Inexpensive, bright and self-sufficient: solar outdoor lighting from 10 euros LED spotlights and lamps with solar panels provide light independently of the power grid. We tested how well the products perform in practice. 8:00 p.m. tech stage

inexpensive bright and self sufficient solar outdoor lighting from 10 euros.jpeg
inexpensive bright and self sufficient solar outdoor lighting from 10 euros.jpeg

Lamps with a photovoltaic panel and rechargeable battery are cheap and work without complex wiring, even when they are not connected to the mains. If you want to avoid bad buys and frustration, you should think carefully about what you need in advance. Despite the low prices and easy installation, there are a few things you have to pay attention to in order not to be left in the dark.

inexpensive, bright and self sufficient solar outdoor lighting from 10 euros
inexpensive, bright and self sufficient solar outdoor lighting from 10 euros

This article therefore deals with all the important points on the subject of solar outdoor lights. This guide is part of the Lighting theme world , in which we also dealt with smart garden lighting or lounge lighting in the garden .

Solar lights differ in a few ways compared to outdoor lighting connected to the power grid. The disadvantages include the dependency on sufficient sunlight – without it the battery cannot charge sufficiently and it remains dark. This becomes a problem above all in the dark season – that is, when you actually need the light most urgently. Motion detectors help to save electricity. In practice, it depends on how often and how long the light really shines. Depending on the design, the size of the solar panel and battery, and the energy consumption of the LEDs, modern solar lights work even after a few short days with an overcast sky.

inexpensive, bright and self sufficient solar outdoor lighting from 10 euros 3
inexpensive, bright and self sufficient solar outdoor lighting from 10 e

Another problem is the lower output of the light sources in most cases, due to the principle involved. The battery-operated lights are too weak for large commercial buildings and huge outdoor areas and cannot be compared to the well-known construction spotlights with a 230 volt connection, even if many manufacturers are meticulous about putting their products in this light. On the other hand, the solar lights are well suited for gardens, courtyards, carports, driveways, parking lots or allotment gardens. However, you should never buy too cheap. Lamps with a single small LED are at best to be understood as a decorative element. Privately, we even recently reduced our outdoor solar lights – simply because the garden, bathed in glaring light, was overly bright and in practice disturbed the evening peace.

From our point of view, solar outdoor lighting has advantages when used correctly. Panel and battery allow a completely flexible placement, independent of the mains and without the help of an electrician. The self-generated electricity also reduces the electricity bill and ensures reliable lighting even during a power failure. The lamps, which are usually coupled with motion detectors, also ensure less light pollution than lamps that shine all night.

Despite the advantages, the prices for solar outdoor lights are no higher than for wired lights. On the contrary. The products of the mostly unknown manufacturers are usually even cheaper than simple branded lights from the hardware store. Experience shows that this is also noticeable in the processing quality and durability. Early solar lamps worked for a maximum of one to two years before they failed for various reasons – a disaster from an environmental point of view. However, the quality of cheap lights has increased continuously in recent years. Even lights costing 30 euros have been working for us for several years without any signs of giving up the ghost anytime soon. But you don’t really know before you buy it.

inexpensive, bright and self sufficient solar outdoor lighting from 10 euros 2
inexpensive, bright and self sufficient solar outdoor lighting from 10 euros 2

Outdoor lights powered by batteries and solar panels come in countless shapes and sizes. For example, the lamps are available in a classic construction spotlight design , in a flat design housing , as a chic mini spotlight or with a surveillance camera look . In addition to black housings, the lamps are also available in white or with an aluminum look. While inexpensive lamps are made of plastic, high-priced lamps usually have a metal housing. There are also numerous differences in the attachment or installation, so that a suitable model can be found for every application. There are lamps for wall mounting , with a ground spike , with a holding armor integrated into a decorative element , paving stone or specifically to illuminate the house number .

Luminaires for outdoor use must be waterproof. These are also cheap lamps, but there are big differences in quality with the seals and the processing. Experience has shown that if you expose the lamp to direct rain and snow, you should dig deeper into your pocket, since cheap lamps are often not properly sealed and accordingly break quickly.

The solar panel belonging to the lamps charges the battery when there is enough light and thus ensures a permanent power supply far away from the socket. In order for the power supply to work reliably in practice, the panel must be strong enough and get enough sunlight. Thanks to improved efficiency, the panels are now sufficiently compact to be integrated directly into the lamp housing. However, the design specifies how the lamp should be mounted. That’s fine with decorative lights, but more flexible solutions are needed for lighting patios, carports, etc.

If the lamp is to provide light in a shady place, lamps with an external panel are suitable. If a flexibly adjustable panel attached to the lamp is not sufficient, a model with a cable between the solar module and the lamp is used. These lines are usually two to five meters long, which is sufficient in practice.

In addition to simple panels, there are also lamps with several solar modules . These enable an even more efficient light yield and can extend the time in which electricity is produced. Such multiple modules are usually used with powerful lamps with large batteries.

The vast majority of solar lamps work with efficient LEDs, which are bright and yet consume little electricity. Depending on the model, the individual LEDs, some of which number more than a hundred, are equipped with a large reflector or several or many individual reflectors. In practice, a common reflector means a long range with a narrow beam of light. Lamps with several reflectors are more suitable for uniform and large-area illumination.

Some solar spotlights are equipped with two, three or more separate lighting elements. This allows for a more even illumination when the lamp is hanging on the corner of a building.

