Outdoor Lighting 101: The Ins and Outs of Outdoor Light Fixtures

outdoor lighting fixtures 101

Forget about a fresh coat of paint or a potted plant. Lighting is the finishing touch every home needs to look and feel complete–both indoors and out.

From artistic washes on architectural details to floodlights on a driveway to up-lit landscaping, outdoor light fixtures are both practical taskmasters and decorative accents. But how do you pick exactly the right outdoor lighting equipment and layout to complement your home? With a little help from the pros at Hansen Wholesale, of course!

Here’s the beginner’s guide to putting a little light on the subject, whether that’s your home, pathways, a deck or somewhere else entirely.

Why You Should Invest in Outdoor Light Fixtures

The benefits of outdoor lighting are many. They include increases in:

Home Value

Hello, ambiance! Outdoor light fixtures add to the curb appeal of your home by illuminating your house’s architectural and landscape features.

Customization

Want to make your house feel uniquely you? Bringing elements of your interior design style into your home’s exterior is a must-do.

Security

Outdoor lighting increases your safety by illuminating work areas you need access to in the dark. In the case of motion-activated lights, it also works alongside your security system to keep you safe whether it’s day or night.

Use of Outdoor Space

Thoughtful outdoor light fixtures can help you get the most out of your property. How? The right lighting turns daytime spaces you love, like porches, decks and patios, into 24-hour outdoor living rooms.

Overall Happiness

Homeowners report greater joy in their houses after installing landscape lighting that allows them to fully appreciate the beauty of their property.

the benefits of outdoor lighting graphic

5 Outdoor Lighting Questions to Answer Before You Shop

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of outdoor light fixture themselves, there are a few things you need to know about your project, your home and yourself first.

What do you want your outdoor lighting to do?

We’re all about form following function, and that’s especially true with lighting, which needs to serve a purpose in addition to being an attractive design detail. Your outdoor light fixtures can do many different things, such as:

  • Provide a welcoming entrance way for guests
  • Make pathways and stairs passable after dark
  • Illuminate natural landscape details, like stately trees and planted beds
  • Transform pool decks and patios into after-dark lounge and dining areas
  • Communicate your design style from a block away
  • Ward off burglars and anyone else who’s up to no good

Some fixtures are specialized. Others are multi-purpose and able to serve multiple needs at once. We’ll examine your many outdoor lighting fixture options in more detail later in this guide.

What’s your style?

When it comes to the appearance of your light fixtures, shape, details, size and finish all come together to speak volumes about the overall look and feel of your home.

outdoor patio deck lighting with furniture

If your style is modern, consider sleek shapes in black finishes. Bullet or column sconces and recessed lighting are popular options for a contemporary feel.

Retro? Consider copper or chrome to give old-school elements a 21st-century update. Exposed bulbs can give a more industrial edge.

Traditional? Brushed nickel in a lantern style is elegant and understated, while chandeliers over outdoor eating areas are homey touches.

Rustic? Try rubbed bronze or iron to add a luxe cabin aesthetic to your house. We’re also loving hammered glass details and heavy metal hanging fixtures with a Viking vibe.

Thanks to the superior craftsmanship and design detailing available from the manufacturers we carry at Hansen Wholesale, you can find the right outdoor light fixture to match your style–guaranteed.

What energy options would work for your home?

Incandescent, fluorescent (and compact fluorescent), halogen and LED bulbs are all options with outdoor lighting, just as they are indoors.

While incandescent bulbs are popular and inexpensive, they’re also not the most energy-efficient light bulbs on the market. CFLs are popular replacements for incandescent and halogen bulbs because they last longer and use 75 percent less energy. This type of fluorescent can be color-corrected to provide warmer, more natural light. Some are also dimmable, which makes them great choices for living spaces.

led energy lifespan quote

LEDs are the latest rage using even less energy with longer lifespans than CFLs. LEDs come in a wider range of color correction options ranging from more natural sunlight to very stark bright light. The price of LEDs is on the downward trend and will soon push CFLs out of the market altogether.

You can also find solar-powered light fixtures for uncovered areas on your property. These options are powered by solar cells on top of the fixture itself, which may or may not detract from the overall look of your landscaping.

Does your city or state have any landscape lighting requirements?

Some areas are stricter than others about energy-efficiency, while others have specifications with regards to light pollution. Hansen Wholesale offers outdoor light fixtures that meet two such specifications:

Dark Sky Fixture Seal of Approval

Light pollution, glare and blue lights are serious environmental concerns and health hazards to both humans and wildlife. It affects your sleep cycles, animal migration patterns and our ability to see the stars. The International Dark Sky Association has certified select fixtures that limit such effects while still allowing us to implement the outdoor lighting schemes we want and need. Outdoor light fixtures that receive their seal prevent glare by shielding the bulbs from view.

glowing home exterior at night

Title 24 Building Energy-Efficiency Standard

California is continually ranked among the most energy-efficient states in the U.S. Its building code, called Title 24, is part of that effort to conserve energy and save the state (and homeowners) billions of dollars. Within the code is a complex series of requirements that outdoor light fixtures and bulbs must meet. These requirements include guidelines for things like energy output, light output and light color.

What’s your budget?

A typical hard-wired outdoor lighting project tends to cost anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 when you hire professional contractors or landscapers to install it. Simpler schemes and DIY lighting fixtures, like solar-powered lights you can stake into the ground yourself, can run homeowners a few hundred dollars.

