Outdoor Home Lighting Guide

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Whatever the season, well-lit back and front yards make your home more inviting, create a sense of security, and also improve the safety for residents as well as visitors to your home. There's no reason to stay in the dark about outdoor home lighting options, from lampposts and path lighting to lanterns and decorative string lights. Here are just a few of the different types of landscape lighting and the best places to use each type.

Motion-Sensing LED Lights

Use motion-sensing LED lights in your entryway to make it easier to climb the steps, find your keys and open the door at night. You can also place them over your garage, to provide light as you pull up to your driveway. They’ll offer a sense of security since the light will go on when it detects trespassers or potential intruders.

120-Volt Incandescent or LED Lights

Use these outdoor lights to illuminate your porch, patio or deck while you're entertaining or relaxing in these outdoor spaces.

Low-Voltage Path Lighting and Lampposts or Lanterns

Path lighting or decorative lampposts add an extra, welcoming touch to your home. If you're staging your home for sale, adding path lights up your walkway can create a sense of welcome to potential buyers.

Adding a few decorative lampposts at the foot of your driveway makes your home look and feel more luxurious. Make sure the lampposts you choose aren't too ornate, or too simple, for your home's overall atmosphere.

You can install solar-, battery-, or low-voltage, electric-powered lights on the path to your front steps and the path to your backyard, to create a sense of safety and a welcoming glow. But there are a number of other places you can add a little light in to your environment, too:

  • On either side of your driveway
  • In flower beds to illuminate your garden display
  • At the base of large trees in your front or back yard
  • Around swing sets and other play areas
  • Around your porch, patio or deck for safety
  • Anywhere you want to accentuate architectural elements of your home

If you're debating between lampposts or path lights that are low to the ground, use lampposts alone or in pairs. If you have a long path to illuminate, consider solar-powered lights for energy savings and a clean, understated look.

String Lights

Adding a string of lights around your backyard deck or patio is an inexpensive way to add a festive atmosphere to the space. You can change these lights according to the season or your mood, or use plain white or gold LEDs year-round.

Many people use string lights on trees or around their windows to correspond with holidays. Outdoor lights are not just for Christmas! Use orange and purple lights for Halloween. String red lights in the shape of a heart in your window for Valentine's Day. Or create red, white and blue display for the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Lower Your Electric Bills with Energy-Efficient Outdoor Lighting

If you're looking to lower your electric bills while keeping your home's exterior safe and well-lit, LEDs are one of the best ways to go. You'll pay more upfront for outdoor LED lighting fixtures, but they'll pay for themselves over time. LEDs can last as long as 30 years, making them the perfect option for bulbs in those hard-to-reach spaces, such as in tall lampposts, over your garage, and over your door.

Also growing in popularity are solar-powered outdoor lights. Most commonly seen in path lighting or as single fixtures to light garden or porch areas, solar-powered lights charge in the sun during the day to illuminate your yard at night.

Installing Outdoor Home Lighting

Installing outdoor lighting fixtures can be a weekend project that can make a big difference in the style and appeal of your home. The easiest fixtures to install are solar lights. But each light must be placed in full sunlight to enjoy the benefits after dark. As long as the ground is soft (not frozen), you can install solar-powered path lights easily by inserting them in to the ground and following the manufacturer's directions. Similarly, installing low-voltage lighting outside your home is fairly easy. Simply follow the manufacturer's instructions.

To install 120-volt, or line voltage, lighting, you'll need to run electrical conduit and install a separate electrical junction box, hardwired into your home's electric system. If you are not familiar with working with electricity, hire a licensed electrician to complete the task. You'll get more light from fewer fixtures with 120-volt lighting, but it's not always necessary for accent or path lighting.

Whatever lighting fixtures you choose, a few simple lights can make a big difference in the after-dark look and feel of your home.

This article was written by Dawn Allcot for MyMove.com, an online resource for moving information, products and coupons.

Last Updated: October 18, 2012
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