Best Patio Lights

Updated November 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

90 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
170 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Shopping guide for best patio lights

Last Updated November 2019

When the sun goes down, candles can offer mood lighting to an outdoor space but don’t truly illuminate it. The right patio lights, on the other hand, can brighten an area as well as add a decorative touch.

Indeed, there are countless options for your outdoor lighting needs. Do you enjoy entertaining on your back deck? Then, string lights will liven up your décor. Do you mostly find yourself outside reading in your favorite comfy chair before bed? A bright outdoor-rated table lamp may be preferable to other options. If your biggest concern is to deter burglars, a combination of different lighting options may fit your requirements.

Want to learn more? Our guide will help you narrow down your patio light choices for your backyard oasis in addition to offering tips on topics such as maintenance and safety. If you’re ready to buy, consider one of our top picks. 

If there’s wiring involved, hire a professional to do the work safely.

Key considerations

Types of patio lights

When it comes to patio lights, the choices are vast, which leads to tough decisions. Here are a few popular outdoor lighting options to consider:

String lights

Add flair to your outdoor space with string lights. They come in a variety of styles, from retro Edison bulb sets to dainty fairy lights. For convenience, pick string lights with easy-to-replace bulbs. Novelty options (e.g., pineapple- or palm tree–shaped bulbs) are cute but hard to replace should they burn out. String lights typically require an outlet, but you may be able to find battery-powered LEDs that don’t need to be plugged in. Battery-powered options should not be left out in the rain, however.

Umbrella lights

Umbrella lights are an excellent way to provide overhead lighting for dinnertime gatherings. Usually solar- or battery-powered, they typically feature small bulbs and are designed to be wrapped around the spokes of a patio umbrella. A few options have lights actually built into the umbrella.

Hanging or pendant lights

If you have a gazebo, awning, or pergola, create a veritable outdoor living space with the help of hanging outdoor lights. Plug-in options are easy to install, but an involved setup may require a call to an electrician.

Retro bulbs for a warm glow

The Brightech Commercial-Grade Lights are tough outdoor lights with trendy Edison-style bulbs. The white light provides a warm glow, and there’s a handy extra bulb included just in case. While the wiring is sturdy, watch out when handling the delicate glass bulbs.

Post lights

Post lights vary from basic to decorative and are placed atop fence posts or decking posts. They’re typically solar powered, but wired options also exist. Simple caps are easy to install, but if you live in an area where earwigs are common, the inside area of the caps is an excellent hiding place for these pests.

Stake lights

These lights are usually intended for illuminating garden spaces. They’re not particularly bright but are perfect for lighting vegetation, pool areas, and pathways. If your outdoor living area is located at ground-level (as opposed to an elevated deck) place stake lights, which are usually solar powered, around for an extra glow. Be sure to avoid cheap dollar-store stake lights, as they often don’t last more than a single season.

Wall-mounted lights

Choose from sconces to heavy-duty floodlights to add lighting to your outdoor space. The type you choose depends on your needs. Wall-mounted units are usually wired, and you’ll need an electrician if there’s not already built-in wiring in the spot where you want it.

Lanterns

They’re not just perfect for adding a decorative touch to a bare patio. Solar-powered lanterns are useful for adding extra light to tabletop areas. Lanterns are available in various sizes, from miniature to extra-large models.  

EXPERT TIP

Add lights to your patio steps so people can easily see as they walk up and down.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Power source

Different styles of patio lights call for different power sources:

  • Battery-powered lights are not usually waterproof, so they’re not ideal for uncovered spaces. You’ll also need to replace the batteries from time to time.
  • Solar-powered lights are handy for areas without an outlet. But because the sun is unpredictable, they shouldn’t be the primary source of lighting on and around your patio.
  • Plug-in lights require an outlet, so check that there’s one nearby before you buy. Consider whether the outlet is easily accessible and if you will need an extension cord.
  • Hardwired options (such as wall-mounted lights) are a permanent solution for oft-used outdoor spaces. You may need a professional for installation, though, and wired units are typically pricier.

Bulb type

There are two main types of bulbs: incandescent and LED. The big difference is that incandescent bulbs use more electricity while LED lights don’t, making them good for the environment and wallet friendly, too.

When buying string lights, there are plenty of bulb shapes to choose from. Larger bulbs give off more light, while tiny fairy lights are usually more decorative than anything else.

