Outdoor Lighting Buying Guide
Add beauty and security with outdoor lighting. Our guide helps you understand outdoor lighting fixture types and functions so you can choose the best and safest accent lighting, post lighting and deck lighting for your home.
What Is Outdoor Lighting?
Outdoor lighting includes a variety of light fixtures that address and improve exterior home security and safety. Additionally, these outdoor lighting fixtures highlight landscaping and architecture at night and come in a variety of styles and finishes
Power and Performance
With options ranging from hardwire flood lights to plug-in dusk-to-dawn lights to even solar motion lights, you can find the perfect outdoor flood lights for your landscape and the exterior of your home.
Solar-powered outdoor lighting draws the energy it needs to make the lights operate from sunlight. Though this option can cost more for the initial purchase and setup, you can ultimately save on your energy bill. Be sure to install the solar panels in areas that receive sufficient sunlight, and avoid dark and shadowy areas of your home.
Security and Flood Lights
Security and flood lights are broad-beamed, high-intensity lights designed to flood large areas with light. As a result, these fixtures are often used as a preventive measure to reduce criminal activity and increase feelings of safety, especially when equipped with a motion sensor that causes the light to illuminate when movement is perceived
DIY Outdoor Lighting Tips for Beginners
No Electrical Experience Necessary
Since most outdoor lighting is low voltage, it’s safe and easy enough for any DIYer to install. In fact, the only special tool you’ll need is a wire stripper. Find out what’s trending in outdoor lighting before embarking on your project.
Install Underground Wiring After Planting
To prevent accidental cutting of wiring for ground-level fixtures, install wiring after your landscape has been planted. That way you won’t accidentally chop through it with a shovel. Also, don’t install wiring in digging areas like garden beds, and be sure to bury low-voltage wire at least 6 in. below the surface.
How It All Fits Together
A low-voltage system has three parts:
The transformer plugs into a nearby GFCI-protected outlet and reduces 120-volt current to 12 volts.
The low-voltage cable carries current between the transformer and the light fixtures.
The light fixtures get connected to the cable with wire connectors made specifically for outdoor use.
Keep Your Fixtures; Upgrade Your Bulbs
For decades, halogen lights reigned supreme in low-voltage outdoor lighting systems, but LEDs have all but replaced them because they cost less to operate and last much longer. But you don’t have to tear out all your old halogen fixtures to enjoy the benefits of LEDs—retrofit bulbs are available. Just be sure to replace each halogen bulb with equivalent wattage and the same base type. Expect to pay about four times more for an LED bulb, but they use less energy and you’ll get up to 20 years of life from one compared with only two or three years from a halogen
Don’t Overlap Pools of Light
The purpose of most deck lighting is ambience, and professional outdoor lighting designers say it’s best not to create overlapping ‘pools’ of light on decks and patios. So avoid mounting fixtures too close together. For decks, choose fixtures that cast a 4- to 5-ft. pool of light. Keep them 30 in. up off the deck’s floor and space them up to 10 ft. apart. Overlapping lights on deck stairs and walkways can be a good thing, however, by providing enough light to help people avoid tripping. You might want to consider one of these cheap landscaping ideas to really make your yard pop
The Best Ways to Light the Backyard
Darkness needn’t put a damper on backyard activities like swimming and barbecuing. By installing backyard lighting, you can keep the party going long after dusk, boost outdoor ambiance, and protect your property from unseen threats.
The three main types of backyard illumination are safety lighting to deter prowlers and improve navigation, landscape lighting to accentuate garden features, and accent lighting to put the focus on the hardscape. Ultimately, you’d want all three types in your backyard to achieve different lighting levels for different needs—and within each of these categories, there’s a variety of lighting choices. So let us shine a light on the best backyard illumination options, so you’ll know what to put in your outdoor space
Security lighting, generally the brightest backyard lighting, is safety lighting to illuminate large areas and scare off would-be burglars or destructive animals. Powered by standard, 120-Volt current, this lighting is installed high spots such as the eaves or above a garage to cast wide beams of light down onto main walkways or the backyard fence entrance.
blends in with your home’s trim when positioned on the eaves or the underside of a covered patio. But you’ll know that this wired light is there when you approach: Its three optical LED lights produce a powerful 2400 lumens to light up your landscape as bright as day for up to 100 feet for as long as you choose. And, when placed at the corner of the eaves, the rotating optics on the Revolve can be adjusted to light up two sides of the house.
