Exterior Lighting Tips

Read these 11 Exterior Lighting Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Lighting tips and hundreds of other topics.

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What do I need to know to light a commercial building?

Commercial Exterior Lighting

If you own a commercial building, you're probably focused on keeping costs as low as possible while keeping the building secure. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Use low-power fluorescent or halogen bulbs instead of incandescents, which use more power.
  • Use controls such as dimmers, light sensors and motion detectors to automatically turn off lights that aren't needed.
  • Consider energy-efficient LEDs instead of neon for signs and attention-getting effects.
  • Point all exterior building lighting downward, both for maximum effect for your money and to prevent "light pollution" in the night sky.

How should I light my deck?

Deck Lighting

Your deck is probably one of the more fun parts of your home. Perhaps you use it for barbecues or to hold a hot tub. Good deck lighting can showcase your deck, while keeping you and your guests safe.

Focus accent lights on tricky areas like walkways and stairs. Recessed deck lighting -- lights that are set into the surface of the deck, and are strong enough to be stepped on -- is a great way to mark the edges of a deck (also useful for boat docks!).

For security's sake, you may want to invest in low-voltage deck lights that automatically shut themselves off at dawn and on at dusk. Solar-powered deck lights may be an even more economical choice.

If I have outdoor floodlights, do I need other deck lights?

Deck and Porch Lighting

Exterior Lighting Tips: You have outdoor floodlights and ceiling fans on your deck or porch, but you want to create more outdoor ambiance. Try these great ideas: Warm bronze lights under benches create a cozy conversation area. In your exterior lighting design, pair under bench lights with metal deck sconces and deck lights. Try a bit of whimsical exterior lighting. The Kathy Ireland illuminated plug-in Jardin du Jour Garden Critters Landscape statues can prance about on your deck or porch—they also define walkways or garden paths in a charming welcoming-committee way.

Of course, proper lighting along paths and stairs is the most welcoming. If your deck has steps leading to the beach on the Northern California coast, install the Hinkley Coastal Series Copper Finish Step Light. This bit of outdoor lighting design will keep your beach party guests safe, withstand the elements, and add warmth to your deck space. You can also opt for mini-beacons around railings and posts.

*You built your deck or porch to enjoy the outdoors. Investing in exterior lighting can add to your outdoor experience.

What lanterns are best for my front walk?

Front Walk Outdoor Lights

Exterior Lighting Tips: When planning your exterior lighting design, you can get inspiration from your own doorstep. Take a look at these exterior lighting tips:

  • If you have a beautiful flower-lined walkway, spacing glass outdoor lights will create a romantic effect at dusk.
  • Round and rectangular-shaped lanterns are the best walkway outdoor lighting fixtures, although torch-shaped lights add a certain tropical flair. We also like floral-shaped landscape lights.
  • For a more subtle effect, you can try Kichler low voltage spotlights at the edges of flower beds and between shrubs. The Kichler Eclipse Path Light casts a warm ambient circular glow that says, "Welcome home."

What lanterns are best for my front walk?

Colonial/Victorian Style Exterior Lighting

*Exterior Lighting Tips: "The old lamplighter, from long, long ago..." That's a line from a song your grandparents probably sang, and you've always had nostalgia for a time before you were born. You own the colonial or Victorian-style home so why not complete the period look with period exterior lighting? You don't have to break the bank at antique stores, either. Lighting retailers offer antique-looking outdoor lighting fixtures for exterior lighting design. Check out these exterior lighting tips:

  • Try post lights that look like old-fashioned streetlamps to line your front walk.
  • Antique-looking black scroll wall sconces paired with a solid wood door (maybe one with a stained-glass insert) will give the illusion that you've just stepped into a Currier & Ives or Norman Rockwell painting.
  • European-style lighting was in vogue during Victorian and Colonial times. Try Rue De Paris Collection Outdoor Hanging Lamp above your doorstep.
  • A bathysphere globe copper outdoor lantern puts you in a Jules Verne frame of mind.
  • In general, stick with pewter, black, bronze, and iron veneers.
  • Frosted glass housing with candelabra-style bulbs simulate old-fashioned gas lamps. Your lovely vintage home is now lighted in authentic style at an old-fashioned price—lamplighter not included.

How do I burglar-proof my home using outdoor lighting?

No Cop Car Lights Required

Exterior Lighting Tips: You're considering renting a police siren and uniform because you're worried about break-ins. But, before you get arrested yourself for impersonating a law enforcement officer, take a trip to your lighting or home improvement store. Here's a police report on exterior lighting design for home security:

  • Most burglars won't hit a well-lighted house, and people typically neglect exterior lighting along the driveway, windows and doors—in other words, typical entry points.
  • Wall-mount outdoor lighting fixtures near easy access windows can discourage thieves and burglars. Floodlighting in your front, back and side yards will make most neighborhood vandals think twice about destroying your property.
  • Wall-mount lanterns and recessed floodlights around garage doors blend with driveway exterior lighting to discourage carjackers.
  • Lanterns mounted in trees and uplights at the base of trees and shrubs add to the impression that if a prowler sets foot on your property, someone is going to notice. For good measure, make sure your outdoor lighting illuminates security cameras (actual or fake).
  • Don't forget uplights that highlight a sign proclaiming that your castle is protected by a security system. Take the appropriate exterior lighting precautions, and you won't be bothered by light from TV cameras when "COPS" comes calling.