Lighting size or length

When it comes to string lights, correctly measuring your patio space is the key to choosing the right string length; add about five feet to your measurement to be sure you have enough leeway when placing your lights.

For other types of lighting, opt for sizes that complement your space and décor. For instance, don’t stick a giant lantern on your compact patio table or choose a tiny wall sconce to light a large yard.

Bulb color and finish

If colorful lighting fits your décor, there are plenty of options, from multicolor string lights to different-colored bulbs for sconces. Don’t forget that the bulb finish affects the lighting as well: a clear bulb provides bright, direct light, while opaque filtered bulbs add a gentle glow to your patio space.

Wire color

Whether you choose a hanging pendant for your pergola or a set of string lights, selecting the correct wire color can make or break your outdoor design scheme. Standard wire colors include white, brown, black, and green. It’s best to choose one that blends in with the surroundings.

Some outlet timers have a light-sensor mode that turns on the lights as soon as it starts to get dark.

Patio light prices

Inexpensive: Under $30, you’ll find solar-powered plastic lanterns and garden stake lights in addition to 25-foot plug-in string lights. Small battery-powered LED string lights also fall into this price bracket as do low-cost solar post lights.

Mid-range: For $30 to $100, expect to find longer string lights between 50 to 100 feet. Patio umbrellas with built-in lighting can also be purchased at this price point.

Expensive: For more than $100, patio lighting options include durable wired fixtures, like high-quality wall-mounted sconces and pendants, as well as outdoor floor lamps. Don’t forget to consider the cost of an electrician should wiring need to be installed. If you have a large area to light, you’ll also need multiple fixtures, units, or string lights for adequate coverage.

EXPERT TIP

Choose the right bulb for your fixture. Pick the correct wattage if replacing a bulb. Using the wrong bulb may lead to a fire.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Not sure where to add lighting around your patio or backyard area? Try wrapping lights around tree trunks or branches to illuminate dark corners of your yard. Use string lights above your deck or hang them from your deck railing.
  • Having trouble measuring? Use a piece of string or twine to measure the area where you intend to hang string lights.
  • Use the same height rules for outside as you would inside when hanging a pendant lamp. Keep the light approximately 32 inches from the table surface. Don’t hang lighting too low, though, if it’s in a walk-through area.
  • Need an extension cord for your lighting arrangement to work? Use only outdoor-rated extension cords for outside lighting.
  • Change burnt-out bulbs promptly, and clean fixtures once in a while.
  • Store lanterns, string lights, and other detached lights away for the winter in a moisture-free area.
  • Don’t use indoor lights outside. It’s wasteful and, in some cases, it can be dangerous. Invest instead in outdoor-rated lights that will serve you from year to year. In exposed areas, opt for waterproof fixtures.

Multiple settings for any occasion

For those on a budget, the TaoTronics LED String Lights add a touch of elegance to a dull, dark patio. The wired lights are easily manipulable and include a remote that allows users to dim, flash, and strobe the lights as needed.

Other products we considered

We love the sturdy waterproof design of the Sunklly Hanging Solar Lights, which can be hung around a patio area or placed directly on a table. The four-pack of lanterns features light that flickers to mimic a real candle. The Sunlitec Solar String Lights are another waterproof option with appealing Edison-style bulbs. Multiple lighting modes are available, including pulse and flash settings. We particularly love that the lights can be charged via USB if the sun is hiding behind the clouds.

Smaller bulbs usually give off a softer glow.

FAQ

Q. Which type of patio light has the lowest power requirements?
A.
Solar-powered lighting is the cheapest because it requires no electricity. LED is another economical and eco-friendly option. Incandescent bulbs, on the other hand, require the most power.

Q. I plugged in my string lights to find that they weren’t working. Could it be because a single bulb has burned out?
A.
No, it’s not likely. It’s more likely that you have a defective set on your hands. String lights usually run on parallel circuits, so if one bulb has burned out, the rest will remain lit. If you plug your lights in and find them all dead, contact the manufacturer.

Q. Is it wasteful to leave my patio lights on 24-7?
A.
If you’re running battery-powered lights 24-7, the batteries will quickly run out of juice. For wired and plug-in lights, you’ll eat up less energy using LED bulbs, but it’s still not ideal to leave them on all day and all night. Consider a timer for your lights or purchasing bulbs with built-in photo-cell technology, which detects sunlight and shuts bulbs off when it’s bright outside. Motion sensors are useful for spaces where you require occasional lighting and want to deter burglars.

The team that worked on this review
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Writer

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