How can I improve my outdoor lighting?

How to improve outdoor lighting

Light is a powerful tool in landscaping. A well-planned outdoor lighting can greatly improve even the smallest garden. Thanks to the various lighting effects you can transform even an unassuming space into an eye-catching work of art. Not everyone is a keen lighting designer though and some, especially older, landscape lighting systems are in dire need of improvement. So, what should you do to improve your garden’s lights? Here are some lighting tips that should come in handy.

Where to start?

First, you should divide your garden into zones, as different parts of it require different lighting treatment. This will help you choose the right light fixtures for a given spot. For example, if you want to light up a long path, it might be better to use post lights rather than stake lights, depending on the available space. Also, an area that’s in need of security lights won’t benefit much from path lights, as it must be kept well lit.

If you’re not certain, what lighting effects you want to achieve, try experimenting with a torch. It can easily simulate e.g., spotlights, giving you a rough idea of possible solutions. It’s also an easy way to work out the best angles for landscape lighting before committing to any fixtures. Furthermore, it will help you work out spots where your current garden lighting is lacking.

Lastly, think about the power source. If your current outdoor lights that run on batteries aren’t sufficient, consider replacing them with solar- or mains-powered fixtures. Those two are far more reliable and don’t require as much maintenance. Especially solar-powered lights are great for low-maintenance gardens, as they turn on and off automatically, and don’t need frequent battery changes. Unfortunately, they won’t work as good in shaded areas.

Colourful Illuminated Rockery

Types of outdoor lights

Currently, there are thousands upon thousands of outdoor light fixtures available on the market. Despite that, they can be roughly divided into six categories:

1. Spotlights

They emit directed, relatively narrow beams that can create dramatic lighting effects (e.g., silhouetting majestic trees), highlight specific landscape features (like statues), or illuminate certain points of the garden – entrance, front door, patio, gazebo etc. They can be used both as security and accent lights.

2. Floodlights

Contrary to the aforementioned fixtures, floodlights emit a very wide beam meant for light-washing large stretches of the yard, exterior walls, and big flowerbeds. They can be surface- or ground-mounted and are mostly used for safety and security lighting.

3. Path lights

Lights of this type (e.g., post lights, stake/spike lights and bollard lights) serve mainly as safety lighting along driveways, paths, around obstacles or potential landscape hazards (e.g., stairs) and bodies of water. In addition, they also work good as illumination for garden furniture and flowerbeds – especially stake lights can be smoothly incorporated into them.

Decorative Stake Lights

4. Facade/wall lights

In this category you can find some of the most stylish/decorative lamps made for outdoor use. You can choose from a plethora of both vintage- and modern-looking lanterns, sconces, and other lighting fixtures. They can be mounted on any vertical surface, be it a house wall, gazebo, fence, patio, or an oddly shaped garden wall. While browsing for wall-mounted landscape lighting, you should keep in mind that most of them are mains-powered, so they should be placed not far from the house. This also makes them harder to install properly, as wiring them to the mains requires some electrical proficiency.

5. Deck lights

Deck lights can be surface-mounted or recessed (into the ground or surface of the decking, depending on the model). They are discreet fixtures that emit soft, washing light great for safety and accent landscape lighting. Deck lighting is an especially popular solution for illuminating walkways, garden steps, gazebos, patios, and any other deckings. Some models with high enough pressure resistance can be used as driveways’ illumination without the risk of being crushed under the car’s weight.

6. Festoon/string lights

String lights (sometimes called fairy lights) are a series of smaller, fixed light bulbs connected by long cables. Festoons are similar fixtures with one big difference – they use bigger (even ‘regular-sized’) bulbs that can be individually replaced. Both are made with accent and mood lighting in mind, but can be used quite differently. Festoons work best for illuminating larger spaces, while string lights can be wrapped around objects, especially bushes and trees, adding fairy hue to them.

Lit Up Cherry Trees

What to consider while browsing for a light fixture?

Type, style and overall looks are important factors, but they aren’t the only features you should pay attention to while looking for a perfectly matched fixture. Here are a few important ones:


A garden light’s purpose is largely dictated by how bright it is. For example, a dim, soft light can illuminate the outline of a porch, but it won’t be sufficient for security. Those should be bright enough to dispel the dark in the yard and discourage unwanted night guests. So, always check the lamp’s lumens (measurement of brightness, not exactly correlated with wattage) to make sure it’ll be bright enough for its intended purpose.

Colour of the light

Although this may look like a purely decorative matter, the colour of light has a massive impact on the illuminated site and its overall feel. Therefore, a task lighting should be kept in cool white ranges, as they help to focus, while warm white or multicoloured lighting is better suited for relaxation spaces.

