By Glenda Taylor | Updated Dec 8, 2023 12:17 PM
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Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila
It’s well known that a bright light deters would-be thieves and ne’er-do-wells, but home dwellers either had to have wiring experience or pay a professional electrician to install outdoor lights until the advent of solar-powered lighting. Today’s solar flood lights open up a whole new world of illumination—they’re affordable, powerful, and many are a snap to install.
In the past few years, the solar flood light market has exploded, with manufacturers offering brighter lights in smaller packages. So I tested some of the top brands to see which ones lived up to their reputations.
The best solar flood lights for your home will depend on the size of the area you want to illuminate and whether you want the lights to remain on or if you prefer they come on only when motion is detected. Ahead, learn what else to consider when shopping for solar flood lights, discover the results of my hands-on tests, and find out why the following models all earned a place in this lineup.
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila
When selecting the best solar flood lights, there are a few basic things that savvy shoppers think about. According to Dara Greaney, the CEO and founder of LEDLightExpert.com with 8 years of experience as an LED light expert in San Diego County, California, says shoppers should “consider how they are going to mount the light and what they want the light for. Customers also have to choose between dusk to dawn settings, motion sensors, or using a remote.” He also adds, “the more lumens a product has, the better.”
I was also looking for a number of other factors that indicated quality when testing solar flood lights. I carefully inspected each light right out of the package to determine whether it contained durable materials and to see if it was well made. Each was rated on a scale of 0 to 4, with 4 being the best rating.
The testing process involved mounting the lights on a non-moving object, such as a building or a tree, and noting how easy it was to install. Again, points were given for straightforward installation and whether all of the supplies needed for installation were included in the package.
After the lights were mounted, I tested their various modes—some were strictly dusk-to-dawn models while others featured motion detection. Some were adaptable to either. I noted when the dusk-to-dawn models came on after dark. I tested those with motion sensors by seeing how close I needed to get before the sensors detected my presence and came on.
I recorded how long it took for the lights’ rechargeable batteries to run out, and I tested all additional functions, including the use of remote controls and on-light adjustments. While solar flood lights are not complex items, they do vary quite a bit in intensity and design. During testing, we experienced sleet and a snowstorm that left the lights covered in a thin layer of ice for almost 48 hours, so I could see whether the inclement weather impacted their performance.
After testing, I added up the points for each light and then determined the individual awards depending on their strongest points. Along with their positive aspects, I noted their downsides so our readers could make a well-informed buying choice.
The following models had to meet very high standards to qualify for a spot in this lineup of the best solar flood lights. I installed each light—mounting it in a spot where I thought it was well suited, depending on style, brightness, and beam angle. I recorded the time of evening when it came on (dusk-to-dawn models) and noted its motion-detection abilities, among other tests. Each light received points, and those products with the most points at the end of the testing phase earned a well-deserved place among this list of the best solar flood lights.
The Westinghouse solar flood light emits a 1,000-lumen bright light at a 120-degree angle when it detects motion within about 20 feet of its sensor. Once triggered by motion, the light stays on for 30 seconds before turning back off. The Westinghouse flood light features a built-in 2,000 mAh lithium-ion battery. I was able to mount the light under an eave on the east side of a garage and install the solar panel (via a 9-foot cord) on the south of the garage. The long cord allowed me to put the light where I wanted it—not just on the sunny side of the garage.
This light comes with an IPX4 moisture rating—a rating usually reserved for flashlights to indicate that they will withstand an occasional splash of water without suffering damage. This means the flood light will stand up to some rain and snow but to be on the safe side, I installed it under the eave for added protection.
Right after sunset, I walked past the light, and it came on. It remained on while I walked nearby, but it shut off about 30 seconds after I moved out of range. While it didn’t have quite the illumination range as some of the other lights, it does provide about 30 feet of bright white and clear light. We got a snow/sleet storm during the weeks I was testing the solar lights, and this Westinghouse light was covered in a thin layer of ice for a couple of days. After the ice melted away, it still performed well.
Get the Westinghouse solar flood light at Amazon.
