Outdoor Lighting Guide: Rating, Sizing, Placement, Finish & Style

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Outdoor Lighting Guide: Rating, Sizing, Placement, Finish & Style

Outdoor lighting is growing in popularity everyday. For many homes it not only increases the curb appeal, but helps with security and safety for your family and guests. From the gorgeous rustic outdoor pendant that greets you at the front door, to the modern post lighting that lights a path through the back yard, outdoor lighting can enhance all the exterior areas of your home.

Of course there is no requirement which says you must hang and mount your outdoor lighting fixtures according to our specifications, we have provided a guide of best practices for sizing and placing various forms of outdoor lighting. These practices have been developed for aesthetic appeal as well as for safety. You will find that many frequently asked questions regarding sizing or placement of particular lighting types will be addressed below. We have provided tables, and infographics throughout our outdoor lighting guide so you can be sure your lighting is pleasing and secure.

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If you are looking for outdoor lighting solely for the purpose of protecting your home with the addition of security lights, then our Security Lighting Guide can help you! Not only does our security lighting guide discuss the best locations to install security lights, but it also introduces all of the different types of security lighting, as well as many other important elements you should consider when choosing your exterior lighting fixtures. You want to be sure your choices in lighting fixtures are both safe and aesthetically pleasing.

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Why Buy from Del Mar Fans and Lighting?

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There are many reasons to buy from Del Mar Fans and Lighting, however, here are just a few reasons we would like to bring attention to!

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HOW TO CHOOSE “WEATHER” YOU NEED 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 followed closely by the type of weather it is going to reside in. UL wet and UL damp ratings are both indicators that your fixture can be installed outdoors as well as the type of environment they work best in. These different UL ratings indicate which outdoor areas are most suitable for your fixture. While wet-rated lighting fixtures can stand up to the harsher elements, damp rated fixtures traditionally only hold up to a certain level of moisture and indirect weathering.

Pictured is a table listing the differences between a wet, damp, and dry rating with corresponding images of wall sconces lining the outer wall of a veranda, a lantern pendant on a front porch, and an indoor entryway chandelier.

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What does a UL Wet Rating Indicate?

  • Can handle ice, snow, and intense rain.
  • Can handle harsh, salty breezes from the ocean.
  • Can be placed on an exposed deck, veranda, lanai, gazebo, or pergola.

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What Does a UL Damp Rating Indicate?

  • Ideal for covered outdoor locations that have no direct exposure to water, rain, or snow.
  • Can handle moisture and damp areas.
  • Can be placed in a bathroom, carport, covered patio, screened porch, or kitchen.

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What Does a UL Dry Rating Indicate?

  • For indoor use only.
  • Cannot be exposed to any moisture.
  • Cannot be used outdoors or in wet/damp locations.
  • Can be placed in a bedroom, living room, dining room, foyer, or finished basement.

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DETERMINING THE SIZE & PLACEMENT OF YOUR LIGHTING FIXTURE

The main goal from a design perspective, when determining the size and placement of your outdoor lighting fixtures, is to enhance the curb appeal of your home. As they say you have one chance for a first impression, and the curb appeal of your home is no different. This is especially true if you are looking to take advantage of the seller's market these days. While there is nothing wrong with getting creative with lighting placement around your home, there are safe and effective ways to measure and place your lighting fixtures in various outdoor locations. This way you can get curb appeal and be secure in your lighting placement.

These safe and design forward ways for measuring and placing your fixtures have been determined by our ceiling fan and lighting experts from years of research and personal experience. These guidelines are Del Mar’s best rules and practices to follow in order to create an all around elegant appeal and functional design. Additionally, certain measurements have been determined in order to keep you and your fixture safe from electrical and physical damages. For example, with hanging light fixtures the standard height of seven feet will provide at least six inches of clearance for the majority of people walking below.

Here are six of the most common light fixture locations, types, as well as an overview of how to size and place each one. Be sure to take advantage of this great tool.