What does warm/cool light mean? It’s simple – temperature (measured in Kelvins) is one of light’s features. Cooler lights appear to be bluish (similar to clear sky daylight), while warmer ones fall into the yellow-orangish category (think candlelight). At first, this might be confusing as in the light’s case, the higher the temperature goes, the cooler it gets.

Some examples:

  • <1900K – candlelight,
  • 2700K – warm, yellowish light emitted by dim bulbs,
  • 4000K – neutral white,
  • 6500K – daylight (overcast sky).

IP rating

Any fixture meant for outdoor use should be able to withstand harsh weather conditions. Therefore, you should pay attention to its IP (Ingress Protection) rating. Those two numbers inform us on how good it’s protected against solid objects (first number that goes from 0 to 6) and moisture (second – up to 8).

The absolute minimum IP rating for landscape lighting is 44 – the lamps won’t get penetrated by objects >1 mm and are splashproof. The optimal option would be IP65 – it’s sufficient for anything that British weather can concoct. The waterproofing of 5+ is only needed when there’s an excess of water or if you plan to put the light in a pond. So lamps with that rating aren’t that common.

alt=”Stake Lights In A Flowerbed”

Outdoor lighting – ideas and inspirations

Now that we’ve taken care of the theory part, let’s look into some practical tips on landscape lighting tips.

Blend the lights with their surroundings

Especially string and stake lights are easy to weave into the scenery – their soft glow will add some dreamy vibes to your outdoor room. If you think that standard stake light won’t match your vision, reach for something less obvious. For example, if you want to preserve the natural look of your flowerbed or rockery, try some stone-shaped LED lights – a glowing rock will surely attract attention to it. String lights can be easily strung on a tree or a hedge – if you add some colour to it, you can create a truly magical patch of space.

Emphasize height

Are you a proud owner of a tall gazebo or a tree with extensive canopy? Add a few garlands of string lights to it to emphasize how majestic it is! This will not only decorate it, but also create a cascading lighting effect for bonus style points.

Add variety

Using the same fixtures or lighting effects all across the garden is a straight path to dull out the experience. Try experimenting with various options to find the ones that’ll work well with a given zone. But beware, as variety is a double-edged sword – it’s rather easy to overdo it and cram too much into small spaces. Stick to max 2-3 effects per zone to avoid light pollution.

Illuminate bodies of water

Light reflecting on the water’s surface can be used for mirroring images. So, a well-placed lamp will not only prevent unplanned baths, but also help in creating interesting visuals.

Improve your garden with LED lights

Outdoor lighting came a long way in the past few years – it stopped being purely functional feature and became a great decorating tool. Currently, LEDs are the best available option for lighting up your yard – they consume far less energy than halogen and incandescent lights and are far more long-lived. Despite being low-voltage lighting, LEDs can get really bright. Many LED bulbs also offer RGB options, enabling you to change their colour practically on a whim. So, if you want to improve your outdoor lighting, you should definitely go LED!

What is modern portable outdoor lighting?

As you can see, picking your outdoor lights requires some research work. The more time you spend on it, the better the chances to get exactly what you want and need for your outdoor space.

What is modern portable outdoor lighting?

Modern portable lighting

Modern portable lights are less permanent, but they attract with the portability. Outdoor floor lamps and table lamps, along with various decorative styles, can be used everywhere outside your house. These lights have become a great alternative to traditional lighting, especially since they can present impressive features.

Wireless operation is such a feature that makes customers prefer them to traditional lighting. Such lights are lightweight, rechargeable, weather-resistant, and highly versatile—they can work with almost any decorative style and space. You can now find portable outdoor lights that change colors, play music via Bluetooth, and even float. You can take your portable outdoor lights wherever you need them, without worrying that they’re heavyweight, tricky to set up, etc.

Outdoor floor lamps and table lamps make excellent choices for outdoor lighting as they make any space inviting and pleasant. Moreover, you can always take your portable outdoor lights inside—pick them up and take them inside the house.

Do you need to check out the UL rating?

The UL Rating says what kind of moisture conditions your outdoor lighting can use: in-damp or wet.

UL Damp

Outdoor lighting fixtures that are rated as UL Damp are perfect for humid and moist areas. Such lights are most suited for partially/wholly covered areas, such as porches and decks. UL Damp lighting doesn’t mean that you can expose them to water or weather like snow and rain.

UL Wet

Outdoor lighting UL Wet rated is an adequate option for areas exposed to rain, snow, and even direct contact with water. You can use them on walkways, porches, pergolas, exposed patios, and gazebos.

Outdoor lighting and IP ratings

When you shop for outdoor lightings, you can check out the IP rating on the fixtures to see how they meet your needs.

Which style, material, and energy efficiency to have for your outdoor lighting?


