Ring has offered battery-powered Steplights and Pathlights, and they’ve released a solar-powered line, offering users a choice of how they’d like to set up their outdoor lights. Built to Ring standards, these are not the $2 solar pathway lights you find in the checkout bins at the home improvement store
New Ring Solar smart outdoor lights review & comparison
From a design stance, the difference between a Ring battery-powered light and a solar light is relatively small. The solar light simply allows you to recharge the battery inside, while the standard battery model will require you to change out the battery after it depletes. In the case of RIng’s Pathlight, you’ll likely need to change out the 4 D-cell batteries about once a year.
The solar version would allow the rechargeable batteries to gain power from the sun, a “set it and forget it” model. Rechargeable batteries will eventually wear out and start holding less of a charge, but a quality battery can last over ten years. Solar-charged systems aren’t without their downsides as well, so there’s a choice to be made.
Ring Bridge required
Let’s look at the differences between the two models, but before we do it’s worth pointing out that whether you choose Ring battery powered lights or solar, you’ll need to connect them to your system via a Ring Bridge. If you don’t already have one, you can buy a Ring Bridge with the lights. The Ring Bridge acts as a hub to connect to up to 50 Ring lighting devices and is powered via a wall plug inside. You may need to consider where to position the Bridge to ensure proper connection to indoor and outdoor appliances.
Ring Pathlight battery powered: what you get
Ring’s Pathlight is 43cm (17 inches) in height, comes only in black, and requires 4 D-cell batteries, which are not included. Ring says the batteries will last about one year with normal use, which they define as between eight and ten activations a day for a 30 second period at maximum brightness.
Setup is fairly straightforward: install the batteries and place them in the ground (The Pathlight comes with one spike per light, Ring also sells additional/replacement spikes if needed). The light is weather resistant to IP66 rating, meaning it’s waterproof even against jets of water. The temperature range is -20C to 50C (-4F to 122F). I’ve had a battery powered ring path light in my yard for almost 2 years. It has proven extremely reliable through all kinds of harsh Canadian weather. It’s been rained on, frozen to -30, and dealt with harsh heat up to 38° as well. Through it all, it has kept right on shining and I’ve been very impressed.
The battery-powered Pathlight offers adjustable shut-off modes, anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes, and has an adjustable motion detector that provides a 140-degree field of view. It can detect motion up to about 4.5 metres (15 feet) away. The lights are rated at 80 lumens, and they are actually quite bright as far as I’m concerned; certainly bright enough to keep me from tripping in the dark.
Connecting to the Ring system is where the Pathlight really shines, if you’ll pardon the pun. You’ll be able to control the brightness, motion detection sensitivity, shut-off time and see how much charge you have in your batteries.
You can also connect to your Amazon Alexa for voice commands. The connectivity and the Ring setup take the Pathlight well beyond what’s possible for a standard outdoor light. You can chain the lights together and set them up to all turn to maximum brightness when any one of them detects motion. Since your devices are all on the same system, you could then create a routine to turn on your Ring Video Doorbell camera when the lights detect motion, giving you more footage of someone approaching the door.
Want to go even further? Once the outdoor sensor has detected motion, you could have it turn on an interior lamp or light, or an indoor Ring security camera, creating the impression that someone has heard the movement and is investigating, which would be a great home security feature.
Ring Pathlight Solar: what you get
For the most part, the Pathlight Solar has the same features as the standard Ring Pathlight. It has the same features from an automation standpoint; it needs to be connected via a Ring Bridge and can be programmed in the same way the standard model can. There are, however, a few minor differences.
The Ring Pathlight Solar has a removable headpiece that you can take inside and charge via USB. Usually, this won’t be necessary, but in colder climates, or when there hasn’t been a lot of sun over a few days, you may need to top up the battery. In my testing over the last 3 weeks it hasn’t been necessary, but it’s a nice backup, and the ability to do this indoors without dragging cords or a power bank up and down the walkway is super convenient.
Ring Pathlight Battery Vs. Solar Comparison
As the two versions of the Pathlight share most of their features, let’s look at costs. The standard Pathlight requires 4 D-cell batteries to operate and will need to be changed out annually, perhaps even more often, depending on where you live and the length of the evening. D-cell batteries are generally on the expensive side of the battery range, and depending on how many Pathlights you have in your setup; you could be buying a lot of batteries.
