Outdoor lighting is a beautiful thing, it can help you to create curb appeal, improve ambiance, and maintain security for your home. To get all the lighting you need, you’ll probably find it frustrating to put in the spider web of wiring to power them all, not to mention the high cost if you want to hire a professional to install them for you. Thankfully, there is another solution for all your outdoor landscape lights – go wireless! Making that decision is pretty easy, but you’ll need to decide which type to use. Outdoor wireless lights can be either battery powered or solar powered LED lights. Since there are pros and cons with each of these lighting solutions, you’ll need to consider these before making your selection.
Battery Powered LED Lights
Although battery powered LED lights may not give you the same powerful illumination that some wired outdoor lights will, you can still experience excellent results, particularly if the products you choose provide the proper lumen rating for your needs. With battery powered LED lights, you will need to replace the batteries when they no longer have a charge remaining. Almost all battery powered LEDs are activated by motion and operate for a set amount of time, typically from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Common uses for this type of light include motion-sensor pathway, security, stairway and outdoor structure lighting.
Pros and Cons of Battery Powered LED Lights
Power source – Battery powered LED lights are powered by batteries, which will need to be replaced occasionally. For a light you plan to illuminate constantly, this may be cost prohibitive. It would also take up your time to change them. This is why this type of light is best used for motion-sensor purposes where usage is intermittent. Keep reading to learn about our battery hack so you’ll never have to buy new batteries, again…
Light quality and intensity – Although battery powered LED lights won’t match the quality and intensity of some wired systems, they do provide bright enough lighting for most of your outdoor lighting situations. Also, because they are not dependent on the sun for charging, the light quality and intensity are consistent.
Cost – For the most part, battery powered LED lights are cost effective as far as the initial purchase price is concerned. Depending on the type, model, and manufacturer, you can expect to pay in the neighborhood of $12 to $20 each for path lights or spotlights, and about $40 for walls sconces. Also, be sure to consider that your total cost does not end there as you’ll be buying batteries going forward, as well. Most products will tell you what size battery is used and how long they should last. If you’re smart, you’ll use our battery hack so you’ll never have to buy new batteries, ever again. It’s easy, just get yourself a rechargeable battery pack and you’ll be able to use the same batteries, over 1000 times. Learn more in our review of the Eneloop Power Pack here.
Style – While there are many styles of outdoor battery powered LED lights, you won’t find as large a selection as you would with wired lighting options or even solar. The most common styles are deck lights, spotlights, step lights, dusk-to-dawn deck lights, path lights, umbrella lights, and portable lanterns. If you’re interested in high quality, wireless LEDs, we suggest you take a look at the Mr. Beams lighting products. Read our review to see what impressed us with Mr. Beams Motion Sensing LED Path Lights.
Installation – Ease of installation is one of the biggest advantages of wireless lights. The simplest are path lights as you just press the spiked end into the ground. Even styles that get affixed to a wall, deck railing, or step are just a simple matter of using a screwdriver or 3m Outdoor Tape to install them.
Maintenance – An advantage of outdoor battery operated LED lights is that, other than battery replacement, there isn’t much else you need to do. You may find it necessary to clean off the bulb or lens cover itself if dust, grass clippings, or something else is interfering with the amount of projected light.
Durability – Outdoor battery powered LED lights are constructed, out of necessity, to be weatherproof. This makes them quite durable in that respect. Another thing to consider is the lifespan of the LED bulb(s) itself. A quality product should give 10-20 years of service, depending on how many hours you have them illuminated. For example, if a wall sconce is rated for 30,000 hours, and if you had it on for 8 hours a night you’d enjoy more than ten years. With only intermittent use you could enjoy decades! Products such as motion sensing LED path lights can last a lifetime.
Conclusion – Although you’ll get as much as 50 hours of light on a set of batteries for path lights and one year on most spotlights and sconces, the fact remains that you will need to replace the batteries from time to time. This is the main disadvantage of outdoor battery powered lights. The advantage of not needing sunlight and getting a fairly bright light make them ideal for security, pathways, and lighting up every corner of your property that would make electric wiring too expensive.