When you pick the style of your outdoor lighting, you need to pay attention to your home’s architecture and your preferences. The market gives you a vast collection of various designs and styles to choose from. You can find anything from rustic and contemporary classic to ultra-sleek and modern.


The materials used for your outdoor lights can affect their appearance and their visual impact on your landscape. Aluminum, copper, brass, and ceramic represent the most common materials used for outdoor lighting.

Energy Efficiency

We recommend you consider using LEDs or other energy-efficient lights such as energry0-efficient CFL and solar-powered lights.

Even if you pay more in the beginning for energy-efficient lighting, you will save in the long run. Additionally, it shows that you care for the environment.

Which bulbs should you have for your outdoor lighting?

The type of bulbs the outdoor lighting uses is another aspect to examine before purchasing the lights.

Which bulbs should you have for your outdoor lighting?

Incandescent light bulbs

Incandescent bulbs are affordable and work by heating the wire filament until it’s hot and starts glowing with visible light. Such bulbs only need a few seconds until they reach the maximum brightness. Mind that they’re the least energy-efficient light bulbs, and they last shorter than other models.

On top of everything else, incandescent light bulbs can get hot in time; if you have children or pets, make sure that you install them in areas difficult to reach to reduce the risk of injury.

Halogen light bulbs

Halogen bulbs provide an energy saving of 20% compared to incandescent light bulbs and reach maximum brightness almost instantly. They’re not harmful to the environment. However, they don’t last long and can get hot when used for many hours.

LED light bulbs

LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs last 30% longer than incandescent bulbs and save 90% more energy than the alternative models. They reach maximum brightness instantly, so you don’t need to wait for complete illumination. LED lights aren’t made of harmful materials and can be disposed of securely.

Bulb wattage

Wattage refers to the energy that the bulb releases and tells about its brightness. Therefore, the higher the wattage, the brighter the outdoor lighting will be.

Is color temperature important for outdoor lighting?

Color temperature is crucial in the lighting industry, where different color temperatures can impact the generated color and, eventually, a room’s mood and visual impact.

Warm lights have a lower color temperature, whereas cool lights come with a higher color temperature. Warm and cool lighting is an industry term that doesn’t tell about the color temperature of the lighting but its psychological characteristics.

Color temperature is a personal choice and we typically choose according to the use and location of the lighting. LED bulbs come in a great diversity of color temperatures, from cool bright whites to warm yellows. Some of the people’s most favorite color temperatures of LED lighting come down below:

Very warm white (2200K)

It’s the lowest possible color temperature for white light. It’s also known as candlelight and you can use it to set up a romantic mood in your garden. Fireplaces and hot tubs benefit from very warm white lights as well.

Warm white (2700K)

This color temperature resembles halogen landscape lighting and it’s a top favorite for landscape lighting. It’s a welcoming and soothing light so that you can use it on the lighting stick poles.

Warm or Natural White (3000K)

Warm/natural white is cooler than 2700k and many landscape lighting professionals recommend it for outdoor applications. It accentuates greens and blues in your garden.

Cool White (4000K)

Cool white has a blue hue, especially when compared to warm white. You can safely use it to illuminate blue vegetation or to simulate moonlight (4200K).


Frequently Asked Questions

How much will you pay for outdoor lighting?

The national average cost of installing outdoor lighting ranges between $2,000 to $4,500. The most affordable outdoor lighting system includes the incandescent path and deck lights and prices between $2,000 to $3,00. At the other end, we find installations created by designers with motion and solar-power lighting. Expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 to $6,000.

Will outdoor lights add value to your home?

When your outdoor lighting is well-chosen, designed, and installed, it can become essential for your residential landscaping and increase your property’s sale price up to 20%. The National Association of Home Builders revealed that more than 40% of home buyers consider outdoor lighting crucial when buying.

Is it expensive to run the outdoor lights?

You will pay around $25 a month in electricity for your moderate halogen outdoor lighting. Most homeowners believe that it’s not much, considering the benefits for security, safety, and beauty that outdoor lighting provides with.

Should you leave the porch light on at night?

If you’re home at night, you can consider leaving the porch light on. It will inform burglars of your presence, especially if your indoor lights are also on. The porch light can work as a spotlight on the front door, and you can easily see who’s approaching through a peephole or a window.

What color light keeps bugs away?

It seems that yellow-hued light bulbs are an excellent choice to keep the bugs away as much as possible. Yellow light and red lights don’t attract insects as much as white lights do. Therefore, we can say that yellow lights will make your landscape less appealing to insects.

About Amanda

I love to buy a lot of products for the home, and dissect them out. I split them into duds and winners, and share the findings here on my site. As a reader of my site, I'm aiming for your next purchase to be an informed and inspired one.

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