Realtor.com by Jennifer Geddes
Looking for outdoor lighting ideas that can inspire you to illuminate your front porch, driveway, or backyard? Aside from making it easier to see in the dark, outdoor lights can enhance the design of your yard. The type of lights you choose is a matter of preference, but there are pragmatic aspects to the decision as well as stylistic ones. What kind of lighting works best for walkways? Is it better to go with simple sconces to flank your front door or dramatic spotlights to highlight a stand of oak trees?
Our experts are here to explain the different types of outdoor lights, and how to select the ones that are best suited to your house.
How big of a glow do you want? Task vs. ambient lightBefore you choose any type of light, consider the size of the glow you'd like. If you're hoping to illuminate the front stoop, garage door, or another spot that's not too large but well-traveled, bright task lights like sconces or wall lanterns with integrated LEDs are a great option.
"These bulbs last pretty much forever and cast a clean, crisp light," explains Justin Riordan, founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency.
Ambient lighting like spotlights can be equally bright, but are also made to highlight a certain design feature like a pathway, pool, or a group of trees.
For more on each category, here's a rundown of the best lights for your home's exterior so you can show guests the way—and avoid tripping when you're out after dark.
Wall lanternsLanterns can work with a number of design styles, but Riordan says they most commonly give off a rustic vibe. If you want outdoor lights that make a statement, stick with lanterns.
These lights look great when placed in pairs near the front door, on patio walls, or along an outdoor kitchen periphery.
SpotlightsSpotlights are used to accentuate shrubs, flowering trees, flagpoles, wild grass, and garden sculptures. You could also install them at the base of porch columns, says Riordan.
One of the more practical uses for spotlights is to frame your front door, especially the house number, lest the pizza delivery person brings your pie to the wrong address!
A word of caution: Position spotlights with care so they don't shine directly into your neighbors' windows.
FloodlightsFloodlights are true to their name, flooding a particular area with light and offering a sense of security. To use floods, determine how wide a swath you'd like to achieve by comparing each fixture's beam spread, or the amount of space a light covers from different distances.
Floodlights can also be attached to timers so they'll turn on at dusk, and they're especially useful when installed with motion sensors to light up the yard when someone passes by.
The main difference between floods and spots is the size of the area they light up, says Hunter McFarlane, an outdoor expert from Lowe's.
"A spotlight projects a bright, round beam that captures the attention of an outdoor accent, while a floodlight is more powerful and commonly used for security and safety in large spaces like backyards and driveways," he explains.
Path lightsThese outdoor fixtures light the way along the path in your yard. Designwise, they run the gamut from stick-in-the-ground lamps to lights embedded in the risers of your stairs.
If you can, try to spring for higher-quality path lights, rather than cheaper solar ones from the big-box stores, which tend to not provide ample light and are "a total waste of money," Riordan says.
Instead, Halady recommends low-volt LED brass path lighting.
LamppostsSlot this type of outdoor light in the ambient category; it'll throw some light but is generally installed for the purpose of charm. A lamppost light will cast a glow on your walkway and should coordinate with your home's style, if possible. Typical lamppost materials include wrought iron, wood, aluminum, and copper.
Jennifer Kelly Geddes creates content for Livestrong.com, the National Sleep Foundation, Fisher-Price, and Mastercard.
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