Best Outdoor Lights Without Electrical Outlet
August 12, 2018 11:59 PM   Subscribe

We recently had a pergola built in the backyard. It is awesome. Now it needs some lights. I've already put up a long string of solar powered lights (string lights) but my better half would like something that puts off some light and doesn't just look pretty.

I was thinking about an LED lantern but those put off a harsh white light if I remember correctly. Then I was thinking about a gas Coleman lantern but that seems like too much of a pain to use daily - again, it has been a very long time. Then, I started thinking about candle lanterns... What is your daily outdoor light solution for somewhere that you don't have an electrical outlet?
posted by fieldtrip to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Little solar lamps/lanterns are widely avaiable across the color spectrum these days. I'm sure you could find something you liked for relatively inexpensive. Just hop over online or go to your nearest home improvement store, they'll have a pretty wide selection. I've seen multiple options at home depot and lowes.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:53 AM on August 13, 2018

A solar powered Luci light under a lampshade or in a plastic bag or a pillowcase
posted by jointhedance at 4:01 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hue makes outdoor lights now, if that would be something you’d be interested in.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:33 AM on August 13, 2018

Unless you get a lot of direct sunlight there, nothing solar is going to put out much light and even then you need to step up to something much better than the $10-20 string lights. Even small amounts of trees can significantly decrease the efficacy of solar.

If you can find something AA battery powered, you can use rechargable batteries and just swap them out every n days.
posted by Candleman at 8:56 AM on August 13, 2018

LED string lights give a lot of light. I'd use a mix of tiny 'rice' lights with other LED string lights; I think the mix of sizes and different colors of white is pleasing. I add multi-colored strings on my deck for special events. If there's a decently sunny spot, the solar lights should work for several hours. Maybe mount a string of bigger lights if you really want more light for a party.

For reference, I take a string of solar LED lights camping, probably 50 small lights, and leave them bunched up to use for reading.
The lights will probably be a relatively permanent fixture, I use cup hooks or tacks to hang them; the plastic hooks break after not much time.
posted by theora55 at 9:36 AM on August 13, 2018

It gets gobs of sunlight so a solar solution would be exceptional (all day direct sunlight, no trees or house blocking it until about 6pm currently). I’ve just had such poor luck with the longevity of some of the solar string lights and solar yard lights I’ve had I was hesitant to go that way.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:47 AM on August 13, 2018

If you search for commercial solar light, you'll find products that will do what you want, albeit at a cost. You'll find some cheaper products at Lowe's or Home Depot that may suit your needs at a better price. Just make sure there's a fairly beefy battery and solar panel. Consider how many watts the led lights you use inside your home use. If you want comparable amounts of light, you need a battery that can provide that as well as a panel that can charge it.
posted by Candleman at 10:26 AM on August 13, 2018

If you are willing to do more work putting different components together, I’m sure you could get more brightness. Buying a solar panel, battery, and 12v string lights separately would allow you to select for brightness.

I would do it as follows:

1. Find a 12v Light string that is as bright as I want. Look for strings made
For boat or RV where available power is not an issue.

2. Get a 12 volt sealed lead acid battery large enough to power the lights for 4 hours. Or recycle a car battery as long as it is way oversized for the use. Figure out deep/cycle vs shallow cycle starting batteries.

3. Hook up a solar panel and charge controller to charge the battery. Some solar panels have this built in.

This will require a lot of internet research and math of voltage, current, watthoyrs, amp hours. There’s probably ways to do this very cheaply and ways to do It spending lots.
posted by sol at 12:24 PM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

IKEA sells solar string lights and lanterns.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:15 PM on August 14, 2018

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