The Best Smart Outdoor Lighting for Backyards, Pathways, and More (2024)

The research

  • Why you should trust me
  • Who this is for
  • How we picked and tested
  • For security: Feit Electric PAR38 Smart Light Bulb
  • For safety: Ring Solar Pathlight
  • For entertaining: Feit Electric LED Smart String Lights
  • Other good outdoor smart lights
  • The competition
  • What to look forward to
  • Sources

Why you should trust me

I first started testing smart-home devices more than 20 years ago, back when the only smart-home devices were X10. Since 2016, I’ve been covering smart-home gear for Wirecutter, and I’ve had my hands on everything from in-wall light switches, smart bulbs, and water-leak sensors to smart video doorbells, indoor security cameras, and security systems. I’ve also written tech articles for The New York Times, Wired, and Men’s Health, among others.

Who this is for

If you hate it when outdoor lights remain on all day, you have concerns about home security, or you just want to enhance the look of your yard or garden, smart lighting can be a great all-in-one choice. With smart outdoor lighting, you can turn lights on and off from almost anywhere using a smartphone app. And you can set them to operate automatically based on schedules, motion sensors, or triggers that you program in the app. Just like indoor smart lights, outdoor ones can integrate into a system to work with a variety of other smart devices, such as security cameras, sensors, and alarm systems.

You can find several styles of smart outdoor lights, including bulbs, sconces, spotlights, and floodlights, among others. Most allow you to adjust the brightness, and some let you change the light color. Determining the type of light that’s best for you will depend on where you want to put smart outdoor lights, how you plan to use them, and the technology you prefer to use.



How we picked and tested

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For over three years, we’ve been testing and researching a wide range of outdoor smart-lighting styles, makes, and models. Following our research and testing, we’ve opted to exclude smart outdoor sconces from consideration due to their (generally) far higher price and more-involved installation process, and because their visual appeal comes down to personal preference. We think most people are better off picking a weather-tight light fixture and using a smart bulb or a regular LED bulb with a smart light switch. Similarly, we didn’t consider lights with integrated cameras because we cover those in our outdoor security cameras guide.

For the bulbs, stand-alone lights, and string lights we tested, we took into consideration the following features:

  • Brightness. We looked at specs for lumens, which is a measure of light output. We also compared Color Rendering Index (CRI) ratings, when available, to judge color accuracy. For bulbs, we used a light meter to measure lux (or the amount of light that spreads in a given area), working with the same equipment, under the same conditions, at various angles and dimming levels.
  • Range. Since all of these products are designed to go outdoors, we tested a variety of spots outside of our home to determine how well they stayed connected to Wi-Fi. Of course, your mileage may vary. If you have problems getting good Wi-Fi outdoors, consider upgrading your router or adding an extender or repeater. (For suggestions, check out our guide to Wi-Fi routers and our guide to Wi-Fi extenders.)
  • App interface. We used iPhone and Android devices to look at the app controls, to see how easy it was to set up and control the lighting devices, when you’re at home as well as away. We also set up Schedules and tested any other features.
  • Smart-home compatibility. Everything we tested can pair with some type of voice assistant, such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or Siri, so you can operate it by voice. We also paired lights with these platforms to trigger lights with other smart devices (such as security cameras).

With the exception of hardwired devices, we tested everything indoors and outdoors, and we installed and tested the companion app using an iPhone 12, a Google Pixel 7 Pro, and an iPad. Additionally, to see how each light reacted to voice commands and smart-home integration, we used voice commands with Echo speakers, a Google Mini, and two Apple HomePods.

After we narrowed our pick candidates, we reviewed their respective privacy policies, to make sure they were in line with those of other smart-home companies. We then sent a security and privacy questionnaire to each of the manufacturers, asking more-specific questions about each one’s security policies and practices and how they handle device owners’ data. Among other things, that includes log-in practices, whether a company supports two-factor authentication, what user data is encrypted, and what data is recorded and shared. We also connected those devices to Firewalla Purple SE, a firewall device that monitors the communications of all devices on a network and reports which devices are sending out data and to which countries.

For security: Feit Electric PAR38 Smart Light Bulb

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Our pick

Feit Electric PAR38 Smart Light Bulb

The best smart floodlight

Despite having an especially low price, this bulb is among the brightest we’ve tested. It offers a good dimming range, an attractive color palette, and some fun special effects.

Buying Options

$18 from Amazon

$16 from Walmart

$16 from Best Buy

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Siri Shortcuts

Smart bulbs transform any traditional light fixture into a smart one. You can control a smart light fixture remotely, with an app or by using voice commands to a smart speaker. Or you can simply put it on a customized Schedule, similar to how you might with a lighting timer. The Feit Electric PAR38 Smart Light Bulb is the brightest outdoor PAR38 bulb we tested, and it works consistently when controlled remotely or put on a Schedule. You can tune it to whatever colors you find most appealing, and you can also use built-in lighting animations. And it’s affordable enough that you can add them to every outdoor fixture around your house.