It’s not necessary to spend a lot to take advantage of the peace of mind that a flood light provides. The Nacinic LED solar flood light turned on when I was about 15 feet from its sensor when set in motion-detection mode. I also tested it in dusk-to-dawn mode at full intensity and then in dimmable intensity that lights up to full intensity when it senses motion but then dims after 20 seconds to low intensity. In full-intensity, dusk-to-dawn mode, the Nacinic light stayed on for only 4 hours because the high-intensity light quickly depleted the rechargeable battery. I preferred the low-intensity, motion-detection mode because the battery lasted all through the night.
The Nacinic flood light features a 2,200 mAh lithium-ion battery. Its 288 LEDs cast 650 lumens of bright light at a wide 270-degree angle. The flood light comes in a two-pack, and each light features an IP rating of 65, meaning it is completely dust-tight and will resist damage from jets of water, such as being sprayed with a garden hose or being in the path of an impact sprinkler. It withstood sleet and ice, and didn’t seem negatively affected.
Those who are looking for a budget-friendly flood light solution may want to consider this Nacinic solar light. It offers the longest security (timewise) if it’s in low-intensity, motion-detection mode.
Get the Nacinic solar flood lights at Amazon.
With 24,000 lumens to draw from, the Werise 400-watt solar street light offers plenty of light for larger areas. I was impressed by the quality of the light and the two solar panels that power it. However, be aware that this light must either be installed on a tall flagpole—or, as I installed it—at the tip of the wall, so the panels sit higher than the roofline. The configuration of the solar panels requires clearance that can’t be accomplished by installing it lower on a wall.
This is a bright light, and I found it easily lit an area up to 75 feet away—quite an accomplishment! It’s a dusk-to-dawn light, and when it comes on—prepare for a flash of brilliance. But, this high light intensity drains the powerful batteries within a few hours. For that reason, I used the included remote to turn it on when I wanted to light up the area and then turned it back off. After a sunny day, the Werise light stayed lit for nearly 4 hours on the high intensity setting. It comes with the option of switching to a dimmer mode, and in that mode, it never went out. Even after a couple of cloudy days, the light continued to work in the dimmer mode.
The light also weathered an ice and sleet storm and kept working fine. Some assembly must be done to configure the solar panels, but it’s not too complex.
Get the Werise solar light at Walmart.
With 216 LEDs on a front panel and two adjustable side panels, the TBI Security Solar Light offers a wide range of illumination. I was able to adjust the direction of the lights to illuminate a 180-degree angle by rotating and tilting its three light heads. The manufacturer says the panels are adjustable to 355 degrees, but the greatest degree of directional illumination realistically available is about 270 degrees—and that’s only if the light is installed on the corner of a building. Otherwise, the building itself will block the light.
I was impressed by the light’s motion sensor—it picked up my movement from about 38 feet away. It has a powerful 2,200-mAh lithium-ion battery and features 2,200 lumens of intensity. It isn’t a super-bright light, but it’s sufficient for seeing while walking at night and it illuminates to about 40 feet away.
The TBI light is rated IP65 to lock out dust and to withstand occasional rain—though the snow and sleet storm didn’t adversely affect it. It worked just as well after the storm as it did before.
Once triggered by motion, the TBI flood light remained on for about 30 seconds after I moved out of range of the sensor. As long as I was moving within range, it remained on. A slight downside is that areas of darkness were apparent between the light beams if I adjusted the sidelights outward more than 45 degrees. This wasn’t a disadvantage for me, as I set the main light on the center of the patio and positioned each of the sidelights toward two side gates. However, for someone who wants a solid field of illumination, this could be a small disadvantage.
Get the TBI solar lights at Amazon, Walmart, or Newegg.
The RuoKid solar flood light comes with a large solar panel to catch and store as much solar energy as possible in its lithium-ion phosphate battery. It’s designed to be mounted on a wall or a tall pole, and it comes with a metal pole and a bracket. With a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight, this dusk-to-dawn flood light remained lit up all night long. However, after a heavily overcast day, it only remained lit for about 5 hours.
