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How to Choose Outdoor Lighting: A Buying Guide

How to Choose Outdoor Lighting: A Buying Guide

Home exterior lighting is every bit as important as indoor lighting, if not more. Outdoor lighting, more than anything else, defines the feel and look of your home when the sun goes down, so it is important that you get it absolutely right.

Having a spectacular exterior and beautiful landscaping alone is not enough; you also need the right exterior residential lighting. Otherwise, the overall appearance of your home would not be half as good, despite amazing landscaping. Smart outdoor lighting ideas, on the other hand, could ensure your home looks great both during the day and at night.

Lighting has a big impact on the overall appearance of the balcony and garden. When it comes to outdoor lighting, you should make it sure it is both aesthetic and functional. The purpose of exterior residential lighting is to provide a comfortable setting which is not only fun and safe but also has a great appeal.

This brings us to the most important question – How to choose outdoor lighting?

Truth be told: There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, because each house is unique and each homeowner has his or her own personal preferences. Having said that, this definitive guide provides you with all the information, tips, and practical strategies to help you pick the lighting options and strategies that are right for your home.

So, let’s get started.

Lighting For Your Outdoor Areas

Gone are the days when many thought the exterior of their home is just an aesthetic space without any purpose. Today, most people (if not all) think and use the outdoor spaces as an extension of their residential property and as such want to make them feel versatile and dynamic. That is where smart exterior house lighting comes in.

Thanks to innovative exterior lighting, you can quickly transform the look of your garden, patio, or backyard. So if you are not happy with a bland, uninspiring outdoor area, it’s time you embrace exterior lighting. In no time it can transform a bland outdoor space into something that is both comforting and lively.

Lighting For Your Outdoor Areas

Exterior residential lighting comprises ceiling fan lights, hanging lights, outdoor wall lights, outdoor string lights, landscape lights, and post lights. Depending on your outdoor space, its use, and your preferences, you can use several or all of these. For example, if you are looking for lights that nicely and effortlessly compliment your garden, we recommend you go for landscape lights. On the other hand, if you have a patio or an outdoor kitchen that you want to highlight, outdoor lighting fixtures might be a good fit.

Alongside enhancing the aesthetic appeal of your outdoor spaces, home exterior lighting systems improve security and reduce chances of a fall or an accident. With exterior lighting coming in all shapes and sizes, you will likely have no difficulty in finding the ones that are perfect for your home.

What are IP ratings?

While buying outdoor festoon lights you may have come across technical terms such as IP65 or IP44. But what do these ratings signify and why they are important? More importantly, how can you tell what rating is safe enough to be used outdoors?

First, it is necessary to understand what IP ratings are. A vital aspect of outdoor lighting, Ingress Protection (IP) rating is made up of two numbers. The first number denotes a device’s resistance to solids and varies from 0 to 6, with 0 standing for no protection and 6 for maximum protection. The second number denotes a device’s resistance to liquids and ranges from 0 to 8 or 9, with higher the numerical value, the better the resistance of the device to liquids. Here’s an example: If an electrical device has IP30 rating, it means it is rated 3 for protection against solids but is rated 0 for protection against water. In simple language, this means that the device in question offers some degree of resistance against solids but no resistance against liquids.

The chart below gives a brief explanation of each rating, but if you are installing outdoor lighting, you need to understand only two ratings IP44 and IP65. That is because most outdoor lighting (if not all) approved for use in Australia are either IP44 or IP65.

The IP44 rating means the device in question is protected against most solids and can withstand light rain or water splashes. Outdoor lighting with an IP44 is considered to safe to use.

The IP65 rating means the device in question is protected against most solids and can withstand heavy rain or direct jets of water splashes. However, an IP65-rated device is not protected against complete submersion in water. If you are buying outdoor lighting that has an IP65 rating, you can rest easy in the knowledge that it is completely safe to use.

 To sum it up, both IP44 and IP65 outdoor lights are approved for use in Australia. You can use either of them in your garden, covered patio, or backyard.  With that said, if you installing outdoor lighting in a space where it will be exposed to the elements, it might be a better idea to settle for IP-65 rated devices rather than IP-44.

