Prep Hacks: outdoor solar lights make great backup lighting for emergencies

When it’s dark and the power goes out, you hopefully have some flashlights or lanterns handy (or at least a smartphone, which usually has a flashlight built-in). But what if you need more light sources than you have in your emergency kit? Or, what if you’re like one of our editors in a recent outage, who discovered that the cheap solar-powered lanterns he’d scored in a lighting deal on Amazon had just stopped working?

Common outdoor solar lights are a great backup emergency lighting solution that’s cost-effective and multi-purpose.

These lights are pretty common, but if you’re not familiar with them, they’re little LED lights mounted on a stake so you can light up pathways outdoors. They feature a solar panel that charges a small rechargeable battery and a photovoltaic sensor. The solar panel charges the battery during the day and when it gets dark, the battery lights up the LEDs inside.

Solar lights in the daytime

The idea is to place them around outdoor obstacles and near stairs and walkways so you can see where you’re going at night. But they also have a bonus use: when the lights are out inside, you can bring them in to light up your house. They produce about as much light as a candle, except they won’t burn you, set your house on fire, or drip wax everywhere.

A solar light outdoors at night

Any sort of outdoor solar light will do the trick, but some are better suited than others. I picked up a 10-pack of HECARIM lights on sale for about $20, and they turned out to be perfect for my uses.

How to do it

Each of the lights comes in three parts: the light itself, a tube for it to rest on, and a stake that goes into the tube and secures the light to the ground. What’s great is that when I want to grab one to take into the house, I simply pull the light off of its tube.

Before you use them, you need to peel the protective plastic off the solar panel and you need to remove the lid from the lantern section and pull out a tab that prevents the battery from making contact. What’s nice is you can just prep a few lights at a time and leave the others in the box until you need them.

The battery compartment is easy to open if you ever have to replace the battery. A single AA Ni-MH battery is included with each light.

The top of the light is flat, so I simply place it upside-down wherever I want to drop a light. When the power is back on, I can take them back outside and place them back on their stands. There are no switches to fool with, the lights pretty much take care of themselves as long as they get enough sun during the day to charge the battery.

A solar light indoors

What to watch out for

The only thing I don’t like about these lights is that they tend to get in the way when mowing and trimming. There are some with a low profile so a mower can go right over top of them, but they’re not as well suited to being used as emergency lights. There are trade-offs to everything.

It seems like most preps you buy make you look like a crazy person. Here is one prep that will actually make your yard nicer and more respectable!