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8 Tips for Selecting the Best Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lighting is an easy, cost-effective way to add beauty, safety, and security to your home. Understanding which outdoor lights work best with your home's exterior and landscape will help you choose the right light fixtures for your garden, deck and yard. Here are our top eight tips for choosing outdoor lighting fixtures for your home.

Tip #1: Determining Size & Placement

Different fixtures are used in different ways to highlight and enhance the exterior of your home. Here are four of the most common fixtures and instruction on how to install them:

Selecting fixture size of exterior hanging porch lights helps with security around your home.

How to Hang Pendant Lighting for Front Porch:

Our guide on how to size and place outdoor pendant lights will help you estimate dimensions based on your front entryway. To determine installation height, the bottom of the fixture should be six inches above the top of your front door. Our rule of thumb for determining fixture size is to divide the height of your front door by five. This will keep the fixture in proportion with the front entryway without overpowering the space. Pendants are most commonly hung using chain, wire, cable, or stem connections. Typically chain connections are fully customizable. The length of wire, cable, and stem hanging methods should be considered while deciding on the perfect outdoor pendant.

Adding the best wall mounted lighting designs to your home is an easy DIY install to illuminate your patio.

How to Place Wall Lighting for Exterior Doorways:

Utilize the helpful tips for deciding on the correct wall lighting placement around a front or side doorway. In order to determine the best size wall fixture multiply the height of the door in inches by one-fourth (0.25) for a standard look or if you prefer an oversized design style multiply your door measurement by one-third (0.33). The installation height of your new outdoor wall sconce should be 66 inches from the center of the fixture straight down to the floor. This same installation height can be shared on each side of your front doorway. Many companies are creating researching protective coatings for outdoor sconces like Maxim Lighting and their new VIVEX material that withstands harsh environments.

Find modern exterior flush mount lighting fixtures that fit your house and brighten your home.

How to Install Outdoor Flush Mount Lighting for Entryway:

Our model contains the best DIY advice for determining size, placement, and installation of exterior flush mount light fixtures to add to your home’s design and curb appeal. Finding the correct illuminating accessories size will depend on the type of door frame you use. If you have double doors be sure to multiply the frame width by one-third (0.33) to receive the ideal fixture length. To find the best light fixture length with single doors multiply the door frame width by one-fourth (0.25). The depth, or installation height, needs to leave at least 6 inches of clearance above the top of the door frame to provide the best visibility on your front patio and provide an entertaining entryway for your guests.

Determine the correct exterior post mount lights to illuminate your garden with modern landscape lighting design.

How to Measure Lamp Post Lighting Size for Driveways:

Our informative walkthrough shows in simple language how to size and place exterior post lanterns. First, ensure the pole you will be mounting on is secured at least 1.5 to two feet below the surface of your grass. The pole height should be at least 8 feet. allowing between 5.5 and 6.5 feet of exposed post. The last size to determine is for the fixture. The pier mount light should be about a quarter of the pole height. With this in mind many of the popular post mount fixtures are between 18 and 24 inches tall. It is recommended to have an electrician prepare the area for the hard-wiring installation that you can do yourself. Post mount solar fixtures are a great way to remove extensive wiring from an easy DIY project.

Tip #2: UL Rating: Wet or Damp?

Select fixtures made for outdoor locations that stand up to humidity and moisture. The Underwriters Laboratory (UL) assigns ratings based on the light fixture's locations - damp or wet. Here's what each rating means:

  • UL Damp: A UL damp rating means the light fixture is suited for humid and moist locations with no direct exposure to rain, snow, water, or other liquids. Damp-rated fixtures are ideal for partially covered areas like canopies, marquees, and covered porches.
  • UL Wet: A UL wet rating means the light fixture is suited for all locations with direct contact with rain, snow, ocean spray, and more. Wet-rated light fixtures are ideal for uncovered gazebos, pergolas, porches, and walkways.

To learn more about the difference between indoor and outdoor fixtures and where these fixtures can be used, please see our guide on how to choose an outdoor ceiling fan.

