Solar vs battery garden lights - everything you need to know

We speak to the experts to find out which is the better choice for you and your garden

Roof terrace covered with faux candles, lanterns and festoon lighting
(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

Outdoor lighting is typically a fun thing to plan and buy for, but when it comes to solar vs battery garden lights how do you know which is the right option for you?

Most of us have probably used one or both types of garden lighting in our outdoor areas, but it can be hard to tell how they really measure up against one another. To make things a little simpler and cut down on all the jargon, we headed straight to the experts to find out what actually differentiates these two types of illumination so that you can make the right choice for your space.

 After all, lighting can make a huge difference in a garden. 'Lighting is a perfect tool to bring interest and life to your garden when the nights draw in,' notes Dan Domeniconi, Founder of interior design consultancy Dome Design.

'Highlight selective planting to create sculptural shapes;  create a focal point by lighting a wall or garden pond;  or create a magical feature by lighting up a pathway or driveway,  guiding the eye as well as practically guiding you along a route.'

Solar vs battery garden lights

Garden with lanterns around outdoor living ares

(Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee)

Before we can compare the two styles of lighting it's helpful to clarify what we mean when talking about solar vs battery garden lights. 'It's important to remember that all lights are powered by a battery - but solar lights are able to recharge that battery using the sun's power,' explains Francesca Hadland, Interiors Expert for outdoor furniture company Bridgman.

So when we talk about battery powered lighting we're looking those that use traditional batteries or rechargeable batteries. The other main type of outdoor lighting is the mains, but how to choose mains powered exterior lighting is a topic for another day...

What are the advantages of solar powered garden lights?

Weatherproof lightbulbs hanging from tree in garden

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

When it comes to solar vs battery garden lights, knowing their advantages  is a useful place to begin. 

'Solar lights are easy to move with integrated solar modules powered by renewable solar energy,' says Francesca from Bridgman Consequently, the lights are free from messy wires, offering more creative freedom to integrate luxury solar lighting into the art of landscape design.'

The green credentials of this lighting is a bonus, too. 'Solar powered lights are more environmentally friendly compared to mains or battery powered garden lights, as the batteries are charged by a natural source of sunlight,' adds Claire from Bassett, Senior Product Manager, Lights4Fun.

Can solar powered lights work without sun?

Lanterns hanging from tree in garden

(Image credit: Future PLC/Carl Hodgson)

In short, yes. 'Most solar lights can be kept outdoors in your garden during all seasons due to the thoughtfully chosen weatherproof materials and powder coating protection,' elaborates Richard, Director at outdoor living specialists Harbour Lifestyle. 'They can be used in temperatures up to -20°C, and are well protected from UV rays, moisture, mould, and frost.'

'Solar lighting can be used in most weather types, too, as the sun's rays are still detectable even on cloudy days. Plus, a little drizzle is often good for solar powered pieces, as the raindrops help to remove surface dust and debris from the panel itself, allowing maximum light absorption.'

'Alternatively, most solar lights offer a USB charging option - so if the weather truly is dire, you have an alternative option to keep your spaces well lit.'

 What are the advantages of battery powered garden lights?

Garden light sitting on outdoor table

(Image credit: Harbour Lifestyle)

And for battery powered team of solar vs battery garden lights have their own positives to offer for lawns and patio lighting alike. 'Battery powered garden lights allow you to light up any part of your garden, even hard to reach places, as there is no need for access to a power socket or direct sunlight to charge a solar panel,' says Claire from Lights4Fun. 

'Most outdoor battery lights are fitted with an optional timer function which you can select for automatic illumination each evening, simply place the lights anywhere of your choice to magically brighten your outdoor space throughout the seasons.'

Which is more expensive to buy - solar or battery powered lights?

Garden with pathway lined by lit up trees

(Image credit: Future PLC/Alun Callender)

This is a how long is a piece of string moment. On average, battery powered lights do tend to be a cheaper to purchase, making them a better budget garden idea initially, but the cost can vary widely depending on a number of factors.

'It depends on the product, number of LEDs, materials used and battery capacity within the product,' explains Claire from Lights4Fun.

Are solar or battery garden lights cheaper to run?

Roof terrace covered with faux candles, lanterns and festoon lighting

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

This could be a make or break when debating between solar vs battery garden lights. After all, as we all know, a product that's expensive to use simply won't end up getting used as much. Solar lights, using the sun's rays is the more cost effective option.

'Once the product is purchased, a solar powered item has a lower cost to run due to sunlight powering the batteries,' adds Claire from Lights4Fun. 'Buying replacement batteries for a battery powered item will require additional expenditure.'

Our final thoughts on solar vs battery garden lights

Corner of garden with decking, lanterns, faux candles and fairy lights

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

So, where do we stand when it comes to tallying up solar vs battery garden lights? As with most things, it will come down to personal preference, and you should find a light which suits you, your garden and your style.

However, without the need for replacement batteries, solar powered lights may have just tipped the edge in their favour. Whichever you opt for, enjoy finding fun and unique ways to light your garden so you can use it year round.

Thea Babington-Stitt
Assistant Editor

Thea Babington-Stitt is the Assistant Editor for Ideal Home. Thea has been working across some of the UK’s leading interiors titles for nearly 10 years. 

She started working on these magazines and websites after graduating from City University London with a Masters in Magazine Journalism. Before moving to Ideal Home, Thea was News and Features Editor at Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc and Country Homes & Interiors.