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Date: 2017-03-19 00:00:00Written By

How to Choose Outdoor Lighting

  • Tags: Outdoor lighting fixtures are quintessential multi-taskers,
  • No one likes to feel alone in the dark when outside his or her own home. Similarly, sitting inside at night without a shred of light shining on your lawn can be unnerving. There are hundreds of outdoor lighting options to remedy these dark effects. Some homeowners install outdoor lighting to provide added security and safety, while others just like the look or happen to entertain often enough that creating a visual effect in evening hours is both functionally and aesthetically necessary.

    With every other home and landscaping feature in place, outdoor lighting can be chosen so that it best complements the scenery, accentuating important or pleasing features and downplaying those that may not look quite right. Choose your lighting based on house and lawn size, security or entertainment needs and of course, personal style. 

    Types of Outdoor Lighting

    Each type of light achieves its own purpose, but every one should make your outdoor space unique and provide overall comfort for you and your family. Understanding the intent in each type’s design will help you choose the perfect outdoor lighting.

    Mushroom lights look like mushrooms and usually stand on a single stem. The mushroom shade shape means light will shine down on the ground, but a mushroom light can be as tall or short as is appropriate for your space.

    Any light fixture that does not protrude but is almost sunken into whatever surface on which it is located, creating a light fixture depression of sorts. Several of the light types that follow may be recessed, like path lights or stair lights.
    Post lights are the most traditional light type, so homeowners like to place them close to the street or end of the drive to showcase the style and maintain street-side visibility. Post lamps come in a variety of designs and materials, meaning you can find one (or a set) to perfectly complement your landscaping scheme.

    Pendants, or hanging lamps, are ideal for use at your home’s entrance or on a patio. If you purchase a specific fixture designed for lamp hanging (or even plant hanging) a single pendant can provide an interesting style element. Pendant lights are available in a wide variety of materials, colors, styles and designs; choosing is a matter of what your home and yard demand.

    Mounted against the house on a wall or column or on a fence at the edge of the yard, sconces are elegant and traditional. From brass three-tiers to simple black one-bulb designs, sconces are available to complement any home’s style and any homeowner’s landscaping ideas.

    Well lights add a sense of depth to an outdoor space. They are placed on the ground, often behind an object like a bush, so that the light shines upward to accent the object. Well lights are generally hidden from view, as they are meant as an enhancement and not necessarily a feature of their own.

    Spotlights are the opposite of well lights, in that they are placed above an object, meant to cast a downward light. This light direction reminds us of the light of day, highlighting landscaping features in the most natural manner and creating the most natural shadow effects. As a security feature, spotlights direct light well enough for high visibility.

    Path lights illuminate walkways, sidewalks, driveways, or even pool edges. These lights are meant to guide, so they should be placed low to the ground. Again, path lights can be recessed or in fixtures (even mushroom fixtures). Choose a light that is covered on the top, so that the light will spread evenly along the ground, rather than create a glare. Path lights are generally implemented for both safety and aesthetics, so ensuring optimal function is important.

    Step, Deck and Brick
    These recessed lights are especially safe pathway markers. They are also aesthetically ideal because they offer a subtle appearance both day and night.

    Floodlights and Security
    Floodlights provide a very bright light for maximum coverage. These lights are excellent for areas where security might be a concern. Lights installed for security purposes are often accompanied by sensors or timers. While timers would cause the light to turn on at user-selected times, passive infrared sensors are motion activated.

    Specialty Lights
    Underwater lights, stringed lights, party lights and lighting kits are also available. Depending on which you are looking for, these lighting choices are either much less common or used for temporary reasons, so the process of finding those that fit will vary in length and difficulty.
    Elk Lighting Rectangular Fabric Lampshade

    Shedding Light on Quality

    Considering quality should mean searching for fixtures or lamps made from durable, functional materials. One factor in durability is rust resistance and waterproof electrical pieces, measured in IP ratings. An IPx5 rating is the highest, but an IPx3 rating should be sufficient for most conditions. While an IPx3 can withstand rain, an IPx5 can withstand jet water spray from every direction.

    If a lamppost is made of low quality wood or a path light is made of cheap metal, longevity is significantly decreased. Look for a warranty if you’re concerned about needing parts replacements or maintenance, but to ensure you find something durable, evaluate all the materials used in construction of the fixture. Find out if the light you want has been treated for rust and water resistance or if the wood is prone to rotting.

    Pricey Pathways – Outdoor Lighting Costs

    Because there are so many types of outdoor lighting and lighting sets on the market, prices vary widely. Materials and installation will contribute to overall costs, but initially, expect to pay $40 to $100 for one outdoor sconce, spotlight or step light, between $35 and $200 for one pendant light, recessed light or well light, and $20 to $100 for a floodlight. Lampposts can sometimes be more expensive, costing between $150 and $300.

    The Bottom Line

    Outdoor lighting is an important purchase because it acts as one of the finishing touches to your landscape and provides added security to your home. Choosing the right individual fixtures or designing a lighting theme can be a fun project, but for the installation, speaking to an electrician is advised. When beautiful fixtures and beautiful wiring come together, you’ll definitely see the light.

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