Outdoor Lighting Size & Height Installation Guide

LOCATION DETERMINE SIZE MOUNTING PLACEMENT & HEIGHT
Over Garage & Front Door Wall Lights 1/4th or 1/3 the width of the door frame in inches Centered above door; 6" above the door
Front Door Wall Sconces & Carriage Lights 1/4th or 1/3rd the height of the door in inches At least 6” from door frame; 66" from floor to center of fixture
Front Porch Ceiling Lights 1/4th or 1/3rd the width of the door frame Centered above door, 6" above the door
Front Entrance Hanging Lighting 1/5th the height of the door in inches Centered above door, 6" above the door
Driveway & Garden Lamp Post 1/4th the height of the mounting pole or the fence post in inches At least 1’ from the driveway or street, 5.5' to 6.5' from ground to bottom of fixture
Patio Dining Chandeliers 2/3 or 1/2 the width of the table in inches Centered above table or living area, 30-34" above the table or 7’ above the ground

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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 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.

Pictured is a barn-style light placed above a garage door made of light barnwood and surrounded by a white picket fence with purple flowers.

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How to Size and Place Garage Door Lights

The above guide to placing your outdoor garage lighting is very helpful in ensuring you keep your fixture out of range of any moving parts on your garage door. To determine how large your outdoor garage fixture should be, simply multiply the width of your garage door in inches by .25 (for a single car garage) or by .33 (for a two-car garage then place it at the centermost point of your garage door. To place your garage light at the center of the door, take the width of your garage door and divide by two to determine the location of the center of your garage door.

Typical single car garage doors are either ten, nine, or eight feet wide by seven feet high, and double car garage doors start at 12 feet and go up to 18 feet. As an example, an eight-foot single car garage multiplied by (.25) would give you an optimal fixture size of 24 inches wide. While a 12-foot double car garage door multiplied by (.33) would get you a fixture size of 36 inches wide.


For sidelights divide the height of your front door by 1/3 and 1/4. Look for a light fixture that measures 1/3 to 1/4 the height of your front door. This will give you a light fixture of ample size, while not looking too diminutive or big for your house.

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Outdoor Wall Lighting

Outdoor wall lighting can illuminate not only your front door, but your back and side entrances, your back and side porches, and your shed or pool house. Wall lights come in a variety of finishes, styles, and designs. What’s more is that outdoor wall lighting adds a stylish touch, and provides a layer of security that will help you keep away any unwanted guests or intruders.

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

How to Size Front Door Wall Sconces

We encourage you to utilize these helpful industry tips for choosing the correct wall lighting placement around your front or side doorway. In order to determine the best size wall fixture, simply multiply the height of the door in inches by one-fourth (0.25) for a traditional look, or if you prefer a more bombastic design style then multiply your door measurement by one-third (0.33) and go big! Basically for a traditional style, installed above a standard sized door of 80 inches, you would multiply 80 X (.25) leaving you with an average fixture size of 20 inches. For the larger size fixture simply adjust your math accordingly.

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How to Place Front Door Carriage Lights

The placement of your new outdoor wall sconce should be at a height of 66 inches measured from the center of the fixture down to the floor. This same installation height should be used on each side of any side doorway as well as next to your garage door. In other words, if you would also like to place wall sconces on either side of your garage door or side entrance, you should follow these same fixture size measurements and installation guides.

To determine the horizontal measurement for placing your wall sconces, there are many options and less standardization. Ultimately it is primarily based on what you find to be aesthetically pleasing. However, if you are placing them next to the door frame, a good practice is to leave about six inches between your fixture and the door.

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Front Porch Ceiling Lighting

Outdoor ceiling lighting for a front porch or screen porch is a great option if you’re looking to bring your own style while saving in overhead space. This is because outdoor ceiling lighting gets mounted flush or semi flush to your overhead patio, porch, or entryway. Even though these low-profile fixtures may be smaller in size, they can still emit a significant amount of light.

