Your guide to outdoor lighting

Find all you need to know about lighting the outside of your home in our comprehensive guide

Story by: David Renwick
Sited on top of a hill, this home architecture, backyard, cottage, estate, facade, home, house, landscape, landscape lighting, lighting, plant, property, real estate, residential area, shed, siding, sky, tree, yard, blue
Sited on top of a hill, this home has access to panoramic vistas. City, sea and sky are all in view.

For all the time we spend indoors, there’s nothing quite like a well appointed garden or courtyard, perfectly illuminated for a family gathering.

However, outdoor lighting isn’t as simple as planting a few tiki torches in the ground. You need to consider factors like the type of light, durability, brightness, cost and more.

There are innumerable benefits beyond the aesthetic. With path lighting hooked up to motion sensors, you’ll feel much safer coming home at night. Similarly, timed lighting can keep your home secure while you’re away by making it look like someone’s home.

Types of outdoor lighting

Walk into any specialist lighting or hardware store and the variety of lights available will make your head spin. But, just like you’ll use recessed lights, chandeliers and wall lights inside, you’ll want to consider similar variety outside.

It may seem obvious with landscape lights, but be sure you purchase lights fit for outdoor use. Even a wall light sheltered by the roof will be exposed to the elements. When shopping for lights, you can use the IP (Ingress Protection) rating system to find lights suitable for the location you’ll install them (we’ve got more on this below).

Here’s an overview of the different lighting types:

Security lights or floodlights

High-intensity lights with broad coverage, these are best positioned over garages and front entrances to make your home feel safer. You may also want to place them around the side of your home or in the yard as a security measure.

Note: If you have these lights on a sensor, try and keep them away from bedroom windows to avoid being woken up every time the neighbour’s cat goes for a midnight wander.

Ceiling lights

These lights are best installed under a soffit or deck cover, and used just like how you’d use interior lights. Hosting a dinner outside? Ceiling lights ensure even light throughout the space. For best results, we recommend low-intensity bulbs.

Wall lights

As effective inside as they are out, wall lights are great for adding a unique touch to an otherwise plain wall and making your home more inviting. They’ll also make unlocking the front door at night much easier.

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Landscape lights

You spent a lot of time making that garden look great, so why not show off your work at night? Landscape lights can illuminate particular plants or garden features you’re proud of. They look especially good paired when with water features.

Use spotlights to highlight specific features, or general lights to illuminate wider areas.

At a very basic level, these can be small, solar-powered lights.

Path lights

You’ll find these in the landscape lighting section of most lighting stores. They’re one of the more subtle forms of outdoor lighting, useful for highlighting walkways or stepping stone-like arrangements.

Optional accessories

With an idea of the lights you need for your home, it’s time to turn our attention to the accessories available.

Motion sensors: Paired with a flood light, you can secure your home from would-be thieves.Timers: Get home late at night? Use a timer so the lights turn on automatically at a set time. Timers are great if you’re going away on holiday, too. Dimmers: Ideal for landscape lighting or ceiling/wall lights, dimmers let you control the brightness of your lighting arrangement.

Other things you may want to consider

Before heading down to your local store, we’ve got a few more factors you may want to keep in mind.

Brightness

Be sure to purchase light bulbs appropriate for the type of light and area of the home. For floodlights, you’ll want high-intensity bulbs with a colder temperature. For landscape, wall and ceiling lighting, low-intensity, warmer bulbs create more inviting outdoor spaces.

LEDs are an especially good option now, being relatively affordable and offering exceptional operating life.

Light housing durability and the IP system

If you’ve ever bought a box of cheap solar-powered landscape lights, you’ll know just how much the durability of the housing matters. Make sure you’re purchasing lights that can actually stand up to the rigours of the outdoors – whether in rain or shine.

This applies to ceiling and wall lights, too. You don’t want to purchase units likely to suffer from corrosion or plastic fading.

How the IP system works

This is an international method used to identify how well a fitting keeps out things like dust and water. Each fitting has a 2-digit number.

The first digit defines the level of protection against dust, with the second digit defining the level of protection against water. The higher the individual numbers, the better the protection.

Solar

These units can be quite useful when laying down cable just isn’t feasible, but for durability and control, wired gardens are the best option. Solar lights come on when it gets dark, running throughout the night. You can often pick up a box set.

Our pick of the top outdoor lighting retailers and brands

Lighting Plus

Along with a truly staggering number of options, Lighting Plus have a design-it-yourself lighting tool that makes it easy to plan your home lights. More

Philips

Makers of the seriously cool Hue smart bulbs, Philips also offer a range of lights suitable for outdoor areas. They’ve got architectural floodlighting, spotlights and more. More

The Lighting Centre

The Lighting Centre specialises in lighting design, covering everything from indoor lights to outdoor lights. They also do in store consultations to a full lighting plan. More

Need more project advice?

If you’re planning a home project, see what’s new in Trends Home, Kitchen and Bathroom. We’ve put together handy advice articles, projects with inspiring photos and much more. You can access these areas using the navigation bar at the top of the page.

We’ve also put together this list of affordable DIY outdoor projects to try at home.

Dec 01, 2017

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