While the Solar Pathlight is slightly more expensive than the standard version, not having to buy batteries more than makes up for that added cost. The battery that is included is 18650 mAh, which is a very robust battery, no need to swap this out for a higher capacity version.
If you live in a northern climate, the other area where you’ll see a difference is with cold weather and shorter days. While both standard batteries and rechargeables will see lower production and more significant drain in cold weather, the rechargeable will show the difference.
Since the days will likely be shorter when the weather is coldest, the batteries will have less time to recharge during sunlight hours, not to mention if the solar panels get covered in snow. That could lead to them having less of a charge each day, meaning they might run out of charge before morning. You’d need to charge them via USB to return them to full charge, and this process could happen a few times during the winter. My testing is underway in summer so this may end up being a big concern… I’ll have to update this in a future video after the winter.
While this problem is a much more significant challenge with lights where it’s difficult to access the battery or with those where there isn’t an external charging option, the combination of the Ring Pathlight’s sizeable battery and its ease of removal might make it an afterthought.
Ring Steplight battery powered: What you get
The Ring Steplight is designed to light a smaller area than the Pathlight and is effective for areas like stairways, allowing you to light them up without too much light spill.
The Steplight is 9cm x 9cm x 4.78 cm (3.58 inches x 3.58 inches x 1.85 inches) and is available in black and white. It has adjustable motion detection with a 120-degree field of vision at up to 4.5 metres (15 feet).
It’s charged by 3 C-cell batteries, which are not included. Ring states the Steplight is weather-resistant to IP66, and its temperature range is -20C to 50C (-4F to 122F).
Like the Pathlight, the Steplight requires a Ring Bridge to connect to your Wi-Fi network and allows you to control the length of shut-off from 30 seconds to five minutes. The installation will involve using the included screws to mount the Steplight.
Once installed, you’ll connect via the Ring Bridge to your network and can make use of Amazon Alexa commands. You can set up routines to have the Steplight interact with your other Ring devices to change or turn on lighting, start video recording from your Ring doorbell, or activate other ring devices.
Ring Steplight Solar: what you get
The Steplight Solar is a bit different from its battery-operated counterpart in that the design has changed. Mounting involves a plate to connect to your wall or railing, then you can remove the entire device to bring inside to charge via USB. The battery is the same as the Pathlight, a 18650 mAh Lithium-Ion rechargeable.
The Solar Steplight, on the shady side of the house.
Ring Steplight Battery Vs. Solar Comparison
The redesign to include a solar panel seems to have affected the design of the unit, making it larger than the battery-operated version, and the light box itself is substantially larger. It’s also increased the brightness of the light, from 35 lumens to 50 lumens maximum brightness, and as you can set the level yourself, no need to worry about too much light. The Solar version also has a dusk-to-dawn option that keeps the light on at a low setting until triggered, when it becomes brighter. The battery-operated model doesn’t have this.
Original battery Ring Steplight (L) and new Solar.
Cold and winter evenings may still be an issue for you if you live in a northern climate, as you could run into problems with the battery not being able to recharge during the day and thus running out of charge on a long winter’s night. You can solve this issue by charging the unit indoors via USB when it drops to a low level. As Ring allows you to monitor the battery level, you can quickly check to see when you need to do this.
I received two of the solar step lights, so I installed one on the sunny side of our house, and the other on the shady side. I’m really happy to report that both devices seem to be getting ample sunlight, and have been working perfectly for the last several weeks. It looks like you can get away with a little less sunlight than you might think and still have light where you need it. (The other option of course for shady or dark areas that may not support a solar powered light, is to go for the battery powered option in these areas.) On a particularly hazy day in July, a quick morning check of the solar step lights battery in the shaded are of my yard shows it is still at 70% battery level. Impressive
With 3 C-cell batteries needed for the battery-operated Steplight, costs can add up when replacement time rolls around. While the batteries should last up to a year, depending on the number of lights you have, it could be a hit to the pocketbook. The Solar Steplight comes out ahead in this department, as it’s rechargeable battery could last up to 10 years.
Overall review: New Ring Solar smart outdoor lights
The Pathlight and Steplight models were very solid, with a lot of functions in their battery incarnations. The ability to charge them via solar power offers you a choice to move to something more eco-friendly. In most cases, you won’t lose any of the functionality of the older model and save money on battery replacement. The lights are priced from about $30CAD and up
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I'm a journalist, tech blogger, writer, TV producer, silversmith& jewelry designer, foodie and world traveler. I blog, write for publications, and supply freelance writing services to Calgary, and the world.