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

How to Size Front Porch Ceiling Lights

As you can see our model contains the best DIY advice for determining size, placement, and installation of exterior flush mount light fixtures. Getting this right can be important because these fixtures help to add to your home’s design and curb appeal. Finding the correct illumination accessory size will depend on the type of door frame you use. Before we begin, it is important to define what we mean by the term “width” in this context, as it is often used interchangeably with length. Width means the widest part of the light when installed, while length is the shorter of the two dimensions. Height is from the top of the fixture or the flush mount to the bottom of the fixture, including any finials or hanging accent pieces.

If you have double doors you want to be sure to multiply the frame width by one-third (0.33) to receive the ideal fixture width. To find the best light fixture width with single doors multiply the door frame width by one-fourth (0.25). So, again, for a standard door of 80 inches in height, you would multiply 80 by (.25) to get an ideal fixture width of 20 inches.


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How to Place Front Door Ceiling Lights

The depth, or placement height for your ceiling lighting, needs to leave at least six inches of clearance above the top of the door frame in order to provide the best visibility on your front patio as well as provide an entertaining display for your guests. This means that the lowest point of your fixture should have at least six inches of clearance from the door. To determine the best place to install your ceiling light, you should focus on where you want the light to shine most. If you want to illuminate the door itself, you can center the fixture on the ceiling and move it closer to the door. If you would like the ceiling light to remain perfectly centered above your entryway, you will want to place the light at the middle cross-sections of your longitudinal and latitudinal measurements of the entryway.

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Front Entrance Hanging Lighting

Outdoor pendant lighting is a beautiful way to bring in exquisite form with quality functionality to your exterior foyer, front entryway, or gallery. Outdoor hanging lights offer warm and ambient lighting with a variety of different designs. From modern sleek lines to Antique Brass finishes, you can easily add style to your outdoor dining area or entryway with the simple addition of a drop light.

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

How to Size Front Door Pendants

Our guide on how to size and place outdoor pendant lights will help you determine proportional dimensions based on your front entryway. To determine the best size or ideal size for your pendant lighting fixture, multiply the height of your door by one fifth. For example, if you had a front door which was 80 inches in height, you would multiply 80 by one fifth for an ideal fixture size of 16 inches.

Pendants are generally hung using chain, wire, cable, or stem connections. Typically chain connections are the most customizable but stems can also be an elegant choice. For this reason, when measuring your fixture, you would not necessarily need to include the length of the chain or stem. However, with wire, cable, and stem hanging methods you should take the length into consideration to ensure your pendant does not hang too low. The agreed upon height is no lower than seven feet from the ground.


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How to Place Front Porch Pendants

To determine installation height, the bottom of the fixture should be...I’ll let you guess...that’s right, six inches above the top of your front door. Our standard 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 overwhelming the space.

In terms of placement, the best rule for installing your pendant lighting would be to place the fixture at the center of your entryway ceiling or overhang. To establish the center, you will want to place the light at the middle cross-sections of your width measurements and length measurements of your overhead space.

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Driveway & Garden Lighting

An exceptional way to light your driveway, garden, or outdoor pathway is through the use of outdoor post lighting. Outdoor post lighting is perfect for shining light throughout your yard. Placing lights up your driveway not only helps to add security but can draw the eye up to the home. This can create a visually appealing effect, especially when combined with other outdoor lighting fixtures.

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

How to Size Post Lighting for your Yard

To determine the size of your post lighting fixture, the pier mount light should be about a quarter of the pole height. So, if the length of your mounting pole were 20 inches, you would want a fixture which is approximately five inches. Note that many of the popular post mount fixtures are between 18 and 24 inches tall. Additionally, it is recommended to have an electrician prepare the area for the hard-wiring installation that you can do yourself.


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How to Place a Driveway or Garden Lamp Post

To place your post lighting, first ensure the pole you will be using to mount your fixture is secured at least 1.5 to two feet belowground. The pole height should be at least eight feet, allowing between 5.5 and 6.5 feet of exposed post. As for the distance away from your driveway, sidewalk, or street, you should begin by establishing 12 inches of clearance from your curb or driveway. This is because a major consideration is the amount of space you will need for your fixture to be away from vehicles, snowplows, or anything that may potentially damage them. After establishing a foot of clearance, there is no standardized place to put in your post lighting. However we encourage you to place your lighting where you feel it will create the most curb appeal.

