically rated in milliamp hours, for example, 600Mah, the higher the number the bigger the battery and the longer they will last.

Charge Time

Next up, how long it will take the batteries in the light to recharge on an average day. Charging times vary with the size and type of solar panel used as well as the batteries themselves. 4 to 6 hours is common, but try to avoid those that say they take over 8 hours to charge. Keep in mind most do have an initial charging time and then a day to day charging time.

Lumens

This is the standard measureofr light output, in many ways it is similar to the way we have rated household bulbs for years in wattage. Lumens, however, is a measurement of light output, while wattage is actually a measurement of power consumption. Most solar step lights tend to have the equivalent output of a 40W light bulb. Just enough to light your way up and down the steps without blinding you. Look for lumen ratings of 10-80 Lumens.

Auto On/Off

You might think this would be obvious, but there are still a few models out there that have to be turned on and off manually. Unless you feel like getting up every evening to turn them on and in the morning to turn them off, this is a very important feature.

Weatherproof

Outdoor lights are all supposed to be waterproof to keep out the rain and snow, aren't they? Such is not the case as many are listed as being water resistant. Which in turn means if you live in an area where you have a lot of snow or rain, those that are listed as being water resistant are just about useless as they are bound to leak. Be sure the lights you are considering are listed as being WATERPROOF if you want them to last.

Motion Sensor

This one is optional, but you might find having step lights that come on only when someone is by or on the step can come in pretty handy. Better yet, they won't keep your backyard lit up all night long. But, on the other hand, each time they come on, they should be at full illumination. If you do decide to go with motion sensor lights, look for those that allow you to adjust their range. This gives you far more flexibility with how you place them and how well they work for your needs.
Image courtesy Amazon

 

My Top Five Choices for Solar Step Lights

After looking at the many different solar step lights on the market, I found five that are worthy of your deck, porch, or garden path.

Mpow Solar Lights Motion Sensor Security Lights

These Mpow lights feature an updated solar panel. After only a few hours of daylight, they will keep these lights working throughout the night. In steady mode, they will last between 8 and 10 hours. They feature 20 LED for super white lighting, with three distinct settings, Strong Long Light Mode, Strong Sensor Light Mode, and Dim Light Sensor Mode. The dual-layer tightly -sealed loop makes these lights exceptionally water and heat resistant.

Pros Cons
Watertight Occasional quality issues
Long life batteries Switches are on back of light hard to reach when mounted
Three modes of operation Limited lifespan

 

Litom Solar Lights Outdoor 30 LED

These lights feature 30 LEDs and ultra-high 2200Mah battery that will keep these lights running for 24 hours on the dim setting with only 13 of the LEDs turned on. When the motion sensor detects movement, the lights will come on in full bright mode for 20/40/60/ seconds. Fully waterproof, with 120-degree lighting, and a maximum 39 foot sensor range, they will cover a wide area as you go down the steps and out into the garden.

Pros Cons
Extra-long sensor range No motion sensor adjustment
Multiple settings Light range is shorter than advertised
Low to instant max with motion sensor Battery Life short in full brightness mode

 

 

Solar Lights Outdoor, xtf2015 Copper Outdoor Step Light

Give your solar lights the day off with these copper lights. Not only are they auto charging, but they are auto on/off. Designed to look like a smile each light 4 x 0.2W brightness SMD beads with spotlight reflector. Maximum brightness is 100 Lumens per light. They come complete with double-sided stickers, screws, and stopples to help you mount them virtually anywhere.

Pros Cons
Nice copper appearance Timer is too short
100 Lumens max output Batteries have a short lifespan
Auto on/off Bright LED illuminates the sensor

Solar Deck Lights, iThird 3 LED Solar Powered Step Lights

These solar step lights are made from a mixture of stainless steel and ABS plastic. They take 4 to 6 hours to charge and will run for approximately 8 to 12 hours. They produce 24 Lumens at 6500 to 7000K daylight. Each of the lights 3 ultra-bright LED chips. Power is supplied via a 200 mAh, 3.2V Li-FePO4 battery. Easy to install, simply screw them to the steps. These lights are IP44 waterproof rated.

Pros Cons
Short charge time Some quality control issues
Long battery life Low light range
Upgraded monocrystalline solar panels

Kinna Waterproof Solar Step Deck Lights

Each light in this four-pack provides a full 6Lumenss of light. They are 100% weatherproof, making them perfect for outdoor use. Easy installation with a pair of screws (included). Uses the latest in monocrystalline solar panels and a 1.2V 500 mAh Ni-mh battery. Offers 300k warm white light.

Pros Cons
8 hours of working time Ni-mh battery instead of life
Compact size and shape Need a template to mount
Come as a four pack Battery longevity questionable, but can be replaced

Other Options

Here I look at your best option if solar step lights are not going to get the job done for you. In this particular instance, I picked a very popular 110V LED step/wall light.

Sunco Lighting, LED Mini Outdoor and Indoor Step/Stair Light

Rated as one of the top LED step lights on the market. Comes with both vertical and horizontal. Easy to install using a single gang box. Safe for both commercial and residential use. These lights are UL listed and approved for use in wet locations.

Pros Cons
UL Listed waterproof Use electricity, running up your power bill
Come with both horizontal and vertical louvres Metal top covers more than it should
Bright enough to light most sets of steps Leads come out of the side making harder to install

 

Finally, the Light Comes On

At the end of the day, finding the right solar step lights for your deck or garden is more about personal choice as far size, color, design, etc. But what you should be looking for is maximum Lumens, long lasting lithium-ion batteries, fast charge time and a certain level of waterproofing.

Me I have a set of the Litom Solar Lights Outdoor 30 LED keeping the steps on my deck lit at night. I hope the information I have put together here helps you find the perfect solar step lights for your deck, porch, or walkway.

If you can think of anything you would like to see added here, please contact me here.