How much your outdoor lighting will cost depends on many different factors. The size of your property, the amount of outdoor space you use regularly, your taste in outdoor light fixtures and the type of bulbs you’re interested in are all factors in the bottom line.

You’ll want to take all these into consideration as you plan your outdoor lighting scheme. To get the most residual value from your investment, your lighting design should be cohesive, practical and true to the style of your home and the way it lives.

10 Types of Outdoor Light Fixtures

The styles of outdoor light fixtures available to homeowners today truly seem limitless. Here, we provide a review of the most common options you’re likely to be interested in for your own property. Read on for the light fixture terms you’ll want to know as you shop for your ideal outdoor lighting.

Wall Lights

If there is electricity running through an exterior wall, you can probably hang a wall light there. These patio or porch lights, which are also called wall sconces, wall brackets and wall lanterns, might line a long, walled walkway or illuminate a large outdoor living area. More typically, though, you’ll see them on either side of a doorway or entrance.

5 light wall mount spanish iron light

(The Great Outdoors 5 Light Wall Mount in Spanish Iron, by Minka Lavery)

Pendant Lights

For covered outdoor living areas, walkways and long porches, pendant lights help bring the indoors outside. They provide a sophisticated, homey feel along with plenty of light to read, lounge and dine by. Many pendant lights are part of a collection of wall, ceiling and post mount lights, which means that you can keep your outdoor light fixtures consistent from space to space.

Outdoor Pendant 1 Lt in Anvil Iron isolated

(Mill Lane Transitional Outdoor Pendant 1 Lt in Anvil Iron, by Kichler)

Flush Mount Lights

A light that sits right up against the ceiling or wall is a flush mount light. Typically dome-shaped or circular, these lights provide general lighting in large areas. Unlike recessed lighting, a flush mount fixture is decorative. Sizes can vary, and with that, the amount of light it produces. If your ceiling clearance doesn’t allow for pendant lights in walkways, this is a good alternative. The same is true in a narrow walkway, when you don’t want a sconce encroaching in your usable space.

Chatham 13in Outdoor Semi-Flush Mount light

(Chatham 13” Outdoor Semi-Flush Mount in Burnished Bronze, by Vaxcel Lighting)

Spotlights

Spotlights are narrow, directional outdoor light fixtures that are used to highlight natural landscaping elements like trees and shrubbery, hardscaping features like a deck railing or gazebo and architectural features, like columns or bay windows. They can be placed flush with the ground, positioned on stakes and mounted on trees.

One-light Landscape in Verde isolated

(Progress P5279-25 One-light Landscape in Verde, by Progress Lighting)

Floodlights

Floodlights provide bright, broad beams of light across wide swaths of land. You’ve most likely seen them on driveways, near garages and mounted along the side of houses. They frequently work with motion detectors to deter burglars. Often, floodlights are called “security lights.”

Gamma Dualux LED Security Light isolated

(Gamma Dualux LED Security Light with Bluetooth in Bronze, by Vaxcel International)

Chandeliers

These classics of the lighting world are typically seen indoors in foyers, above dining room tables and in swanky bathrooms. Outdoors, chandeliers are exquisite options for general light in entrance areas and larger, covered living spaces. If you have an outdoor eating area, consider hanging one above your table.

Savory House 8 Light Outdoor Chandelier isolated

(Savory House 8 Light Outdoor Chandelier in English Bronze, by Inman)

Post and Pier Mounts

These specialty outdoor light fixtures are made to be independent-standing lamp posts or lamps mounted on already-existing posts. Post and pier mount fixtures are useful in many different applications, such as along a driveway, at the base of a set of stairs or around a water feature.

Bay Hill Outdoor Post Mount light

(Bay Hill Outdoor Post Mount, by Minka Lavery)

Landscape Lighting

No one wants to trip in the dark! That’s what pathway or landscape lighting is for. Whether your walkway is up-lit or down-lit, this kind of task lighting is essential for safety—and it makes for a beautiful sight leading toward the entrance to your home or to outdoor seating areas and pools.

Medium Hat Copper 6-inch light

(Medium Hat Copper 6-inch in Copper, by Kichler)

Address Sign Lighting

A very specific task-oriented light fixture, address sign lighting is just as important as any other kind. If you live on a dark street, have a long driveway or prefer to keep your outdoor lighting on the minimal side, an address sign fixture is a simple and inexpensive way to ensure that visitors always know where they’re headed.

LED Address Light 120V-12 isolated

(LED Address Light 120V-12 in Black, by Seagull)

Step Lights and Deck Lights

Task lighting is a must-have, particularly for steps and decks, which can become precarious in the dark. Step lights and deck lights come in a variety of mounts. They can be attached to the rise of a step, to the wall of a staircase, to a ceiling or to a post.

Utilitarian Landscape LED Deck Light isolated

(Utilitarian Landscape LED Deck Light in Textured Architectural Bronze)

One More Thing: Shop for Outdoor Light Fixtures!

Outdoor light fixtures are engineered to weather the elements, from sun to rain to wind to snow. While some sconces, pendants and chandeliers might look identical to indoor light fixtures, it’s important to remember that they are not interchangeable.

Outdoor lighting requires fixtures rated for outdoor use. All outdoor options you consider should be UL Certified. That is a safety certification from an independent organization, and it’s essential.

You should also purchase light bulbs that are specifically made to be used outdoors. Double-check the packaging to ensure your bulb of choice will function well in an outdoor setting.

There you have it! This is everything you need to know to launch your outdoor lighting journey. If you have any questions, the lighting experts at Hansen Wholesale are happy to help.

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