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Outdoor Patio Dining Chandeliers

Outdoor chandeliers are a wonderful way to add a pop of drama and elegance to your outdoor patio, dining area, or entryway. They come in various sizes and with an array of different styles to choose from, they can certainly make a bold statement leaving a lasting impression on any guests that visit.

Pictured is a metal and glass rectangular chandelier hung above a solid wooden table on a back patio.

How to Size Patio Dining Chandeliers

Make use of this tip when hanging an outdoor chandelier over a table on your porch or patio. In order to figure out the ideal width and length for your fixture, multiply the width of your table by (.66) for a standard look. If you are the type who prefers a bolder and over-sized design, then multiply the width of your table by (0.5). For example, if you were finding a standard sized fixture to go above a dining room table which is 40 inches in width, you would multiply 40 by (.66) for a standard fixture size of 26.4 inches. For the larger size chandelier, again simply adjust your math accordingly.


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How High to Hang An Outdoor Table Chandelier

To place your outdoor chandelier, the measurement from the bottom of your fixture to the top of your table should be between 30 and 34 inches. This is not only so that you have enough head room above your outdoor table, but so you have a maximum amount of illumination for the entire table. When determining the best placement for your chandelier, in terms of installation, a best practice is to simply center your outdoor chandelier above the table.


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How to Size Outdoor Living Area Chandeliers

First measure the width and length of the space where you are planning to hang the chandelier. Then, round to the nearest foot of each measurement, to get a round number for each and add them together. If your room width is 10 feet 5 inches, you would round to 10 feet, and your room length is 17 feet 6 inches, you would round to 18 feet. The sum of those two measurements would be 28 feet. Simply convert that number to inches (28 inches) and you’ve got the ideal width of your chandelier. After you have gotten to your ideal size fixture then simply consider if you want it centered or not and place accordingly.


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How High to Hang Outdoor Chandeliers

If you are not installing the chandelier over a table, but instead over an outdoor lounge area the recommended installation height is at least 7 feet from the bottom of the chandelier to the floor. The size of the chandelier is dependent on the size of the space where it will hang. You want to ensure your chandelier is proportional to the space where it will be installed, to ensure it’s not too large or too small. Then, you can center the fixture above your lounge area, or wherever you think it will look best aesthetically, as well as bring the desired amount of lighting coverage you’re looking for.

The size and placement measurements are the same whether you’re considering an outdoor or an indoor chandelier, see our How to Size a Chandelier Guide for more details.

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The Best Materials for your Outdoor Lighting

While outdoor lighting comes in a variety of different materials, the top materials have been found to be cast aluminum, solid brass, and wrought iron. Cast aluminum has an especially large variety of outdoor lighting products to shop from with over 1,200 various wall sconces, post lights, ceiling lights, and more. Solid brass and wrought iron are also just as valid of options, as they do a great job at standing up to the elements. However, if you are looking specifically for wrought iron lighting, be sure to note that many fixtures are styled to boast a wrought iron appeal, but may not in fact be made of wrought iron. So, make sure to always check the material on your fixture as well as the UL rating!


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Best Outdoor Lighting Products by Finish

Still not sure what product(s) to select? We've attempted to eliminate some of the guesswork for you by presenting you with a list of the best outdoor lighting options by type of finish. You can use this handy list as a guide or a starting place in your search for the perfect lights to complement your outdoor situation, whatever that may be!



Best Cast Aluminum Outdoor Lighting


Kichler Barrie

The Kichler Barrie is a wonderful example of antique style and form. This outdoor wall sconce comes in tannery bronze and black and is made of cast aluminum. With this fixture you can add to an overall traditional or rustic design. It is UL approved for wet locations so you can install it just about anywhere. Therefore this fixture is both beautiful and functional.