It’s especially bright. Though all of the outdoor smart bulbs we tested shared many of the same capabilities, the Feit PAR38 was a standout: It was the brightest Wi-Fi outdoor bulb we tested—and it was also the least expensive.

It has an excellent range. With a color temperature range from 2,700 K to 6,500 K, the Feit bulb emits everything from cozy warm whites to a cool white that’s bright enough for task lighting.

It has a good array of extras. The Feit app lets you quickly change white tones or choose among colors—it has a 90 Color Rendering Index rating (CRI), which means its color reproduction is especially accurate. The Feit bulb also features basic lighting animations, such as strobe and fade effects, as well as a Music feature, for syncing outdoor lights with party tunes. Since bulbs of this style are primarily used as spotlights to enhance safety and security, those extras may not be a top priority, but they’re fun to have.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

  • The Feit app can be confusing, and it has odd roadblocks. For instance, when you click on Schedule, you can choose times for a bulb to go on and off. However, you can’t simply choose on or off, and you can’t pick a specific color and/or dimming level. Instead, to do either of those things, you have to create an automation, which you access from the main screen, under Smart Scenes. And, even more confusingly, if you want to schedule an animation, the only way for it to work is if the animation was the last setting used before the bulb was turned off—you can’t simply tell the animation to happen at any time when the bulb turns on.
  • Feit doesn’t offer two-factor authentication (2FA), a common security process that requires you to input a verification code when you log in to the app. When it comes to concerns about being hacked, smart bulbs are pretty low risk. But we always prefer to use the highest form of security, whenever possible.
  • This product worked well with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Siri Shortcuts, but it doesn’t support Apple HomeKit, SmartThings, or IFTTT. If you’re looking to use one of those platforms, check out Other good outdoor smart lights.



For safety: Ring Solar Pathlight

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Our pick

Ring Solar Pathlight

Best for lighting walkways

Because it doesn’t need to be plugged in, this solar light is easy to place and set up. It offers scheduling and snooze options, and you can link it with other Ring lights and devices.

Buying Options

$35 from Amazon

$35 from Lowe's

$35 from Home Depot

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Amazon Sidewalk

Anyone who has a poorly lit walkway, driveway, or yard ought to consider the Ring Solar Pathlight. It provides an elegant, bright-white beacon (3,500 K), but you don’t have to run wires underground or into the house or swap batteries every six months. You can control it centrally with an app or let built-in motion sensors automatically turn it on and off.

It doesn’t need batteries or wires. The Ring Solar Pathlight includes an embedded solar panel that charges a built-in rechargeable battery. The Pathlight at our home is still going strong—after more than three years of constant use. We do recommend charging the battery via USB when you first set it up or if the light has been out of the sun for a while.

It doesn’t rely on Wi-Fi.Ring Smart Lights need to be used with a Ring Bridge, a tiny box that connects to your home Wi-Fi router and wirelessly links all Ring lights with the Ring app. (The Ring Alarm Pro, our current home security system pick, can also function as a bridge.) Unlike hubs used by other lights in this guide, the Ring Bridge uses a proprietary wireless signal for communication; the company says this enables lights to be “hundreds of feet” away. Our testing confirms that, since I was able to control a Ring Pathlight installed 185 feet away from the Ring Bridge inside my house. You can opt to bypass a Ring Bridge by linking lights to an Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen) or Amazon Echo (4th Gen); we haven’t yet tested how well that works.

It knows when to light up (and when not to). The Ring Pathlight doesn’t continuously blast out white light all night long. Instead it’s triggered by motion, voice commands to Alexa, a customized Schedule, or directly using the app. At a maximum of 80 lumens of brightness, this pathlight emits a fraction of what a typical bulb would produce when used as a task light. Yet it’s still plenty bright enough to light the way and create an attractive ambiance, too.

It has added security measures. The Ring app is the only one on our list that offers two-factor authentication (2FA), a common security process that requires you to input a verification code when you log in to the app. Also, although Ring says it will share information with third parties for advertising, users can opt out of data sharing in the control center of the Ring app.

The Best Smart Outdoor Lighting for Backyards, Pathways, and More (6)

Flaws but not dealbreakers

  • Ring’s model conserves battery power by not allowing you to schedule the lights to be on full brightness for long periods of time—you can manually turn them on and leave them at full power for up to 15 minutes only. If you need to have them on longer, you can schedule them through the app, under Device Schedules.
  • Ring lights work only with Alexa. If you use Google Home or Apple HomeKit, you may want to opt for something else.

For entertaining: Feit Electric LED Smart String Lights

The Best Smart Outdoor Lighting for Backyards, Pathways, and More (7)

Our pick

Feit Electric LED Smart String Lights

Best for lighting up a party

Feit packs a lot of bulbs into a 24-foot strand. It’s built to withstand brutal weather, and it’s the only model we tested that includes extra bulbs and a remote control.

Buying Options

$90 from Amazon

$130 from Walmart

Compatible with: Amazon Alexa, Google Home

Feit Electric LED Smart String Lights are a foolproof way to decorate areas around a pool or patio, as well as any backyard area in range of an outlet. The 24-foot strand has 12 bulbs—more per foot than other string lights we tested—and each bulb is rated for 400 lumens of brightness. You can daisy-chain additional sets, up to an astonishing 552 feet of lights.

