Outdoor Lighting

There are three main uses of outdoor lighting:

  • Increase safety and security
  • Extend the use of outdoor areas
  • Enhance the appearance of the home

As will all lighting, outdoor lighting has benefited from the application of light emitting diode (LED) alternatives to incandescent, compact fluorescent (CFL), and various high intensity discharge (HID) forms like mercury vapor, halogen, and sodium.

LEDs are an ideal outdoor light source because they have significantly longer lifespans (up to 10 years), use substantially less energy, can have their light pattern carefully controlled to prevent light pollution on neighboring areas, have excellent color rendition, and perform well in colder temperatures.

Replacing all exterior lights with LEDs is a good idea. If this is impractical, select lights that are difficult to access, such as flood lights on upper stories and replace those. This will limit the number of times you will have to risk life and limb with ladders to replace them.

Because of their lower power consumption, LED lights can be powered by small solar panels that charge internal batteries. This allows placement of LEDs wherever they are needed or desired without the expense of running wires. A trip to the local hardware store will reveal a wide range of solar panel equipped lights that can be mounted on a structure, placed alongside a path or walk, installed on patio/deck areas, and set in landscaping to enhance the appearance of the home.

Safety and Security Lighting

Outdoor lighting provides for a safe and secure perimeter around your home. In terms of safety, using outdoor lighting to illuminate walkways and areas where a trip or fall hazard might be present is generally the primary application for safety. Lights at the entrance to the home also provide for safety illuminating steps and convenience, making it easy to see to open the door.

A pole mounted light at an unlit and potentially hazardous spot of the driveway is also an excellent application. It allows drivers to see curves and turns and navigate them safely.

When it comes to security, outdoor lighting is typically installed in remote or partially obscured locations where intruders might be able to hide. Having a brightly lit exterior deters most intruders but it can also annoy neighbors, so it is a good idea to equip security lighting with motion and daylight sensors. The impact of a bright light suddenly turning on is a great way to chase off trespassers while limiting the amount of time it shines on neighboring property. The daylight sensor conserves energy by keeping the light off during daylight hours.

Extending Hours of Use

For homes with outdoor areas that could be used after dark such as tennis courts, basketball hoops, or areas for lawn games, exterior lighting makes it possible for your family to use these well after the sun goes down. Such lighting is generally mounted on some sort of structure or pole to keep it above the “field of play” and to provide better light dispersion. Equipping these lights with motion and daylight sensors like used for safety and security lights makes a lot of sense. They won’t turn on until someone comes to use the area and they automatically turn off when everyone leaves.

Landscape Lighting

Landscape lighting is used to enhance your home’s image after dark. Properly applied, it highlights architectural features and focal points within the landscaping such as a fountain or unusual planting. Landscape lighting is typically mounted on the ground in front of and within the landscaping itself. Low voltage kits are frequently used to provide landscape lighting. A transformer powers low voltage lights making it easy to plug it into an outside outlet. These systems require wiring and are a good choice where the area doesn’t receive enough daylight to charge a solar powered light’s battery. For landscape lighting, use solar lights or, a daylight sensor or timer is recommended so lights only operate when you want them to.

Lighting Tips

There are several simple things you can do to keep lighting costs to a minimum.

  • As already mentioned, move to LEDs as quickly as possible even if you only replace a few at a time.
  • Go with the lowest equivalent wattage you find suits your needs. For example, a 60 or 75-watt equivalent LED might be the perfect replacement for a 100-watt incandescent.
  • Avoid wasting lighting energy by turning off lights when they aren't needed. The rule of thumb is if you expect to be gone more than 10-15 minutes, turn the lights off.
  • Install occupancy sensors so lights go off automatically in infrequently used rooms like attics and storage areas.
  • Outside, use motion sensors, daylight sensors, and timers to be sure lights only come on when needed.