Lightweight, requiring no complicated installation, and offering immediate illumination with the flip of a switch or press of a button, battery-operated lights are a quick and convenient way to add ambience or security lighting just about anywhere. They don’t require access to an electrical outlet and look wonderful in jars, along mantles, stair railings, and windows—but what about outdoors, where they’ll be exposed to less-than-ideal temperatures, inclement weather, and the occasional curious critter?
The answer to whether you can use battery lights outdoors is a soft yes, with one important caveat:
They have to be outdoor rated.
If your battery-powered bulbs are not rated for outdoor use, they are not safe to use outdoors, may pose an electrical hazard, and you’ll likely experience poor performance from the strand or bulb.
What does “outdoor rated” mean?
“Outdoor rated” means that the bulb has satisfied a higher level of safety criteria, typically IP ratings, and the battery pack as well as the strand of lights or casing have been deemed weatherproof or weather resistant.IP or “Ingress Protection” rating indicates a light bulb’s level of protection against dust and water. The rating typically consists of two numbers: the first digit indicates the level of protection against dust, and the second against water. The higher the rating, the more dust and waterproof a light bulb is. To learn more about IP ratings, visit our guide.
What are the drawbacks of using battery powered lights outdoors?
You may recognize all the positives of using battery operated LED lights—their low voltage and lack of heat makes them safe to use in unconventional places, they’re easy to “install”, and they boast soft, flattering lighting—but it might be difficult to recognize the downsides until you’ve already invested your time and effort.
- You have to go outside to turn them on and off. This is fine if you plan on only using them when you’re in the garden or if they’re motion activated security lighting, but it can become inconvenient if you just want to enjoy them from the window.
- While the lights and battery case are built to endure, the batteries will need to be replaced regularly. How long they last will depend on the type and number of lights, the type of batteries they take, and how fresh the batteries are. In general, the batteries will last upwards of 24 hours of usage, but will require more frequent changes in inclement weather—which can run batteries down faster—so consider investing in rechargeable batteries.
- Because they have to meet stricter safety requirements, you will often find a smaller selection of colours and shapes for outdoor rated lights than you would for indoor rated battery-operated fairy lights.
Alternatives to outdoor battery LED lights
If battery operated lights aren’t what you’re looking for, there are lots of outdoor-friendly alternatives available:
When placing any type of lighting outdoors, it’s important to take precautions. Follow these tips for incident-free illumination:
- Don’t run electrical cords or light strands across footpaths or areas where they could cause injuries or get damaged, such as doorways or spots where they will come up against sharp corners.
- Attach lights and fixtures securely to structures to keep them from getting blown around and damaged in the event of a storm.
- Keep areas around incandescent and halogen bulbs clear to prevent fires.
- Be mindful of overloading electrical circuits and don’t attach too many lights or strands to one outlet.
- In addition to selecting outdoor rated lights, ensure that your power cords are outdoor rated as well.
- Keep all lights from being submerged in pools, ponds, or other water features unless they are rated IP68 (safe for permanent submersion in depths greater than 1m).
Enhancing outdoor illumination or security by taking battery operated lights outdoors is possible with the right setup, just remember to:
- Make sure your lights are outdoor rated.
- Properly dispose of the batteries.
- Securely attach the lights to their respective locations.