What are IP ratings: An overview of IP rating chart

Solids

Water

0 = No protection against solid objects

0 = No protection from water

1 = Protected against those solid objects which are bigger than 50mm

1 = Offers protection against condensation, i.e. vertical falling water droplets

2 = Protected against those solid objects which are bigger than 12mm

2 = Offers protection against vertical falling water droplets up to 15 degree angles

3 = Protected against those solid objects which are bigger than 2.5mm (tools or wires)

3 = Protected against moisture spray at 60 degree angles

4 = Protected against those solid objects which are bigger than 1mm (nails, slender screws, or larger insects)

4 = Protected against splashing water from all directions

 

5 = Offers partial protection from dust, plus other small particles

5 = Offers protection from low-pressure water jets

6 = Has full protection from dust, plus other small particles

6 = Offers protection from powerful jets of water

 

7 = Rated for complete immersion for up to 30 mins (max depth = 1m)

 

8 = Rated for complete immersion for up to 30 mins (max depth = 1m)

 

Understand the Outdoor Lighting Fixture UL Ratings

Every outdoor lighting fixture has a UL rating depending on its capacity to resist elements. Before you buy new outdoor lighting, it is important that you know whether it is wet rated or damp rated.

Damp rated: These fixtures are used in outdoor spaces which are covered, e.g. a covered porch. Because in a covered outer space fixtures are exposed to dampness but not rain, damp rating will suffice.

Wet rated: As you may guess, only wet rated fixtures should be used in uncovered outer areas, such as a backyard. If you are installing a fixture in an area where it will be exposed both to dampness and rain, go for wet rated fixtures only.

How Do Materials Contribute To Durability?

Unlike indoor lighting fixtures, outdoor fixtures need some protection from elements like rain and wind. Seaside homes typically require protection due to high salinity levels in the air. Usually, outdoor lighting fixtures use tougher materials such as bronze, aluminum, and copper. While each metal has its pros and cons, they all have the same purpose: To ensure your outdoor lighting lasts a long time.

Bronze, Brass, and Copper

Copper becomes resistant to elements once it oxidizes, and the same is true for brass and bronze. These three elements are referred as “red elements”.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel offers the best resistance to salt damage and hence is frequently used in light fixtures installed in coastal homes.

Aluminum

Because aluminum doesn’t rust, it is a very commonly used in lighting fixtures.

How to Choose Outdoor Lighting Location?

When you sit down to chart out your outdoor lighting plan, you may want to consider some or all of the lighting locations we have shared below. As much as possible, you should try to include multiple outdoor locations in your plan. This would give you the best possible result. If budget is a constraint, try to spread it over several locations rather than using all of it for only one or two locations.

Front Entry Lighting

Start with front entry lighting fixture first since it is one fixture with which your guests are likely to interact the most. Not only it is usually the brightest outdoor lighting fixture but it also gives you the best chance to impress your guests. And with entry lighting fixtures available in so many shapes and sizes, you will likely have no difficulty picking ones that fit your budget and compliment your home’s overall look.

Front Entry Lighting
Landscape Lighting

When it comes to landscape lighting, homeowners are spoilt for choice. There are pollard lights, well lights, spotlights, and more. You can light up an ornate tree between bushes and add a few spotlights so that the brick exterior wall is stylishly highlighted. The numbers of combinations that can be used for illuminating an outdoor space are endless. Take some time to figure out what will work best for your landscape before you start shopping.

Landscape Lighting
Path or Walkway Lighting

Want to accent the front-side of your house? If so, add lighting to the path or walkway at the front. It can also serve the purpose of providing task lighting. You can install path or walkway lighting in different ways. For example, those having a paver walkway can take out a few pavers and install walkway lights in their place. If you want lights that are easy and simple to install and replace, consider rope lighting. Another option is to recess the path lights. Yet another option for outdoor pathway lights is mushroom-styled lights.  

