Outdoor Lighting Buying Guide

Outdoor lighting is one of the most important elements of your home’s design. Even if you have a beautiful landscape and sophisticated architecture, the right lighting is what really highlights, enhances and brings these elements to life. There are many reasons you should consider updating your home’s outdoor lighting plan including:

Make an impression.

Even before guests reach the front door, they are already forming opinions about your home. It’s inevitable that visitors and neighbors will make assumptions – whether they’re true or not – about the interior of your home based on the style and upkeep of your outdoor areas. From decorative lanterns to landscape lights, outdoor lighting can make or break the look of your home’s exterior.

Outdoor lighting impacts the perceived value of your home.

As with indoor lighting, your exterior lighting can say a lot about the value of your home. Stay relevant and current with on-trend fixtures that enhance your home’s curb appeal.

Outdoor lighting enhances safety and security.

Well-lit walkways, driveways and porches make it easy for guests to securely enter and exit your home. Highlight areas of your landscape for nighttime use.

The right lighting makes guests feel welcomed.

Put your guests at ease and make them feel comfortable as soon as they step on your property. There’s nothing more uninviting than a dark, poorly lit entrance.

Outdoor lighting sets the scene for outdoor entertaining.

Exterior lighting helps you to extend the season for outdoor gathering. A well-lit entertainment space will keep your party going well after dark. “As more homeowners view their exterior areas as a key location for entertainment and relaxation, the design, functionality and efficiency of outdoor lighting has taken center stage,” said David Peek, Director of Decorative Product Development for Progress Lighting.

Accent Landscape Lighting Fixture
The Forms and Functions of Outdoor Lighting

A well-planned outdoor lighting design with careful intent can enhance the safety, security and beauty of your home. There are several different types of outdoor lighting with varying functions.

Outdoor Lighting Purpose, Placement & Fixtures
Safety and Security
Path Lighting

A well-lit yard can be an excellent crime prevention method, and fixtures designed specifically for security, like motion sensors, can add extra protection and convenience.

Pathway lighting is an essential way to welcome friends and family members to your home. Not only do path lights greatly enhance safety by illuminating dark walkways that could lead to hazardous falls, they are an easy way to improve curb appeal. Properly lighting walkways, stairs, pond areas and other tripping hazards helps ensure a safe passage indoors.

When selecting the perfect outdoor path lights, be sure to follow these quick and easy tips for an outdoor lighting solution that will be both beautiful and functional.

  1. Get your height right.
    To achieve a nice warm glow, path fixtures should be installed about 14 inches high.

  2. Define your edges.
    For the best safety lighting, place lights about one foot from one or both sides of the path.

  3. Ditch the bargain bin.
    Consider the make-up of your fixtures (not just the price tag). Fixtures with a glass lens, sturdy construction and weather-resistant finish are essential for long-term use. A powder coated finish has been proven to withstand harsher elements.

  4. Choose LED.
    The future of pathway lighting belongs to LED sources. LED bulbs burn cool and reduce power consumption by as much as 75 percent. These sources live significantly longer than traditional lights.

  5. Stay warm.
    Keep in mind that the warmth, measured in kelvins (K), will vary from one product to the next and greatly affects the visual appeal of the exterior of your home. Fixtures with a color temperature of 3000K provide a nice warm, inviting glow for your outdoor lights.

Flood Lighting

Flood lights are best for illuminating dark alleyways, driveways or garages. They offer a widespread distribution, which can be effective in discouraging potential intruders from trespassing on your property - and light the way for friends and families arriving home after sundown. Flood lights should be positioned at least nine feet away from the ground so they cast a wide cone of light and are not easily accessible. Motion sensors and timers can be added to control when they are turned on and off.

Accent and Decorative

Outdoor lighting plays a monumental role in curb appeal, and is therefore, a crucial part of your home’s presentation. There are hundreds of styles and types to choose from to match your unique taste and home’s architectural style and unique taste.

Decorative Outdoor Lighting Fixture
Selecting Your Style

Different Post, wall and hanging lanterns cater to a variety of design preferences.


Contemporary outdoor lanterns feature clean lines and minimal ornamentation. Angular frames, simple features and clean tones characterize this style. Popular finishes include Polished Chrome or Brushed Nickel.


Transitional decorating maintains the warmth and sophistication of traditional design, mixed with the clean simplicity and brightness of contemporary. Transitional lighting fixtures marry contemporary and modern details. Fixtures that maintain a traditional shape may include simplified, casual details. Or, a modern form could be adorned with careful detailing to heighten its elegance.


Traditional lighting is all about comfort and familiarity. Outdoor lanterns with smooth curves, frosted shades and ornate details evoke a traditional feel. Common traditional finishes include Black and Antique Bronze.


Craftsman outdoor fixtures include artistic accents that appear to be done by hand. Examples include hand painted finishes, seeded glass and classic profiles.


Rustic lighting features organic textures and shapes with innate warmth. Rustic appeal is naturally stylish, featuring worn out or weathered items that have been repurposed to create beautiful works of art.


Outdoor Industrial Lighting features a blend of utilitarian design with an urban edge. Paired with nostalgic bulbs and fine materials, this kind of lighting often includes iron or metals that take on a rich patina from exposure to the elements. Some of the most common forms of industrial outdoor lighting include gooseneck, cage and barn lighting.
Bronze LED Path Light

Landscape Lighting

When defining your landscape lighting design, consider the following key design principles that will ensure a beautiful and well-planned landscape. Keep these tips in mind when selecting and placing fixtures:

Be cohesive – Create the same overall effect throughout the landscape. When lighting separate entities – such as a prominent tree or a featured piece of architecture – the lighting should flow smoothly together.