Tip #3: Type, Purpose, & Location

Outdoor lights are available in many forms depending on their intended purpose and placement.

TYPE PURPOSE LOCATION
Ceiling Lights Decorative Entryway
Pendant & Chandelier Lighting Decorative Outdoor kitchens, patio dining, and garden nooks
Flood Lighting Security Garage, driveway, and parking areas
Wall Sconces Decorative Front entrance, exterior walls, and stairways
Recessed Lighting Safety Eaves, decks, paths, and stairways
String Lighting Decorative Gardens, gazebos, patios, and porches
Landscape Lighting Decorative and Safety Front of house, pathways, walkways, gardens, and trees
Solar Lighting Safety paths, walkways, and gardens

Tip #4: Materials & Finishes

Outdoor lights are made from a variety of materials, including:

    Information About Brass Material For Outside Lights

  • Brass: Holds up well in all environments, including coastal regions. May develop a patina (darken), but does not corrode and lasts for many years.
  • Outdoor Lights Made With Cast Aluminum

  • Cast Aluminum: Affordable alternative to brass and copper outdoor lighting. Corrodes easily, unless using a special weather-resistant finish, so avoid use in coastal regions.
  • Ceramic Outdoor Lighting Material Information

  • Ceramic: A unique, decorative approach to illuminate your home's exterior. Weather resistant, weather proof, and many are dark sky compliant.
  • Outdoor Light Information About Copper Material

  • Copper: Holds up well in all climates, but it's not as durable as brass outdoor lighting. Many lighting manufacturers create brass fixtures and coat them with copper.

Tip #5: Styles

Outdoor lights are available in a variety of styles, including the following popular options:

Antique Style Hanging LampModern Style Post LightingNautical Style Outdoor Pendant LightingRustic Looking Outdoor Sconce
  • Antique - Classic colonial design featuring brass, bronze, or copper finishes. Ideal for historical and vintage-inspired homes.
  • Modern - Smooth, clean lines available in chrome, nickel, or stainless steel finishes. Ideal for contemporary, modern, or transitional homes.
  • Nautical - Classic colonial design featuring black, iron, or satin finishes. Ideal for beach bungalows or coastal homes.
  • Rustic - Hand-forged metal accents available in pewter and other natural finishes. Ideal for Cabin and Lodge-style homes.

Tip #6: Controls

You can manage your outdoor lights in several ways, including:

  • Dimmers - Gives you greater control over outdoor lighting range.
  • Home Automation – Gives you remote access to turn lights on and off or at scheduled times from your remote home automation device.
  • Timers – Turns on the lights at a scheduled time.
  • Dusk to Dawn – Turns on the lights from dust to dawn, but can also be scheduled up to 8 hours.
  • Motion Sensors – Turns on the lights when movement is detected.

Tip #7: Special Considerations

When choosing lighting, the following special considerations need to be accounted for:

  • Bulb Types – Choose light bulbs that are rated for damp environments. Do not choose the max wattage for each lighting fixture as this can be blinding to neighbors and passersby. 
  • Energy Efficiency – Consider energy-efficient CFL and LED outdoor lighting in conjunction with lighting controls.
  • Dark Sky Lighting – These light fixtures are designed to minimize glare and light trespass, which contribute to light pollution.
  • Turtle Safe Lighting – These shielded light fixtures are ideal for coastal areas with turtle nests.
  • Solar Lighting – These light fixtures collect the energy from the sun during the day and emit it at night. They're affordable, eco-friendly alternative to many outdoor lighting fixtures.

Tip #8: Maintenance

Maintaining your outdoor lighting fixtures ensures your safety and security. Here are some maintenance tips:

  • Replace broken or burned-out bulbs
  • Clean grimy lenses with a soft cloth and mild soap
  • Replace broken, damaged or corroded light fixtures
  • Trim bushes, shrubs and branches to prevent light obstruction

The right outdoor lighting creates a warm, welcoming entrance for your family and guests. It also creates the appearance of safety and security. Which outdoor lighting fixture do you think best enhances your home?

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