The flood light emits 1,500 lumens of light, so it’s an ideal choice for adding soft illumination to large areas such as entire driveways. It’s not streetlight-bright, but it’s suitable for seeing to a distance of about 50 feet. With the included remote control, I was able to turn off the light or pre-program it to go off after 2 or 5 hours. The light is rated IP67, making it among the most watertight of our picks—it is impervious to dust and it will withstand powerful jets of water.
I mounted this on a tall pole, but it could also be mounted to the side of a house where it can receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
Get the RuoKid solar flood light at Amazon or Walmart.
Each of the small Urpower solar flood lights offers 800 lumens of warm, bright light—and when installed in the same general vicinity, such as a patio or a walkway, they create ample illumination.
I installed each of the four Urpower lights on trees near a small playground. When I walked within about 20 feet of the lights, they lit up and remained on as long as I was still moving in the area—eventually turning off about 30 minutes after I moved out of range. The width of the light beam from each light is about 100 degrees, so I got the best overall illumination by grouping them near one another—about 15 feet apart.
The Urpower lights don’t come with many bells and whistles, but they’re well made and quite bright for their size. When all four lights are on, they collectively throw 3,200 lumens of light. They suffered no problems after the snow and sleet storm, and when they were tested in the morning before dawn, they lit up just as brightly as the night before.
Get the Urpower solar lights at Amazon or Walmart.
The wide, circular light from the eLEDing overhead solar flood light clearly illuminates the ground below, unlike some solar lights that are prone to shining outward but not lighting up the area directly beneath the light.
This dusk-to-dawn light turned out to be one of my favorites because it didn’t shine light in my eyes from where I installed it—above the door of a garden shed. It provides 500 lumens of white light, which is sufficient for lighting up the area of about 25 feet in a semicircular pattern. A frosted light cover helps soften the light—making it more of a white glow than a harsh beam. I found it well suited for installation over garage doors, side-entry doors, or even on a wall or a tall fence overlooking a path.
The eLEDing light offers a combination of modes—it can be set to come on at dusk and stay on, or it can be set to light up only when it detects motion. I found it worked best when set to motion detection because the battery ran out in less than 4 hours on the dusk-to-dawn mode. The eLEDing light turned on when it detected motion about 15 feet away and stayed on for about 30 seconds after I moved out of range. The light comes with an IP65 rating, and it was not affected by the snow and sleet storm we experienced.
Get the eLEDing solar flood light at The Home Depot, Amazon, or Wayfair.
The directional heads on the Otdair solar flood lights allowed me to illuminate a sidewalk about 35 feet long from end to end by spacing the two lights evenly on the wall nearby. While 550 lumens isn’t super-bright, when the heads of the lights were directed to illuminate the sidewalk, it was easy to see where I was walking. I was able to adjust the heads upward or downward to direct the light.
These are motion-detection-only lights, making them well suited for both security and illuminating nighttime areas for safety purposes. When I was about 25 feet away, each light turned on and stayed on for about 30 seconds after I walked out of range.
The lights install easily with screws, and they have an IP65 rating—they were not damaged by a snow and sleet storm.
When tested in the morning before dawn, both lights still detected motion and lit up.
Get the Otdair solar lights at Walmart.
The Tin Sum Solar Energy flood light is advertised as being 24,000 lumens but compared to the other lights I tested, I’d estimate it’s closer to about 4,500 lumens. Still, it’s a nice light that comes on when the sun sets and stays on until the rechargeable battery is depleted. It never remained on until dawn for me, but it did stay on for 6 hours following a sunny day when it received a full charge.
I installed the flood light on a tree overlooking my dogs’ play yard entrance, and I had no problem seeing the gate clearly at night from a window in the house—about 150 feet away. Before, however, I had to carry a flashlight when taking the dogs out and bringing them back in—with the Tin Sum Solar Energy flood light, I didn’t need to carry any additional light.
I found the best way (for me) to use the light was to turn it on and off via the included remote control. I would switch it on as I went to the play yard and leave it on while the dogs were in the yard. I would switch it back off when we went indoors. I had to be within about 20 feet of the sensor for the remote to work. The light is rated IP67, and it withstood the snow and sleet storm we had without any problems.