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Best Solid Brass Outdoor Lighting

Sea Gull Classico

The Sea Gull Classico’s traditional style harkens back to charming coach lights of the past. This is why it has remained a staple of exterior home lighting. It has a solid brass finish with clear beveled glass so it works best with clear bulbs. It is UL listed for wet locations so you can install it just about anywhere. The Classico is just like its name implies: classic. You won’t have any trouble finding a place for this fixture.

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Best Wrought Iron Outdoor Lighting

Murray Feiss Whitaker

The Murray Feiss Whitaker outdoor wall fixture enhances the beauty of your property, makes your home feel more secure, and increases the joy of being outside. This fixture is a fresh interpretation of the classic English pocket lantern. The polished nickel reflector increases light output, and is historically accurate. It is UL listed for wet locations so you can add antique English style to any outdoor area. With an astral bronze stainless steel frame, solid brass hinge and latch and powder coated steel roof & base you can’t help but be impressed with its functionality and design.

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Popular Outdoor Lighting Fixture Finishes

If you are less concerned about the material it is made from and more interested in the aesthetic, you have a lot of finishes and styles to choose from:



Best Brass Outdoor Lighting

Acclaim Charles Outdoor Wall Sconce

The Acclaim St. Charles Outdoor Wall Sconce is an example of classic Colonial American design. This fixture is hand-crafted of solid copper with clear glass pane shades and is clearly reminiscent of the gas lanterns of yesteryear. It is UL listed for wet environments, so the authentic construction details that include hammered rivets and soldered joints add to its hardy appearance, letting you know you can install it anywhere.

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Sea Gull Eddington

The Sea Gull Eddington outdoor fixture offers a mixture of traditional and country style. As a hanging pendant light it can fit in nicely as part of an entryway lighting set up combined with wall sconces of similar design and style. It comes in antique bronze and black finish to match multiple designs. It is UL listed for damp location so it can work in certain outdoor environments with more mild weather conditions. However it will make a design statement wherever you decide to install it.

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Best Bronze Outdoor Lighting

Quorum Ion Outdoor Wall Sconce

The Quorum Ion Outdoor Wall Sconce is a great example of a modern chic design. With its sharp edges and geometric design, it can fit in with both modern and industrial outdoor settings. With three finish options including brushed aluminum, noir and oiled bronze you can be sure it will also match your color scheme. This fixture is UL listed for wet locations so it is functional along with stylish. Yet while it has style, it also fits well in the background if you prefer more subtle lighting fixtures.

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Best Chrome Outdoor Lighting

Troy Beckham Outdoor Wall Sconce

The Beckham Outdoor Wall Sconce by Troy walks the line between modern and antique styles. With the two finish options of polished stainless steel and forged iron you can see why this is true. One is a bit more traditional and the other feels more chic and modern. For this reason this fixture will fit in with many design decors. It is UL listed for wet locations so the accessibility of this fixture extends to its placement options as well. Include this fixture within a multitude of outdoor styles and you’ll see.

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Best Copper Outdoor Lighting

Quoizel Newbury Outdoor Post Lantern

When it comes to curb appeal the Quoizel Newbury Outdoor Post Lantern is definitely going to improve your home's appearance. The classic design of the Newbury gives the outside of your home a rich elegance and special ambiance without looking outlandish. It's a versatile fixture that coordinates well with most any architectural style. It is ETL Listed for Wet Locations so it will work just fine in any yard or walkway. With a multitude of finishes available you will be sure to find the right one to match your outdoor design.

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Best Graphite Outdoor Lighting

Murray Feiss Legend Outdoor Wall Sconce

Exactly as its name implies the Murray Feiss Legend Outdoor Wall Sconce is legendary. You can’t help but look at this fixture and be impressed. The dark weathered zinc finish, cast aluminum structure and off-set openings inspired by stacked flagstone create a warm and inviting ambience. At the same time they make a significant design statement to visitors. It’s ETL listed for wet locations so you can install it wherever you see fit, immediately creating a focal design point in any space.

