The idea of solar lanterns is popular for obvious reasons. Who doesn’t love the idea of a great looking home decoration to add perfect ambient lighting in the evening? If those lanterns aren’t a drain on your power bill and don’t require unsightly wires, then all the better, right?
But are solar lanterns purely decorative or are they designed to be full-time outdoor decor?
Solar lanterns are designed for outdoor use, so yes, they are waterproof up to an industry standard IP65 waterproof rating which means that they are good for all-weather long-term outdoor use, but should not be completely submerged. Like any other outdoor lamps solar lanterns are waterproof and built to hold up to inclement weather.
There are some very cheap and clearly inferior designed solar lanterns out there, but as long as you don’t cheap out on some nameless, brandless dropship then you are likely in very good shape. So how do you tell the difference between the two?
The good news is there are actually some very easy ways to understand how water resistant or waterproof your solar lantern is and to pick the great ones over the dregs.
Wait Are Solar Lamps Waterproof or Water Resistant? What’s the Difference?
There is a big difference between ratings for outdoor gear known as “waterproof” versus “water resistant,” and it’s worth understanding that difference. In all likelihood while you’ve been doing your research you’ve probably seen the same model of solar lantern labeled as both.
So what’s the deal?
This is generally (mostly) not a case of underhanded marketing or stretching the truth but more of a comparison of technical ranking versus practical meaning.
An outdoor lantern is designed to be just that: something that works outdoors. And as with many other pieces of solar gear, the best solar lanterns are built as good or better than the general standard lawn lantern that isn’t solar in nature.
Waterproof Vs. Water Resistant
So what’s the difference between waterproof and water resistant?
When it comes to outdoor gear water resistant means that it is resistant to heavy water exposure. This means splashing or spilling water on it won’t damage anything. Heavy rains shouldn’t damage anything. The water is repelled away.
Waterproof means it is 100% waterproof to the point of submergence. So if you submerge it underwater for extended periods of time that it stays dry, takes no damage, or otherwise is even designed to function underwater.
A basic rule of thumb that isn’t 100% accurate but gives some pretty good guidelines for telling the two apart: water resistant is waterproof as long as you don’t dunk it or submerge it.
Because of this when someone asks if something is waterproof whether it’s a lawn lantern, an outdoor backpack, or a new pair of boots, from a practical standpoint the answer is usually yes. But from a technical standpoint, it’s water resistant.
That’s the difference between the two.
IP65 Waterproof Rating
The rating you’re looking for in a good solar lawn lantern is IP65. What is the IP65 rating?
These LED ratings tell you just how resistant to water something is. An IP65 rating means it is protected from streams of water at every angle. So sprinklers, heavy rain, spraying a hose, none of these things should be a threat to anything with an I65 rating.
This also means not to submerge them because the sealings are not tight enough to be waterproof and keep water out from sensitive electronics in the interior of the light.
What About Major Storms?
As long as the lanterns you pick are well made and have that IP65 rating (which all the top quality solar lanterns have) then they can resist the water of major storms.
The bigger concern in this case is looking at the design and location of your lights and thinking about things like severe winds, branches falling, or debris being picked up by heavy winds. If you have lamps set up in an area that could be flash flooded, those need to be brought in, as well.
With major storms the potential damage to solar lawn lanterns isn’t from the actual water but from wind, debris, and other damage.
In the same way you’d board down before a hurricane, you need to keep solar lanterns in the same category. However for normal storms, even big thunderstorms, you are almost certainly fine!
So Can Solar Lanterns Get Wet?
As long as your solar lanterns aren’t submerged some rain isn’t going to hurt anything. In fact, rain can be beneficial to solar lanterns. This is because it washes away dust, danger, pollen, and other dirt that can get on the panels, making them less efficient at getting energy from sunlight.
There’s a reason solar works with a panel-battery system. This is how the lights work at night. Given enough really dark or stormy days in a row it can push things, but solar power has come a long way.
So yes, not only can your solar lanterns get wet but this is a great way to make sure they are clean to gather the largest amount of power possible.
Will Snowy Winter Weather Damage Solar Lamps?
This is a tricky one. By itself, no. Snow is not a major issue UNLESS you get five feet or six feet of snow, at which case if your lamps are totally encased, that means they can be soaked when the snow melts. That’s a problem because that mimics submerging the lanterns in which case they could be damaged.
Of course design matters there. If your solar lanterns are hanging from a hook on the ceiling of a porch or a deck beam, then you’re fine.
Another potential issue is cold. This might not be a big issue in most places, but if you live in an ultra cold area or get hit by an Arctic blast then you may want to bring the lamps in for the winter. Most electronics and lights weren’t designed to function at -20 or -30 or, going back to my Fairbanks Alaska days, -40.
So take a careful look at your situation. You may find that the solar lanterns you were looking at are perfectly fine for your winter climate, but you bring them in during the most extreme instances of a really bad winter.
Is There a Top Solar Lantern? – Recommendations
This is a tough question to answer because a lot of it, once you cull the list down to the few top names/brands in the solar lantern space, depends on aesthetics and where they fit in with your front yard and backyard decor. Solar yard lanterns come in a variety of looks and setups.
Honestly unlike something like solar fire starters, you actually have an abundance of riches to choose from when it comes to water resistant outdoor solar lanterns. I have a couple I have used or seen first hand that I think the world of based on my first hand experiences.
I needed to ask around for suggestions on some others. I won’t go too far into it but the four outdoor solar lanterns or lights I’m comfortable with recommending:
- Balhvit Glass Solar Lights – Beautiful on the ground traditional yard lights that look really good, give great ambient light, and hold up in bad weather. This is a name for solar lanterns that came up a couple times when I called around. Excellent reputation online to boot.
- Maggift Hanging Solar Lights – I absolutely adore these hanging solar lanterns. They are old school design from iron and plastic with a white finish to replicate the old artistic decorative lantern looks. They look amazing and we’ve never had any issues. These hanging solar lanterns give a classic but beautiful old school look.
- Classy Flameless Candle Solar Outdoor Garden Lanterns – A modern take on the classic candle lantern, I absolutely adore how these look. I haven’t been able to use them in person (yet) but these are the highest rated solar garden lanterns with this design out there. And they look good and perform well, so definitely worth a shot.
- Upook Solar String Lights – If you prefer string lights to the conventional garden lantern then these are ones that the most people I’ve talked to have used and seem happy with.
This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means but it is a solid list of options for outdoor solar lighting that will hold up to rainy and stormy weather.
So What’s The Verdict?
Solar lanterns are designed for outdoor use, and they’re not going to hold up well if they short out every time there’s rain in the neighborhood, right? Fortunately, solar lights are very well created and they hold up to real world weather and conditions the same way as other non-solar lanterns and garden lights.
These are some outstanding solar lanterns out there and you can shop knowing that with a little bit of knowledge from this article your sun powered solar lanterns will handle whatever the weather can throw at you.