Post Lighting

Outdoor post lights are still very popular. You can use these exterior lights at the top of a wooden, cement, or brick post. Generally, people choose to the light fixtures when the posts are being constructed. However, if you want, you can mount these outdoor lighting fixtures afterwards as well. But in that case make sure the wires are creatively hidden; otherwise, they may spoil the entire effect.

Step Lighting

Outdoor entry lighting is not all about enhancing the aesthetics of your home. Some outdoor landscape lighting is crucial for safety purposes also. A case in point is step lighting. Generally used along with decking, these lights help accidents or falls while using the stairs. For brick or cement applications, installing them to the side of your steps is a good idea as well. Step lights are typically low-voltage lights and relatively inexpensive. They are also pretty simple to install.

What Bulbs Should You Consider For Outdoor Lighting?

If you are shopping for bulbs for outdoor lighting, look no further than LED bulbs. Why? Glad you asked. Here are four compelling reasons to use only LED light bulbs:

  1. LED Light Bulbs Save Energy

Are you still using traditional incandescent bulbs? We hate to break it to you, but these bulbs are far less energy efficient than LED bulbs. Using those could lead to high energy bills.

When it come to energy efficiency, LED light bulbs lead the pack, and by a few country miles. They are up to 80% to 90% efficient, meaning that at least 80% of the electrical energy is converted to light. For incandescent bulbs, the opposite holds true. That is, they convert only 20% of electrical light to light, while the remaining 80% is lost to heat.

  1. LED Bulbs Last Much Longer

Where incandescent bulbs last approximately 1,000 hours on average, the LED can keep shining for (believe it or not) up to 60,000 hours. Need we say more why you should only look for LED lights when shopping for exterior lights for your home.

  1. LED Light Bulbs Are Safer to Use

LED light bulbs do not usually get hot and do not contain mercury. For these reasons, they are safer to use than other bulbs.

  1. LED Light Bulbs Provide High-quality Lighting

LED lights emit better lighting than incandescent bulbs — there are no two ways about this. With that said, you should remember that not all LED bulbs are the same. Only LED bulbs which have a CRI rating of 90 and above, produce high-quality lighting. Therefore, while shopping for LED light bulbs, always check the CRI score and do not settle for LED bulbs with a CRI score of less than 90.

What Are The Common Types of Outdoor Lighting?

We all know how easy it is to fail to stay aware of the time when you are outside with your friends — garden parties often go on well into the night. One minute, you are having a great time with your guests in broad sunshine, and the next thing you realize that it has got so dark that finding the way back into the house can prove a challenge. But don’t let evening spoil the fun; instead, install efficient outdoor lights to ensure that everybody is able to move around safely and to create a welcoming atmosphere for dining and socializing.

Whether you are hosting a carnival-style garden party or a romantic dinner in the backyard, outdoor lighting can prove indispensable. Broadly speaking, there are two types of outdoor lighting: functional outdoor lighting and decorative outdoor lighting.

Functional Outdoor Lighting

Functional outdoor lighting includes the following:

  • Wall Lights: You can install wall lights in a number of different locations such as garage doors, decks, and beside entryways. Because these lights are available in a range of different designs, they can seamlessly add character to boost your facade or decor, besides serving a functional purpose.
Wall lights
  • Post Lights: The main purpose of these lights is to provide safety and security for those walking nearby. They produce light depending on the structure they have. While small post lights emit soft light which can enhance ambience, tall post lights give bright illumination that can easily cover a vast area.
  • Security Lights: As the name suggests, these lights enhance the safety of your home by making it easier for you detect intruders. They also allow you to move safely around your house in the dark.
  • Lamp Posts: Lamp post lighting delivers widespread lighting for illuminating landscaped gardens, driveways, and pathways.
Lamp Light
  • Decking Lights: Whether you have a ground-level or a raised deck, decking lights can provide illumination so that you can safely move up and down the steps of elevated decks.