Get the Tim Sun Solar Energy flood light at Amazon.
Once installed, solar flood lights don’t cost a dime to operate—their built-in solar panels gather energy from the sun and store it in their internal batteries until nighttime. Solar flood lights can be installed just about anywhere, although they’ll provide the brightest light if they’re located in direct sunshine during the day. Before selecting solar lights for your property, consider the following.
The intensity of lights is measured in lumens and the higher the lumens, the brighter the light will be. For comparison, a standard 100-watt incandescent bulb (which is no longer sold) produces about 1,600 lumens, while an indoor night-light produces about 20 lumens. Most solar flood lights will state the lumens in the product’s description.
The breadth of the beam also plays a role in the light’s overall brightness: the narrower the beam of light, the brighter it will seem. Flood lights typically cast light over a 50- to 280-degree arc outward from the light itself, so a light can illuminate a narrow walkway or light up an entire backyard.
As Greaney suggests, solar flood lights should “be used primarily for safety and should be placed in areas with no access to power. Some of these areas may include second entrances, by trash cans, parking lots, any area basically that is a security concern.” Though most solar flood lights are most likely being used for keeping residential areas safe, “solar lights can also help customers and employees get to their cars safely.”
Dusk-to-dawn flood lights come on when the sun sets in the evening, and they stay on all night, or until their internal battery charge is depleted. They are an excellent option for those who want to illuminate a property with continuous light.
The downside of dawn-to-dusk solar lights is if the previous day was overcast or rainy, their batteries may not charge to maximum capacity. If this happens, the flood light may stay on only a few hours before it dims and goes out.
Motion-detection flood lights turn on only when they sense motion, and they remain on for a predetermined amount of time, usually 20 to 30 seconds, before turning back off. Because motion-detection lighting uses less battery power, it is more likely to function all night long.
Solar flood lights come with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that charge with daylight and use the stored energy at night to power the lights. The batteries are built in and are rated by their capacity in milliamp-hours (mAh).
The higher the rating, the larger the battery’s capacity. Most solar flood lights come with ratings ranging from around 2,000 mAh to 3,600 mAh.
Solar flood lights require ample sunlight to charge, usually 6 to 8 hours for a full charge. Once charged, the battery will power the light for 3 to 8 hours, depending on whether the flood light runs continuously or turns on only when it detects motion. Dusk-to-dawn solar lights require large-capacity batteries.
They also usually have oversize solar panels, which enable them to draw and store as much solar energy as possible during the day so they can remain on all night long.
Virtually all of today’s solar flood lights feature bright light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that cast intense light beams without heating up or drawing a lot of power. This is why LEDs are a perfect choice for providing intense security light.
The extent to which an outdoor light resists damage from debris and moisture is known as its ingress protection (IP) rating, which is a two-digit number.
Solar flood lights are still relatively new to the outdoor lighting market. Still, with constant advances in LED technology, they offer a convenient alternative to hardwired flood lights, and you can install them virtually anywhere the sun shines. If this is your first time shopping for a solar flood light, you likely have some questions.
The brightest solar flood light in this lineup is the Werise solar light, which provides a very bright 24,000 lumens of pure white light.
A solar flood light’s useful life will vary based on the quality of its construction and the conditions it’s exposed to, but on average, most users should be able to get 50,000 hours of light out of a high-quality solar flood light.
Install the light where it still receives direct sun rays but where it’s protected from the harshest weather, such as in a sheltered spot under a roof eave. You’re better off investing in a high-quality light rather than trying to prolong the life of a cheaply built version. In addition, if the light offers motion-detection mode, by using that mode, it will only light up when someone comes within range, which will keep the battery from running down.
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Glenda Taylor is a product tester and writer specializing in the construction, remodeling, and real estate industries. She and her husband own a general contracting company, and Taylor is experienced in both residential and commercial building applications. She tests a wide range of power tools as well as other home improvement, household, and lawn-and-garden products.
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