Here’s the Skinny on Solar Christmas Lights

Solar Christmas lights in the Frontgate catalogImage: Frontgate

They’re low-hassle (and free to use!) but not always so bright.

In the last few years, energy-efficient LED holiday lights have largely replaced more wattage-thirsty incandescent strings, resulting in significant savings — LED lights use 50% less energy than their incandescent predecessors, and they last up to 10 times longer as well.

Now there’s solar Christmas lights that promise grid-free festive lighting. Should you switch? Here’s how to know:

Solar Lights Set Up Easy

A string of solar Christmas lights uses a small solar panel for power; there are no extension cords that must be plugged into outlets.

The panel — about the size of a hockey puck — powers rechargeable batteries that illuminate a 25- to 100-bulb string of LED lights.

Panels come with small stakes so you can put them in the ground, where they can take advantage of the sun. A fully-charged string of lights should glow for a few hours after the sun goes down. But if you don’t get much sun, and with the shorter days, you could see only an hour or so.

Related: Christmas Lighting Tips to Save Time and Money

Cost to Purchase Is About the Same

Pricing for solar-powered and plug-in LED holiday lights runs neck and neck. Compare purchase prices:

  • A 100-light string of miniature solar-powered LED lights costs about $10 and up.  
  • A 100-light string of miniature plug-in LED lights costs about $10 and up.

Compare costs to operate:

  • Operating a string of plug-in LED holiday lights for 300 hours — more than enough time for an entire holiday season — costs about 24 cents, using an average energy cost of 12 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).
  • Solar-powered Christmas lights, of course, don’t cost anything to operate. That means you’re saving 24 cents per year in energy costs.

3 Other Advantages Solar Lights Have

  • Withstand cold temperatures and precipitation
  • Zero cost to operate
  • Green option

2 Disadvantages Solar Christmas Lights Have

  • May not operate under cloudy skies
  • Unproven longevity (too new on the market for reliable results)

Related: LED Holiday Lights: 6 Need-to-Know Tips