We’ve been independently researching and testing products for over 120 years. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more about our review process.
Say goodbye to that December electric bill spike! S-Jet Solar Wire
When December rolls around — alright, for some it's as soon as that Thanksgiving turkey is picked clean — it's time to decorate for the holidays. And if you're stepping up your festive outdoor game, step one is probably outdoor Christmas lights. You can hang them around trees, windows, bushes or any other part of your home that you want to brighten up and give that warm glow. And while traditional Christmas lights are great, especially for decorating your Christmas tree, you still do need to plug them into an outlet, which not everyone has outside. Nor does everyone want to run an extremely long extension cord from the inside to the outside just to turn on lights. That's why solar Christmas lights are a great alternative — plus, they'll save you some money on your electricity bill!
The Good Housekeeping Institute has tested all sorts of solar gadgets, including solar phone chargers not to mention holiday gear like artificial Christmas trees. To test solar Christmas lights, we used the darkroom in our Lab to simulate daylight and nighttime conditions in order to determine how effective each set of light was. We also evaluate how easy it is to set them up, how easy the controls are to change the settings, how bright the lights are and how well-built they are. Ultimately, we set out to find solar-powered lights that work well, produce bright lights that hold a strong charge and are built well enough to last multiple seasons.
Continue reading to see our solar Christmas light picks, all rated for outdoor use. After our picks, you can learn more about how we test solar Christmas lights. And while you're in the holiday decorating spirit, check out our roundup of the best Christmas decorations.
The Dazzle Bright string light set topped our test thanks to its brightness and just how colorful it was. It comes with two adjustable solar panels that you can stake into the ground and two sets of string LED lights. Each string holds 120 multi-colored lights on a flexible copper wire so you can adjust the shape to your choosing. We especially like this set because the clear string was less noticeable, making the lights pop more.
The controls are located conveniently on the back of the solar panel. The mode button switches among eight different lighting variations including steady on, flashing, waving and more. Our lead tester noted that it's important to remember to turn the panel on during the day to collect a charge. The lights automatically turn on and off depending on how much light they detect, so it's important to place the solar panel with its light sensor in direct sunlight.
These Brightown LED string lights can be purchased in solid colors or multi-color, so they are a one-stop shop for your design needs. At a length of 33 feet with 100 bulbs, it's ideal for smaller projects like around doors, as opposed to full fences or lines of landscaping. According to Brightown, the lights can work up to 10 hours after 4 to 6 hours of charging by sunlight.
With a claimed IP65 rating, they should be capable of resisting impact from the elements like dirt and water. That means even when it rains or snows, these should still work well so long as there is sunlight to charge it — just make sure your solar panels aren't obscured by snow!
Like our top pick, it has eight different modes to choose from, and you can readily cycle through them with a click of a button on the back of the solar panel. The solar panel contains a light sensor, so your lights will automatically turn on once it gets dark. In our tests, we found these lights easy to operate, and they were able to provide ample brightness once charged.
These string lights from Lalapao are 72 ft long, with a total of 200 LEDs per string. If that amount isn't enough for you, buy the two-pack, doubling the amount you can do with these lights. They are available in multiple color variations, from solid colors to multi-colored and even red, white and blue if you want to decorate for 4th of July.
The brand claims these can work up to 10 hours or more when fully charged. When we tested, it took about one hour of sunlight before the lights would turn on. The auto-on feature means the lights turn on as soon as we switched the sunlight off in our test. If you want to make your lights dance, there are eight different modes you can choose to have the lights flash in certain ways. The lights are IP65 rated, meaning they are built to be resistant against water and dirt.
These outdoor string lights come with 200 LED lights on a string line that is 72 feet long. This allows you to wrap it around trees and fences easily. These can be purchased either as a solid color or a multi-colored set of lights. The solar panel itself comes with a ground stake that helps to keep it firmly in place. The lead cable (length between the first LED light and the solar panel) is around 6 feet long, which allows you to keep the solar panel out of the way of your decor.
The controls to turn the lights on/off and the mode-changing button are located on the back of the solar panel. Like most others on this list, there are eight different modes to make the lights sparkle in different ways.
