Solar garden lights use standard solar cells in very simple applications.

The solar cell is connected directly to the battery via a light-emitting diode, which prevents the battery's current from flowing back into the solar cell at night. The battery charges during the day and reaches its maximum charge by dusk. Photovoltaic cells then convert sunlight into electricity. Although environmental factors can affect the performance of solar lights, they will work outdoors most of the year.

Many solar lights are self-sustaining or "stand-alone" systems. They convert sunlight into electricity during the day, store it in batteries, and draw energy from the batteries to power lamps after dusk.

Standalone solar lights usually have panels built into the fixture. However, solar lighting systems with panels separate from fixture assemblies only allow the panels to be placed in sunlight, not the lamps themselves.

Common residential applications for solar lights include patio, garden, and path lighting. Residential solar lights are usually self-contained components attached to stakes or posts that are inserted directly into the ground. Commercial applications can include parking lot lighting, sidewalks, campground fixtures and other concealed locations. Below are some types of applications for outdoor solar lights, all of which can be found on the HYSapientia Lighting website