Path lighting is soft to moderately bright safety and landscape lighting designed to help you navigate walkways while attractively highlighting them. Install it on the ground along both sides of main walkways from the back door to your fence door, along stepping stones from the main walkway to a backyard feature like a fountain, and/or around flower beds to emphasize their contours.
String lighting is soft, low-voltage accent lighting used to evoke a warm, intimate ambiance that’s especially desirable for entertaining. Hang string lights wherever the activity is—be it on the eaves of the home to brighten an outdoor kitchen or from the posts of an outdoor pavilion or gazebo to illuminate patio furniture.
Tips for Safe Outdoor Lighting
Most of us have some lighting outside our home that belongs to us, and that we control. Porch lights or security lights, for example. A lot of people also like to add outdoor lighting as part of decorating for the holidays — some at Halloween and even more at Christmas.
We all like to be safe too, and to keep our house, our family, our pets, and our guests safe too — even if they’re only staying long enough to pick up some candy or sing a carol. That means that we want the lights, power cords, controls and everything else associated with our outdoor lighting to be done with safety in mind.
Install Outdoor-Rated Fixtures
If you’re installing a lighting fixture outdoors, it must be designed and built to be there. For two quick examples, a light that’s under your porch roof and never gets wet needs to be rated for damp locations, or say “outdoor” on it, because it will still get damp, cold and hot, and it needs to be able to take that.
Use Outdoor-Rated Light Bulbs
In an exposed fixture such as an outdoor flood light, most of us think of this. But it’ll pay you in terms of the life of the bulb and the ease of replacing it to do the same with your porch light. If you’re having trouble finding a standard bulb that’s rated for outdoor use, check the fine print on some appliance bulbs. If it can survive in a freezer or an oven, it can probably survive outdoors
Don’t Overlamp a Fixture
Most fixtures, indoor or outdoor, will have a sticker or label that says “Maximum Wattage: 60W”, or 75W or 100W. Whatever it says, respect that. It’s there to keep you from putting in a light bulb that will overheat the wiring in the fixture, which will damage the insulation on the wires. What matters most is the actual wattage of the bulb — not the “incandescent equivalent.” If you’re putting a CFL bulb in a fixture with a 60W rating, for example, you can use one that draws any amount of power up to 60W (which would put out more light than a 200W incandescent bulb)
Outdoor Lighting Guide: Rating, Sizing, Placement, Finish & Style
Outdoor lighting is growing in popularity as an addition to many homes as it not only increases the curb appeal, but helps with security and ensuring the safety of guests. From the gorgeous outdoor pendant that greets you at the front door, to the modern post lighting that guides your way through the back yard, outdoor lighting can help enhance all exterior areas around your home
While of course there is no law which says you must hang and mount your outdoor lighting fixtures according to our specifications, we have provided a guide of the best practices for sizing and placing various types of outdoor lighting. These practices have been developed not only for aesthetic appeal, but for safety as well. You will find that many frequently asked questions regarding the sizing or placement of particular lighting types will be addressed within the text, tables, and infographics throughout our outdoor lighting guide.
HOW TO CHOOSE BETWEEN A WET OR DAMP RATED LIGHT FIXTURE
When it comes to choosing the perfect fixture for your outdoor area, one of the most important factors is the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) rating that the fixture carries. UL wet and UL damp ratings are both indicators that your fixture can be installed outdoors. However, these different ratings indicate which outdoor areas are suitable for your fixture. While wet-rated lighting fixtures can stand up to the elements, some damp rated fixtures may only hold up to a certain level of moisture and indirect weathering.
DETERMINING THE SIZE & PLACEMENT OF YOUR LIGHTING FIXTURE
The main goal when determining the size and placement of your outdoor lighting fixtures is to enhance the curb appeal of your home. While it’s certainly fun to get creative with lighting placement around the home, there are safe and effective ways to measure and place your lighting fixtures in various outdoor locations.
GARAGE DOOR LIGHTING
Outdoor garage lighting is not only an attractive addition for the exterior of your home, but it is also a functional fixture to consider. Not only can you install wall mount fixtures on the sides of the garage door but you can also install lighting above the garage door to help light the surrounding driveway and areas. Below, you can see the best practice for installing garage lighting above the garage door. To see how to place lighting on the sides of the garage door, please refer to the outdoor wall lighting instructions.