Unlike other picks, they offer a 12-month warranty according to Amazon, stating they'll either refund or replace a defective product. The charging time for the 8- to 12-hour working time is 6 to 8 hours, so it's good to have them on several hours before nightfall. A light sensor controls the auto-on at dark and auto-off when there is sunlight.
Like many others on this list, we appreciate that this set of lights by Vmanoo is available in multiple color options and in a set of two. Each string is 72 feet long with 200 LED lights per string. There is a 6-foot distance between the solar panel and the start of the lights so you can place the panel in an ideal sun-lathering spot.
The controls are on the back of the solar panel, allowing you to adjust between eight different light modes. These lights also have a memory function, so if the lights turn off, they will turn back on to the exact same mode. Our engineers appreciated that there is a USB plug charger that you can swap for the solar panel in case there is limited light, adding to the versatility of this set. These have an IP rating of IP65, which means these lights are designed to be dust- and water-resistant.
These Joomer lights will charge during the day as long as there's sun and then can be used overnight using the solar charge. According to the brand, they take about 6 to 8 hours to fully charge. While you can purchase these lights at 72 feet long and with 200 LEDs, you can also opt fot a shorter 100-LED option that's 39 feet long, or you can go all out and purchase the 300-LED option that's 105 feet long! Each set of lights comes with a solar panel and a ground stake with controls located on the back of the solar panel.
When the solar panel is switched on, the charging begins. A light sensor determines when it's dark enough to automatically turn the lights on. There are eight different lighting modes that flash in different ways to give the aesthetic that you want. Our pros like that it has a memory function, so if you have it on a specific mode and turn it off, it will go back to that mode when it turns back on.
These teardrop-shaped lights provide a multicolored "icicle" effect, and Brightown offers other truly unique shapes as well. Each set of lights consists of 40 bulbs and 25 feet of string, and each teardrop bulb is 3 inches long. When the solar panel is on and there is sunlight available, the lights will charge. As soon as the solar panel senses there is no more light, the lights automatically turn on.
Brightown says these lights will last 8 to 10 hours overnight, perfect for nighttime Christmas decorations. These are IP65 rated, meaning they are built to be water- and dust-resistant. There are eight different lighting modes you can choose from, and modes can be changed by clicking the button on the back of the solar panel.
At the Good Housekeeping Institute, we have a special room that we can program to display specific wavelengths of light. With this equipment, we were able to simulate a day of sunlight to effectively charge up these solar-powered lights.
We then tested the continuity and strength of each string lights by removing and attempting to break the bulbs. If a light set had multiple modes, we tested each one for brightness and consistency. All of this was done in a dark room after charging in order to get an idea of how bright these lights would be at nighttime and how effective their auto-on capabilities were.
✔️ Length: Typically, the longer the light string, the more LED bulbs per set. Shorter sets are great for trimming doors and windows but if you're decorating trees or shrubs you may want to opt for the longest option available. Most brands sell multipacks of lights or several different length options.
✔️ Modes: While most solar lights have a similar number of modes, a few don't have as many options. If you want to really spice up your decorations, take a look at what flashing or pulsing modes are available.
✔️ Working Time: You want a long working time — how long the lights will stay on after a full charge. There's nothing worse than setting up great decorations only for them to turn off prematurely. Look for a working time of 8 to 10 hours if you want them to last all night.
✔️ IP Rating: Outdoor lights need to last against the elements, and an IP rating will tell you how durable your lights will be in that regard. An IP rating is a professional standard that classifies how protected electrical equipment is from external waste — practically speaking, that means dirt and water. Each rating is read as IPXX, where the first "X" represents solids, and the second "X" represents liquids. The higher the number, the more resistant it is to that matter. The numbers for solids go up to 6, and the number for liquids goes up to 9. Look for lights with IP ratings of IP65 for outdoor ruggedness designed to withstand winter weather.
Female Solar Connector Alec Scherma is a mechanical engineer whose testing experience ranges from artificial Christmas trees to binoculars. He was the lead tester of solar Christmas lights, and with the help of Rachel Rothman, Good Housekeeping's chief technologist, their combined experience provided the necessary knowledge to determine which picks in a crowded market will last the longest and light up your house the brightest.