Decorative Outdoor Lighting

Decorative outdoor lighting includes the following:

  • Pendant Lights: Pendant lights are a great option for outdoor spaces as they can not only act as a spotlight but also enhance the aesthetic of the area in which they are placed. You can find outdoor pendant lights in a range of styles, sizes, and finishes.
Pendant Lights
  • Lanterns: Available in a wide range of styles, materials, and colours, lanterns make for an excellent decorative outdoor lighting option.
  • Table Lights: If you love dining al fresco, you cannot afford to not have table lights. They provide ambient lighting and help create a romantic and intimate mood.
Table Light
  • Party and String Lighting: Planning to throw a few outdoor parties this summer? If so, do not forget to light up the outdoor space in style with party and string lights. You can install string lights in a number of ways. For example, you can drape them over a big tree or hang them between two posts or trees.
Party and String Lighting
  • Spotlights: Alongside enhancing your home’s safety, outdoor spotlights help you highlight the beauty of your home. Because they are available in a variety of shapes, styles, and materials, you can easily find one that matches your needs.
  • Step Lights: Outdoor step lights give a warm ambient illumination for intimate get-togethers on the patio. Outdoor stair lights also provide focused light for safer steps — an advantage that you cannot look over either.
  • Festoon Lights: Outdoor festoon lights add illumination to your garden, making it usable at night. Drape them around trees in your garden or hang them between two wooden posts to create the perfect ambience for outdoor get-togethers and parties.
Festoon Lights

Does Outdoor Lighting Style Matter?

It’s a common practice to extend an interior decor theme to the outdoor living spaces and exterior facade. Outdoor lighting could help further accentuate your overall design theme, bringing aesthetic value to your home.

Here is a short description of the most distinct outdoor lighting styles which you can use to create an individual decor style or a personalized theme.

Suburban Lighting

Pendant lights usually work best with suburban homes. You should certainly give them a try, but do not forget to ensure that your outdoor lighting has a high IP rating — IP65 or IP44.

Apartment Lighting

Space is often rather limited in city apartments, making it challenging to source lighting proportionate to confined spaces. A case in point is apartment balconies, which more often than not are small. For such balconies, you can go with either only flush mount ceiling lights or a combination of flush mount ceiling lights and small pendant lights.

Coastal Lighting

If you own a coastal home, go for outdoor lighting fixtures made of stainless steel. Because of higher salinity, traditional materials would tarnish and/or rust quicker. Depending on how much outdoor space you have got, you can create a strategy that works best for your home.

Farmhouse Lighting

If you have a sheltered patio that is quite wide, consider installing wall lights across its length. This will make it easier for you to transition from indoors to outdoors. Station or railway lights are a good fit for farmhouses. You may also want to install sensor spotlights near the garage, but make sure these lights have a higher wattage than those installed on the verandah. Because rural areas do not have as much street lighting as urban areas, your garage should quite bright.

Important Factors to Keep In Mind While Buying Outdoor Lighting

Whether you are installing hanging lights, outdoor wall lights, or garden lights, some of the tips you should keep in mind are:

  1. Energy Efficiency

Go for lights that are energy-efficient. This will reduce your spending on energy and lower your carbon footprint. You should consider using LED lights as they are much more energy efficient than traditional options. Another energy-efficient option is solar-powered lights.

  1. Material

Another important factor you must take into account is material of your lighting fixture. We recommend you use those made from copper, aluminum, brass, or ceramic. They are not only durable but also resistant to harsh weather elements.

  1. Cost

A modest budget may limit your options. But, having said that, nowadays outdoor lights are quite reasonably-priced. This means you will likely be able to find durable and attractive models in a price range that suits you.

  1. Wattage

Lights that have a higher wattage are ideal for lighting up the dark outdoor spaces, while lights with a lower wattage can serve decorative purposes.

Identify Your Outdoor Lighting Power Source

An important consideration when picking the best exterior lighting for your home is power source.