Solar Powered Lights
The thing to understand about solar powered lights is that they also have a battery. The difference is that the battery is charged each day by the sun rather than needing to replace them, occasionally. Most models these days also use LED lights in order to provide a better, higher intensity light than the first solar lights on that were introduced to the market, years ago. Solar powered lights have the advantage of operating for longer periods of time, up to 8 hours per night. This advantage is somewhat offset by the fact they they must be placed in an area that has enough sunlight to charge the solar panel during the day. Typical applications for solar lights include security, pathway, outdoor structures, ambiance and landscape focal point illumination.
Pros and Cons of Solar Powered Outdoor Lights
Power source – Solar powered lights are powered by the sun. As long as the location you plan to put the lights receives a minimum amount of sunlight, you will enjoy the lighting you require. They are not advisable for shaded areas. However, you can purchase options like Amir Solar Spotlights that have a solar panel that can be placed in a sunny location, 15-30 feet from the actual light. Keep in mind that solar powered lights do not need the heat of the sun, only the light to charge, so they are just as effective on a sunny winter day.
Light quality and intensity – It used to be that solar powered lights had pretty puny light quality and intensity. That has changed with newer technology, however the amount of light you will experience is affected by how much sun exposure the solar charging panel received during the day. A low-sunlight day could result in less light and a shorter period and intensity of light. If having light all through the night, every night, is a concern, this might not be the type of light you should go for. You should also take care when shopping to get the proper lumen rating you need for your particular application. Anything under 100 Lumens, is typically good when used with multiple lights along a walkway or stairway, over 200 is ideal for security or highlighting a landscape feature. See our Guide to Choosing LED Bulbs to get a better understanding of Lumens and the other important features of LED lights.
Cost – The initial cost for a solar powered light is going to be higher than a battery operated one. Overall, since you won’t be buying batteries, your total cost will be similar over the course of the first year or two. After that, you’ll experience savings since you still do not need to buy batteries.
Style – As is the case with battery operated lights, there are different styles to choose from. The list of products available continues to grow, more so than battery operated ones, because of the demand for energy efficiency and earth-friendly products. One product that you’ll want to check out, are the Amir Solar Powered String Lights. The versatility of this type of lighting provides you with some really interesting options for creative and festive lighting effects. Also, since you won’t have to access them to change out a battery, this type is ideal for hard to reach installations. A disadvantage is that with some styles the size is much larger, to accommodate the solar panel. For example, this makes pathway lighting a bit less aesthetically pleasing, unless you love showing off that you are using solar.
Installation – Installation is just as easy with solar powered lights as it is with battery powered ones. Both enjoy the convenience of wireless installation.
Maintenance – Although there aren’t any batteries to swap out, you will need to be more attentive to be sure debris has not built up on the solar panel, blocking the sunlight to the point that output is hampered.
Durability – Solar panels have come a long way in terms of durability, so you should experience a long life if you go with solar. Look for the best options for high traffic areas, such as ones made from stainless steel instead of plastic. Since the actual lights are powered by LEDs, the lifetime of each fixture, could be up to multiple decades.
Conclusion – Solar powered outdoor lights are the ideal solution if you are energy efficient, earth-friendly conscious and don’t want to have to purchase batteries. One of the major features of solar lights is that they can stay illuminated for up to 8 hours. Making them perfect for certain security situations, pathways or night time landscape focal point lighting. On the other hand, this is not a good option for shaded areas. For the most part, consider that you do get what you pay for and going cheap will generally not be the smartest choice. The quality of the PV cells and the size and performance of the LED are important things to look for.
And…our choice for the BEST is…
Ultimately, you will likely end up utilizing both kinds for your outdoor lighting needs because some places security, convenience and functionality are the primary application, whereas other places lighting is more for ambiance and curb appeal. Our winning choice is wireless LED lights! We even have a favorite, they’re Mr. Beams Outdoor Security Wirelesss LEDs. They get our top pick for their reliability, excellent light performance and energy efficient, long lasting battery life. The need to change batteries, is offset by our rechargeable battery hack that we shared, above. We’ll still be using both Solar and Battery Powered Landscape lights and you’ll probably use both, too. When making your decision look closely at the specifications of each, based on your required lighting brightness, placement and application.