If the solar light should not only provide visual accents, but also ensure well-illuminated areas, the luminosity of the lamps must be sufficiently strong. Since the manufacturer’s information on brightness is often greatly embellished or even missing altogether, you shouldn’t generally use the cheapest lamps when it comes to larger areas. A clear example of a rather weak lamp that is only suitable as discreet (emergency) lighting or accent light is the no-name solar lamp on Amazon in a pack of six for 44 euros . The manufacturer advertises with a full 1000LM, but that seems very high to us. Since the 150 LEDs per lamp have to do without a reflector, the depth effect is missing here.

If the lamp is to be mounted at a height of several meters, several reflectors must be present, such as the triple solar lamp from Benma for 27 euros or the dummy camera lamp from Xibolar for 28 euros . Even a large reflector like the no-name model for just under 35 euros in a double pack is more suitable here than the cheap spotlight set.

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inexpensive, bright and self sufficient solar outdoor lighting from 10 euros 1
inexpensive, bright and self sufficient solar outdoor lighting from 10 euros 1

The battery is a decisive criterion for the power supply far away from the mains. The more power the lamp has, the greater the capacity of the battery must be. Added to this is the fact that the battery also needs enough reserves for cloudy and gloomy days. Unfortunately, the product descriptions here can often not be trusted. It makes sense to take a closer look at customer reviews, for example.

The lighting duration of the solar lamps tested so far is very different. While cheap decorative lamps from the discounter often only last a few hours, branded spotlights shine all night long. The Steinel XSolar LS brand model for around 155 euros has so much reserve that the lamp can work for up to 50 days without sunlight, according to the manufacturer. However, this is also noticeable in the price of just under 160 euros.

Since solar batteries are also subject to wear and tear, they should definitely be replaceable with high-quality lamps. In addition, the batteries should always be fully charged before use. Depending on the hours of sunshine, battery capacity and solar panel performance, this can take two to three days. steering

So that the lamps do not consume electricity during the day, the manufacturers rely on simple brightness sensors that are usually integrated in the solar panel. As soon as it gets dark, the lamps switch on automatically. As soon as it gets light again, the lamps go out, provided the battery is still full by then. The lamps often lose a lot of brightness as soon as the battery capacity decreases.

When it comes to reliable illumination, it makes more sense to only activate the lamps when needed to save the battery and have full brightness available when needed. This works most conveniently with a motion sensor . Some manufacturers alternatively rely on remote controllable lamps or a combination of remote control and motion detection.

The biggest difference between cheap and high-priced lamps is the possibility to influence the control. While cheap lamps can only be switched on and off, better equipped models have different brightness levels, motion sensor sensitivity levels and timer settings available. As a rule, you can get along well with the default settings, but there are exceptions. If a solar spotlight with an external panel is to illuminate the garage or garden shed, for example, the brightness sensor must be able to be deactivated or integrated in the lamp module. Otherwise, the garage is only illuminated at night and remains dark during the day.

When buying, you also have to consider whether the motion sensor should be attached to the lamp or individually. After all, motion detection and light should not necessarily point in the same direction.

If you also want to integrate the solar outdoor lighting into your smart home, or at least control it via smartphone, you can now get a few solutions here, for example from the manufacturer Paulmann . For example, there are the Zigbee Yoko outdoor lights for 74 euros or the Soley model with Zigbee for 75 euros .

The cheapest solar lamps are already available for less than 15 euros. Such lamps are suitable for subtle light accents, as emergency lighting or for illuminating doorbells and house numbers. If you want to illuminate a path, a driveway, an inner courtyard or a terrace, you should invest a little more. There are many suitable no-name models in the price range of around 25 to 40 euros, which are sufficient for most applications. However, if you want to be on the safe side when it comes to durability, you should rather go for a branded device from around 50 to 150 euros. In addition to the numerous setting options, larger and easily replaceable batteries are usually also integrated here.

With cheap no-name lamps, the durability is unfortunately a gamble. So we have some cheap solar heaters that have been working reliably for more than four years. Other lamps of the same type broke after just a few months, which is either due to a defective battery or moisture ingress. Anyone who doesn’t feel like replacing their lamp every two to three years should therefore prefer to use branded goods from around 50 euros. These offer better processing overall and usually more setting options.

Solar outdoor lights do not have to be expensive and provide sufficient light without charging the electricity bill – and in places where there are no cables at all. However, one should not buy too cheaply, otherwise the depth effect of the light is missing and the batteries often last only a few hours. Neatly bright lamps for illuminating the path, courtyard or forecourt are available from around 20 to 30 euros. If you only want to set light accents and the battery life and brightness are secondary, you can also use cheaper models.

Before making a purchase, there are a few things you should consider. If the lamp is to light up permanently, you can do without a motion detector. As a rule, however, the battery of cheap lamps only lasts until the night hours and not until sunrise. Anyone who always needs full brightness should therefore buy a lamp with remote control or a motion sensor. Depending on the location, it can also make sense to buy a lamp with an external solar panel. This can be mounted in direct sunlight independently of the actual lamp. It is also important to check the setting options for the motion sensor. After all, this does not necessarily have to detect the movements in the direction of the lamp.

If you have access to a power supply for outdoor lighting, you should take a look at our smart garden lighting guide . We show the combination of spotlights and WLAN cameras in the guide to surveillance cameras: outdoor lights with cameras, spotlight and floodlight cams from 90 euros . If you just want a nice lighting atmosphere in the garden, we recommend the guide to lounge lighting in the garden . We have also presented effective interior lighting and brutally bright but inexpensive flashlights in our own purchase advice. We show other similar items in our lighting theme world .

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Brian Adam
Professional Blogger, V logger, traveler and explorer of new horizons.