How do I get a moonlit effect on moonless or cloudy nights?

Moonlight and Roses

Exterior Lighting Tips: Your prize Floribunda Tropicana rose bushes are the envy of the subdivision but you want them to get more exposure. You wish you could show them off at night with a romantic moonlight effect. You can!

While you're moonlighting as a gardener, you might not have time in-between comparing different rose food brands to think about exterior lighting. Two words that will make you abandon your American Beauty roses: Cross lighting. Placing two or more uplights around that rose bush, and the Greek statue next to it, reveals the beauty of rose petals and laurel leaves. This is known as cross lighting.

If your rose bushes are beneath a large spreading tree, you can combine cross lighting with outdoor light downlighting by hanging soft outdoor lighting fixtures such as frosted lanterns in tree branches. This gives the illusion of moonlight on a moonless night with an attractive combination of light and shadows. With such beautiful exterior lighting design techniques, everyone will want to stop and smell the roses...even you!

Are decorative string lights just for parties?

I See The Party Lights

Exterior Lighting Tips: String outdoor lighting fixtures aren't just for barbecues and pool parties! You can enjoy string exterior lighting all year round. It's perfect accent outdoor lighting for decks, patios, verandas, gardens, as well as outdoor and even indoor porches. Try decorating your shrubs and trees with white Christmas lights to match the glow from your string lamps. String outdoor lighting is accentuated by a variety of shades:

  • Copper
  • White glass
  • Galvanized steel
  • Brass

Make sure that the area you're decorating is at least 50 feet long. You can trim the outer area or string lights in the rafters or on hooks near a sliding glass door. Consider getting insect-repellent bulbs, or flying pests will spoil the effect. Chinese lanterns are another unique aesthetic choice, and you don't have to save them for parties! Serve your famous Mongolian beef dish outdoors and pretend you're in Shanghai. Even if you can't party 24/7 (and who can?), you can look like you're always having fun.

How do I lower my outdoor lighting energy bills?

Starry, Starry Night Your Only Light?

Exterior Lighting Tips: Your indoor lighting bills are just about under control. Oh, no! You still have your exterior lighting to consider. Do you opt for a moonlight mood or dine under the stars by candlelight? While these choices are natural, not to mention romantic, they're not practical. Read these exterior lighting tips:

  • Outdoor lighting increases security, safety, and your home resale value. You can do all that without raising your energy bill.

Some low-energy outdoor lighting highlights:
  • Use an automatic timer or photocell that will turn lights on and off during off-peak times.
  • Use incandescent B lights or compact fluorescent bulbs, which cost more but last longer and produce more light more efficiently.
  • Use a 12-volt system, which you can tackle yourself and easily rearrange when you want to change your exterior lighting design to highlight your new pavers.

So as you can clearly see, it's no shot in the dark to conclude that you don't have to picnic under the stars for that special date...unless you want to.

How do I create a rustic lighting look outdoors in the city?

Rustic Lighting Design

Exterior Lighting Tips: You're not ready to buy that woodland cottage or mountain cabin, but you'd like to bring a touch of country to your condominium. We offer exterior lighting design tips to achieve that rustic look:

  • Nature-themed landscape lights for the front walk and garden can give the sense that squirrels scamper around. Hinkley's Squirrel and Acorn Landscape Lights are adorable outdoor lighting fixtures.
  • Pining for pine? The Tahoe Collection wall mounts, hanging lanterns and post mounts feature pine and pine cone illustrations. Pine-scented candles on the doorstep or pine boughs hung on or over doors accent your coniferous outdoor lighting fixtures.
  • Use moonlight exterior lighting design to create the appearance of a moonlit forest grove.
  • Conceal lights below or behind bushes so that it looks like you're seeing them on a country ridge at dusk.
  • Did you install rustic rugged wood shingles on your roof? Position floodlights or spotlights close to the wood.

Now you have that Thomas Kinkade homey effect. Even if you can't go off and find your Walden, you can create the simple life in the city.

What are the best bulbs for safe and attractive pool outdoor lighting?

Pool Your Outdoor Lighting Talents

Are you ready for some night swimming but find yourself in the dark about how to light your pool area? Looking for exterior lighting tips? Try installing landscape lights in the garden area around your pool. When installing landscape lights, be careful that they are in a position to provide adequate light.

Avoid installing them in undergrowth or they won't be as effective. If the beams of light are obstructed by grass, shrubs, or plants, they won't get the job done. Make sure that your lights send their beams to your pool area without being interrupted.

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Guru Spotlight
Lynne Christen