They’re sturdy and expandable. Each strand is 24 feet long, with a plug on the end; so you can daisy-chain up to 23 sets of lights. The cord is heavy-duty 18/5, which is substantial enough to withstand the elements. Even so, we do recommend that you run electrical wiring against the side of the house or through shrubbery, to prevent tripping or lawn-mower mishaps.

They’re festive. This Feit set has 12 filament-style LED bulbs, which can be tuned among eight color presets or fully customized by using a color wheel in the smartphone app. If you prefer special effects, the app includes preset lighting scenes for holidays, like Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and Christmas. You can also create your own animations and save up to eight of them.

They’re easy to use. In our testing, the Feit string lights consistently responded well to app and voice commands. The app is nicely laid out, with all the controls readily accessible. This was the only string lights model we tested that included a remote control (if someone in your household prefers not to deal with an app).

Flaws but not dealbreakers

  • These string lights use the same app as our PAR38 pick’s app, which we found needlessly confusing and unintuitive.
  • Like our PAR38 pick, these Feit string lights don’t support 2FA.
  • Though Amazon Alexa and Google Home integration are supported, Siri Shortcuts, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT, and SmartThings are not.



Other good outdoor smart lights

We tested a number of lighting devices that we didn’t prefer as overall picks but think may be perfectly good for specific outdoor lighting needs.

For string lights on the cheap: Govee Outdoor String Lights are budget-priced and available in a 48-foot set and a 96-foot set. However, 96 feet is the max you can go. Also, these strands have fewer bulbs per foot than our string-lights pick, and they don’t feel as sturdy. And unlike the Feit bulbs (which have filaments), the Govee bulbs are frosted. However, they do provide far more special-effects options—if you’re willing to spend some time figuring out the overwhelming app.

If you can’t get Feit bulbs: The GE Cync Full Color Direct Connect Outdoor Smart Bulb has more special effects than the Feit PAR38 bulb but isn’t quite as bright, and it’s a little more expensive.

If you want to trigger spotlights with motion: The Sengled Smart LED PAR38 Bulb has a built-in motion sensor, but it’s almost twice the price of our top pick, and it doesn’t offer tunable white lighting. And it requires the use of a Zigbee hub, such as the Sengled Smart Hub or the Amazon Echo.

If you’re an existing Hue user: Philips Hue bulbs are our indoor LED bulb upgrade pick, and the Philips Hue PAR38 Outdoor White Bulb is a good choice for anyone who already uses and likes Hue. (Although the Hue White and Color Ambiance PAR38 Bulb adds the ability to change colors, it’s too dim to recommend as an outdoor spotlight—or to justify its price tag.) The Hue Lily Spotlight can project soft colors in any direction. We also appreciate how the Hue Econic Outdoor Pathway Light can add soft, attractive color to a driveway or the path to a pool.

If you’re all in with Ring: Designed for stairs where you don’t need an intense burst of light, the 50-lumen Ring Solar Steplight works great, but it is the least powerful outdoor smart light we tested. The 1,200-lumen Ring Solar Floodlight is much brighter, but it’s overly sensitive to motion and less attractive than any other fixture on our list. (Ring also sells a hardwired version, if you already have an existing fixture.)

The competition

We also tested a few lighting devices that worked fine, but they didn’t earn our recommendation because our picks were much better.

The LIFX Nightvision BR30 produces great colors—but it’s more than twice the price of our top pick. Note that this particular model includes infrared LEDs, which can perk up the night-vision capabilities of any nearby outdoor security cameras you may have. (LIFX also sells a standard BR30 bulb.)

We dismissed Array by Hampton BR30 LED Flood Light Bulbs because our measurements showed their light output was especially low. Also, their life expectancy, at just 13.7 years, is notably short—half that of the other bulbs we tested.



What to look forward to

We plan to test a number of new models. The Atomi Smart Color PVC String Lights include a PVC cable and support for Alexa and Google Home. The Atomi Smart Spot Lights have 10-watt LEDs that can produce 400 lumens of brightness. The set includes four spotlights, but the system can be expanded up to 40.

We’ll also look at the next generation of Philips Hue Festavia String Lights, which can be used indoors or outside. They feature three new lighting effects and come in three varieties: 100 LEDs on an 8-meter cord, 250 LEDs on a 20-meter cord, and 500 LEDs on a 40-meter cord.

This article was edited by Jon Chase and Grant Clauser.


  1. Ry Crist and Brian Bennett, Want smarter outdoor lighting at home? Here are your options, CNET, March 18, 2019

  2. Rachel Cericola, The Best Smart LED Light Bulbs, Wirecutter, April 10, 2023

  3. Jonathan Knoder, Whether You Want More Security or Help Setting the Mood, These Are the Smart Outdoor Lights To Get, Spy, January 17, 2021

The Best Smart Outdoor Lighting for Backyards, Pathways, and More (2024)


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