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Best Satin Nickel Lighting

Kichler Grenoble Wall Sconce

The Kichler Grenoble Wall Sconce brings a modern contemporary style to any space. With a brushed nickel finish and almost futuristic style you will be sure to add a special touch to any space both indoor and out. The design fits in best with both modern chic and industrial style decors. It is UL listed for wet locations so you can install it almost anywhere no matter the weather environment.

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Best White Outdoor Lighting

Acclaim Chateau Outdoor Pendant

The Acclaim Chateau Outdoor Pendant boasts a simple, classical style. The clean white design and elegant structure fits in well with antique and english colonial styles. As a hanging lantern it features elegant scrollwork as well as clear beveled glass panes. It's cast aluminum construction resists rust and corrosion which is great for a long life. It is ETL listed for damp locations so it cannot resist direct moisture, but it would fit in perfectly in a gazebo or covered outside dining area.

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Best Wrought Iron Lighting

Minka Sage Ridge 1-Light Outdoor Post

The Minka Sage Ridge 1-Light Outdoor Post has a vintage rust finish with no glass (Hidden Light Source, IDA approved) so it really fits the part for a certain aesthetic. This fixture brings a rustic antique style to any space with a vintage rust finish and decorative grill work. It is made of cast aluminum which helps to resist rust as well. It is also ETL listed for wet locations so you can install it right in your yard or walkway and it will hold up to the elements.

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Popular Styles for your Outdoor Lighting

There are many different styles to shop when selecting the perfect outdoor lighting for your home’s exterior. From Tropical to Transitional and everything in between, outdoor lighting has an array of options so you can find exactly what you’re looking for! Below are some of our most popular style guides which include discussions of outdoor lighting options for each particular style!

Another popular outdoor lighting style is the Tuscan style which has a Tuscan Style Lighting Guide available. All styles offer several collections so that you can create a visual bond and coherence throughout all of your outdoor lighting.


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Choosing LED for your Outdoor Lighting Fixture

Did you know that Energy Star LED bulbs are only replaced once every 36 years on average? LED lighting is growing in popularity for both indoor and outdoor lighting fixtures as they are more environmentally friendly and can save you a substantial amount of money on your electric bill. Many brands are now integrating LED lighting into their designs. Therefore, LED lighting is definitely an extra element that you may want to consider when selecting your outdoor lighting fixtures. Below are just a few of the many benefits of LED lighting:

  • Only 60% of energy consumed goes to heat.
  • LED is offered in a wide range of colors.
  • It only pulls 10Watts.
  • LED bulbs can live for up to 40,000 hours.

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HOW ABOUT AN OUTDOOR CEILING FAN WITH LIGHTS?

One last thing you may want to consider as an option for your outdoor lighting needs is a ceiling fan with lights. Ceiling fans with lights have the added benefits of air circulation and a cool breeze for those hot summer nights. Outdoor ceiling fans with lights also come with UL wet and damp ratings to indicate their possible placements outdoors. Pictured below is the Quorum Galveston Patio. The Galveston carries a UL wet rating and brings CFL lighting through clear seedy glass. Additionally, the Galveston produces a 5,126 CFM, meaning that it is capable of creating quite the cool breeze.

Pictured is an outdoor fan hanging from a pergola placed near a gorgeous pool with coastal architecture.

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When shopping outdoor lighting and outdoor ceiling fans with lights, the possibilities for stylish designs are endless. Outdoor lighting can easily add that next level of sheer beauty to your home! Also, keep in mind that once you have found exactly what you’re looking for, we will ship your $40+ order for free!

If you would like more assistance tracking down the perfect product, you can always reach our ceiling fan experts at 1-800-724-5501!

Pictured is a sliver of the Terna ceiling fan and the text saying

Related Posts

Which outdoor lighting type is your favorite? Do you need help placing lighting in another area of your exterior? Let us know or drop any question you may have in the comments below!

November 11, 2021
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