Create depth – For example, path lights create interest along the driveway while the viewer travels up toward the property. Lighting along paths and driveways enhances the overall theme of your outdoor space while preventing accidents after dark.

Accentuate focal points – Highlight entryways and stationary pieces to create points of interest. These focal points will engage visitors and encourage them to take a closer look. The best way to enhance the texture of objects outdoors is by mounting positional in-ground lights close to your focal point.

Explore perspectives – Review each angle of the property – including from inside the home. Focus should be given to creating a continuous experience from each viewpoint.

Show balance and symmetry – Lighting should be proportional across the various areas of the property. Include local symmetrical components in different landscape areas, such as columns or corresponding bushes. The goal is for the amount of illumination within and across different areas to be symmetrical.

Control quality and direction – Select fixtures that set a specific mood, such as broad beams and soft edges or narrow beams with hard edges. Direction simply refers to the where the light projects (i.e. down lighting and up lighting).

Choosing and installing landscape lighting is far more than simply illuminating a property.

Illuminate your deck – It’s important to outline the perimeters of the deck and railings, as well as provide safety for nighttime use on decks and outdoor porches. Use low voltage (12V) fixtures for maximum electrical safety.

Design Tip:
As with an interior lighting plan, a layered lighting approach will produce the most beautiful exterior illumination. Consider layering high and low sources with both uplighting and downlighting. Create a plan or diagram, determine spacing and configuration and count the number of fixtures needed to adequately light all areas of your home’s exterior. Determine your fixture type for each area. Select from step lights, spread lights, accent lights and decorative fixtures.
Size Matters

The most common mistake people make when choosing decorative exterior fixtures for the front of their home is going too small. Remember, decorative lighting greatly enhances curb appeal, so you want visitors to be able to see your fixtures from the road. Don’t be afraid to be bold in size and style – especially with homes that have larger facades.

Design Tip:
Keep in mind that the fixture mounting position will be contingent on the placement of your outdoor electrical box. Be sure to take note of this to help you determine the appropriate sized fixture.
Entryway Lighting

Lighting Rule of Thumb: Exterior lighting used to illuminate the front door should be sized in proportion to the door itself.

Bigger is (most often) better

Wall sconces by the door should measure anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 the size of your front door. Keep in mind that lanterns will appear about half the size from 50 feet away. If you have two sizes of sconces or lanterns, always place the bigger of the two by the front door (versus by the garage door).

Get the position right

In general, outdoor sconces and lanterns should be mounted at eye level. The center of the light source should be between 5.5 to 6 feet off the ground and 8 to 10 feet apart.

Garage Lighting

If you plan to install garage fixtures over the top of your garage, be sure they are centered across the door for even illumination that stretches over the entire width of the door. A single-car garage may only call for one lantern on the side between the house and the garage. Other lighting options for a single-car garage include:

  • One light over the garage door
  • Two smaller fixtures mounted on either side of the garage door

For a two-car garage, include at least two lighting sources on either side of the door. For additional illumination and aesthetics, add a third light centered above the door. As with the front door fixtures, your garage lights should measure 1/3 to 1/4 the height of the garage door.

Important Tip: Be sure to install the lights high enough above the door as to not interfere with normal garage door function.

Post/Fence Lighting

Go as big as you want on post and fence lighting – as perspective will make these fixtures appear smaller from further distances.

LED fixtures provide some key advantages over traditional light sources that are specific to outdoor areas. Consider installing LED outdoor fixtures to enjoy the following benefits:

  • Safety: Because LEDs do not produce an exceptional amount of heat like other landscape and outdoor options, homeowners can be at ease knowing their outdoor LED lights will illuminate their property with minimum fire risk. Additionally, children playing in the yard are not at risk for burns due to the low temperature compared to other light sources that can get very hot.
  • Energy: Energy savings are even more applicable to exterior settings since outdoor lights are often left on for hours at a time.
  • LED sources use at least 75% less energy than incandescent lighting, allowing homeowners to save on operating expenses.
  • LEDs last 35 to 50 times longer than incandescent sources and approximately 2 to 5 times longer than fluorescent lighting. This means less bulb maintenance.
  • LEDs do not produce heat like traditional sources, reducing cooling costs. Traditional incandescent bulbs waste 98% of the energy they consume on heat.
  • LEDs do not use power when they are turned off.

Maintenance: Outdoor lights can be difficult (and time consuming) to replace, especially for lights on a roof. An LED lamp can last up to 20 years, making LEDs an extremely low maintenance solution. CFL sources also provide an energy saving alternative for outdoor lighting.

About the Author - Progress Lighting

Progress Lighting offers more than 5,000 lighting fixtures, making it the largest single source for residential and commercial lighting. The brand is committed to providing a diverse selection of high quality fixtures – making it the top decorative lighting line for builders and remodelers. With an aesthetic appeal, stellar performance, easy installation and value, Progress Lighting manufactures award-winning, energy efficient pieces. As needs continue to evolve in the industry, the company responds with research and development programs that ensure standards of quality for home and commercial applications.

In the last two years alone, Progress Lighting and its designers have taken home the Ryland Homes Manufacturer of the Year, The Lighting One Humanitarian Award and the HomeBuilder Executive Magazine Gold Innovation Award for decorative lighting, among many others.

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