Now that the main source of shade in our yard, a large water oak, has died and been taken down we have a lot more sunshine hitting our back deck. The increased sunshine in a mixed blessing in that it’s going to make our deck hotter but it will allow us to play with some solar powered gadgets!
Solar Powered Lights For Our Deck
The first items we explored were solar powered lights that fit over the 4×4 posts that hold up our deck railing. Ever since we put up the deck rail people have been telling us that we needed to put caps on top of the posts. Apparently the caps will prevent rain from soaking into the grain of the wood and the posts will last longer.
I tried a few standard post caps but wasn’t impressed with how they looked. But hey, not that we have some sunlight a whole other option, solar powered, came into play!
How To Choose The Best Deck Post Lights
The basic design for all of these lights is just about the same. A solar cell collects sunlight during the day and uses the energy to charge a battery. As soon as the solar cell stops sensing sufficient sunlight (at dusk), the battery begins to power an LED light in the unit.
Typically the battery is able to power the light for about eight hours assuming there was enough sunlight during the day to fully charge the battery.
All of the different models are made in the same Chinese factories and have equivalent quality levels. The trick isn’t to getting the best deck lights isn’t finding the best quality lights, it is in figuring out what you actually want in the first place. The two biggest factors to consider are Brightness and Design.
The brightness of a light is measured in units called Lumens with higher numbers being used for brighter lights.
If you want your deck lights to provide gentle accent lighting then you are going to want a light with low Lumens.
If you want your deck lights to help you see what is happening on the deck, or perhaps provide lighting to safely navigate a tricky set of steps, then you are going to want a light with high Lumens.
There is no right or wrong answer for brightness. Either you want it dim or bright.
The “Industry Standard” for solar deck lights is 1.2 Lumens which is pretty dim. The Lumen rating is typically given on the box. If you can’t find the Lumen rating then you should probably assume that it is the industry standard 1.2
We tried out two different lights, a 3 Lumen and a 7 Lumen, to see the difference in lighting power.
Here is how the lights looked at dusk. The 3 Lumen light is on the left and the 7 Lumen light is on the right. The 7 Lumen light was brighter but not dramatically so. Both models put out plenty of light but I would still call them “accent lights” instead of “high visibility lights”.
We wanted accent lights so we are sticking with the 7 Lumen model (more on that below). If you want your deck lights to provide much stronger lighting then I have seen models on Amazon with a 15 Lumen rating.
Here is where things get real hard. You can get these lights with a copper top and base, black plastic, white plastic, high profile, low profile, etc.
I really liked the look of the light with the copper top and copper base, especially after it got soaked by my sprinkler system. I think the look is classic.
My wife prefers the higher contrast black plastic light. She thinks it looks nicer because it doesn’t just blend in with the post like to copper version.
I have no idea which one we are going to go with yet…I’ll leave them both up for a week or two and see which one grows on us the most.
Here are a few of the more popular designs available on Amazon.