Outdoor solar lights will still work in winter weather, provided you place them somewhere they can pick up enough sunlight to charge their batteries. 

Even amidst cloudiness, snow, and ice, solar lights will still give off light in winter, requiring little maintenance. Note, however, that they won’t give off as much light as they will in other seasons that are typically sunnier.

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How do outdoor solar lights work in winter?

Outdoor solar lighting works the same way in winter that they do in the summer, fall, or spring. They store solar energy, which they use to power their light.

You might have the belief that you need a completely sunny day for the solar light to pick up power, but this is not the case. 

Do outdoor solar lights run on batteries?

All outdoor solar lighting systems run by using stored solar energy to power their very own rechargeable batteries. These are not the same as disposable batteries you get at the store, though.

The solar cell (aka photovoltaic cell) conducts electricity to the batteries, so as long as the panel is picking up enough sunlight, you have “solar power”.

The reason solar lights even need batteries in the first place is to have a place to store the energy that they absorb during daylight hours.

Do outdoor solar lights work on cloudy days?

Yes, outdoor solar lights will work on cloudy days. They will even work on days that it snows and ices, as long as they are picking up the minimum amount of sunlight they need to power them.

They don’t need direct sunlight, although it is ideal and will recharge the light faster. Note that while they will work, they typically have an operating difference of 30-50% compared to sunnier seasons. 

Do outdoor solar lights work straight away?

Solar lights won’t work immediately the way an indoor light fixture or flashlight will automatically turn on. This is because it takes hours for the device to store up charge in its batteries. 

How much sunlight do solar lights need to work?

Most solar lights can give off light for up to 15 hours if it has achieved a minimum of 8 hours of direct sunlight.

Some more efficient solar lights even charge in less time – around 4-5 hours of direct sunlight. You can factor in these numbers when considering how long it will take to charge in cloudiness. There isn’t an exact number, but assume it will take longer.

How long do outdoor solar lights give off light in winter?

While a solar light that has 8 hours of direct sunlight can stay on all night (dusk until dawn), one charged in winter weather cannot. This is because it takes much longer to achieve that much sunlight when the sky is overcast.

Don’t expect your outdoor solar lights to stay on all night long, especially since the winter season means more hours of darkness in a day (more than 12 dark hours). 

Where should I position my outdoor solar lights in winter?

To get the most sunlight, place them out of the way of shade from your house, trees, and other objects.

Make sure that you position them at an angle that will receive sun the most hours of the day, and adjust them throughout the day when necessary.

Do outdoor solar lights need cleaned during winter?

You should gently clean solar lights with a soft cloth, water, and gentle soap in winter when necessary. Be careful not to break them if they have glass.

They won’t work optimally in winter if they aren’t clear of substances that can block out light. These include bird droppings, excessive ice, dirt, grime, or layers of snow.

Do outdoor solar lights need the sun or just light?

Outdoor solar lights function their best in natural sunlight. However, you can also use incandescent light, although less efficiently than with natural light.

What are the best outdoor solar lights for winter?

The best solar lights for winter have the following qualities to make them more efficient to compensate for reduced sunlight conditions:

  • Durability (better materials)
  • Motion sensors (so that they only kick on in the dark as needed)
  • Fairy lights” or string lights (they use far less power than a traditional solar light)


Outdoor solar lights will work in winter, even in more extreme conditions like ice, snow, and cloudiness. By making sure they are clean and properly positioned during daylight hours, they can store up enough solar light in their batteries to equip them to give off light. 

Further, if you can’t get enough natural solar light during the winter days, you can alternatively charge them with LED or incandescent lights.