  • Electrical Lighting: This type of outdoor lighting can only be used as a permanent fixture. Therefore, you must fix into place and ensure it is properly fitted.
  • Low Voltage LEDThese lights are the best option for those who want their outdoor lighting to last very long. Keep in mind you require a low-voltage transformer if you install low voltage LED lights.
  • Solar Outdoor Lighting: With solar-powered lights, you do not need to worry about wiring. That is because they use a batter for storing sunlight energy, which is used once evening sets in. Thanks to advancements in technology, solar-powered lights last much longer than they did before. You can place solar-powered lights wherever you want and forget about them until the battery stops working. When that happens, you will need to replace the battery.
  • Battery Powered Lighting: Much like solar outdoor lighting, battery powered lighting requires no wiring and are portable. The difference is these lights produce a fixed amount of light until the battery stops working.
  • Timers and Motion Sensors: Today many outdoor lights use motion sensor and timers to determine when they are powered on and powered off. Timers help you save energy, since you can control when a light is switched on and switched off. Sensor lights, on the other hand, turn on when they detect motion. These lights are best suited for entrances and driveways.  

Explore Exterior House Lighting Designs

Outdoor lighting is available in many different designs. Before shopping, look at your options and decide which design will go best with your space. Transitional, contemporary, and traditional are some of the most popular styles. Other common outdoor light designs include farmhouse and industrial.

Exterior House Lighting Designs
  • Traditional: These lights are typically ornate, featuring graceful touches like curving flourishes and hooks.
  • Transitional: These lights share some of the design elements one find in traditional lights, but they are less ornate. For this reason, they are more adaptable than traditional outdoor lights.
  • Modern: A minimalist and streamlined design is the most striking feature of modern exterior lights, with many of them featuring geometric accents.
  • Industrial: These lights take after factory lights popular decades back. Most common shades are made of metal, while coastal exterior lighting includes rust-proof items.
  • Farmhouse: Combining vintage and traditional style elements, farmhouse outdoor lights provide a flawless illumination and a country touch.

What Are The Reasons To Buy Outdoor Lights?

Here are some of the main reasons why everyone should consider installing outdoor lights:

Reasons To Buy Outdoor Lights
  • Extends your outdoor time: With adequate outdoor lighting, you and your guests can spend more quality time outside.
  • Provides safety: Without sufficient exterior lighting, walking on a steep, slippery, or bumpy pathway may lead to falls or accidents.
  • Increases the curb appeal: Attractive outdoor lighting fixtures can considerably boost the curb appeal, besides enhancing safety and security.
  • Deters criminals: Installing exterior lights is an easy and effective way to keep burglars and criminals at bay. That’s because outdoor lighting indicates the home is not vacant, meaning an intrusion or outdoor disturbance will not go undetected.

Choosing the Right Size of Outdoor Lighting

For wall lights (Front Porch):

  • In case you are installing just one lighting fixture, it should be roughly 1/3rd the height of your door
  • In the case of two lighting fixtures, the wall lights could be 1/4th the height of your door

Piers mount lights

  • The size of the fixture may vary based on the total number of bulbs you are using
  • Post-mounted designs have a standard height of 2.159 meters

Ceiling and hanging lights

  • Pick a design proportionate to your patio’s or porch’s size
  • If your room is sufficiently long, consider using a hanging lamp
  • If you have low ceilings, go for a ceiling mounted light

Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: What is the best wattage for outdoor lighting?

Light is not measured in wattage but rather in lumens. How many lumens you need for outdoor lighting depends on your requirements.

Question 2: Which one is better: warm or cool outdoor lighting?

It’s really is not the question of which one of these is better but rather what your lighting needs are. Both warm and cool outdoor lighting are equally good, but they serve different purposes. For example, if you are hanging outdoor lights on the trees in your garden, go for cool lights. However, warm lights can be used on architectural elements. Warmer lights are also perfect in places where you want to create a relaxing and cozy ambience.

Question 3: What Kelvin colour temperature is best for outdoor lighting?

Our recommendation is go for colour temperature in the range of 2700k and 3000k.

Conclusion

Before you shop for outdoor lighting, it is important that you create a plan. This will help you figure out what will work best with your outdoor space and what not. It will also help you create a lighting strategy tailor-made to your personal needs and preferences. Hopefully, this post helped you make lighting decisions that are right for your home’s outer space.