Something shifts outside in the shadows . . . or is it just your own reflection on a dark windowpane? With motion-activated security lights you’ll never have to wonder—if Sasquatch makes one move, he’ll be caught in the spotlight.
Besides helping you feel safe, a solar-powered security light installs in a snap and won’t raise your monthly electric bill, making it ideal for the budget-conscious DIYer. To help you narrow down your choices, we’ve put some of the top names in solar power light fixtures head to head to see which products outshine the competition—literally.
If you’re not a big DIYer, but you’d like to add some extra outdoor solar lighting for safety, the Litom 24 LED lights are good to start with. They work well at just six feet off the ground, and while they’re not the brightest lights on our list, their unique three-panel design gives you 270-degree illumination. You don’t have to mess with any wires, and installation is as easy as screwing in one screw.
The Litom solar lights come with three different light settings, so you can decide if you want them on low light all night long, on low until they’re motion activated to brighten, or off until they sense motion. To change the settings, just adjust the switch on the back of the unit. One of the only downfalls is the Litom lights won’t last you very long. Each light has only a 24-month lifespan, though you might get more or less use out of them depending on your climate.
When you look at the Sunforce Flood Light, it’s obvious this security light means business. Nothing hiding in the dark stands a chance against its 150 LED bulbs pumping out 1,000 lumens of blinding light. We like that you can tweak the angle of each panel to cover the specific area you want and that you can adjust the sensitivity of the motion sensor—but we’ve found that the motion sensor isn’t as responsive as other lights on the market.
Because the Sunforce’s light is separate from its solar panel, you can “stick it where the sun don’t shine,” like under the carport, and use the included 9-foot wire to place the solar panel on the roof. The Sunforce flood light doesn’t have many lighting settings like the Litom, but you can decide how long the light stays on after being triggered.
Gutters are a handy place to mount downward-facing security lights, especially when those lights use a sun-hungry solar panel on top. InnoGear solar lights are designed a lot like solar-powered streetlights with a flat, 36-LED light grid on one side facing the ground and a flat solar panel on the other side facing the sky. They don’t come with a 30-foot streetlight pole, but they do come with short aluminum poles so you can extend them farther from the side of your house or shed. Or you can attach them directly to the siding like a sconce.
The design of these gutter lights makes them ideal for illuminating exterior entrances, like back doors and garage doors. Like the Litom, they have multiple modes for nighttime use, but toggling between them is a hassle since you can only use one button. Our biggest complaint is that you can’t make the brightest motion light stay on longer than about ten seconds.
Unique overhead light design
Multiple lighting modes
Aluminum mounting poles
Short motion light
More Solar-Powered Security Lights That Are Worth a Look
Like the Sunforce Triple Head, the Sunforce 80-LED lives up to the family name and ranks high on the brightness scale. It comes with customizable settings for the motion sensor sensitivity and how long the light stays on once triggered, but we recommend setting these before you mount it, because it’s tough to read the white-on-white lettering once it’s up.
It can also be tricky to get this one mounted. We recommend first taking the light off the mounting bracket and attaching it to the wall, then reattaching the light. Once it’s mounted, you can adjust this bright light’s angle vertically but not side to side.
The MAXSA solar light looks like a regular security light with two spotlight heads that adjust vertically and horizontally to cover the exact areas you want. You can adjust how long you want the light to stay on after it’s triggered, the range of the motion sensor, and how dark it has to be before the light turns on. We also like that you can adjust the angle of the motion sensor on the MAXSA, so mounting it lower on the wall still lets it detect movement from far away.
But at only 160 lumens, this light is one of the weaker ones on our list. And over time the motion sensor often collects water, so we recommend hanging it somewhere protected or adding a little extra waterproofing before you mount it.
The Mpow solar light is a cheaper cousin to the Litom light, with a similar design but not as many features. These lights are the only ones on our list with a polysilicon solar panel rather than an amorphous panel, which means they’ll hold up better over time. They’re more efficient than lights with amorphous panels, but they do require more direct sunlight.
As for weatherproofing, these lights are rated IP65 water resistant, so you don’t have to worry about them being exposed to the elements. They’re not very bright, but at about $5 a light, you can afford to buy several and put them wherever you need. We also like that the mounting screw is hidden on this design, giving it a more finished look when it’s installed.
The URPOWER LED lights strike a nice balance between brightness and energy efficiency with eight LED bulbs that shine brighter than the Mpow’s five, but they don’t suck up as much energy as the Litom’s twenty-four. These lights are only motion activated, so there’s no option to keep them on all night for periodic Sasquatch checks, but they’re also designed to last up to five years. Make sure to test every light in your pack to see if they’re working—we found that some packs came with duds.
Why does a solar light have a battery?
As the light’s solar panel sucks up energy from the sun, it has to have somewhere to store it until it gets dark, so solar lights use a rechargeable battery to bank the energy.
But just like the rechargeable battery in your phone, over time the battery in your solar light will start to deteriorate and not hold a charge very well. If you notice that your solar light isn’t staying on as long as it used to, trying putting in a fresh battery. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you get the right battery for your light.
How do I get the most range from a motion sensing light fixture?
If you want your motion sensor to detect movement farther away, place it higher up. Just like a motion sensor for a security system, you’ll want to place it as high as possible to give it the best coverage. Try to avoid putting your light under carports or other overhangs that might limit its sensing range.
Why do solar motion lights use LEDs instead of an incandescent bulb?
LEDs (light emitting diodes) need less power than incandescent bulbs, making them ideal for solar lighting applications. The smaller a solar panel is, the less power it generates, and since you don’t want to use a giant panel for a small light, LEDs and solar panels are a perfect fit. LED bulbs are also brighter and last longer than incandescent bulbs, two other features that are just right for security lights.
How bright is a lumen?
An average 60-watt incandescent bulb gives off about 800 lumens of light, but because LED lights give off a whiter light, they may appear brighter than other lights with the same lumen output.
How do I choose the best security lighting for my needs?
Security lighting can protect you from bad guys or it can protect you from yourself—or it can do both! If you’re looking for something that will scare off an intruder, choose a bright, motion-activated light that you can mount up high, preferably with a night light mode to keep it on all evening. If you’re more worried about seeing your way in the dark, smaller, less powerful lights should serve you just fine. Mount them along fences, railings, and walkways to light up your path at night.
How We Chose the Best Solar-Powered Security Lights
We researched the top solar-powered security lights on the market and studied the pros and cons of each to narrow down our list to the best of the best. To understand how we rank and review products, visit our methodologypage. To find out more about how to beef up the outdoor security around your home, check out our guide to the Best Outdoor Security Cameras.
Written by Kasey Tross
Kasey is a trained Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member and a freelance writer with expertise in emergency preparedness and security. As the mother of four kids, including two teens, Kasey knows the safety concerns parents face as they raise tech-savvy kids in a connected world, and she loves to research the latest security options for her own family and for SafeWise readers. Learn more