If you think that exterior lighting is just something you do for the winter holidays, you’re missing a great opportunity to brighten your outdoor living space year ‘round. Creative use of lights can brighten up dark spaces, add soft accents, and spruce up your curb appeal—but you also need to understand that outdoor lighting and safety must be installed together!
Your choices for exterior lighting give you a full range of options. From strings of lights and battery-powered candles to solar-powered stakes, motion sensors, and electrical fixtures, you can shed light wherever you want.
Start by looking for those focal points you want to highlight. Maybe it’s your patio, entryway, a walkway, or an area of your garden—or all of the above. Possibly you have a water feature that could use a little artificial moonlight. Walk around your yard at dusk and decide what and where you want to place outdoor lighting.
Then decide how much light you need for those spaces. Do you want small accents here and there? If so, solar lights might be the simplest way to achieve your desired luminescence. They’re inexpensive and available in a diverse array of styles, so you can certainly find solar lights to complement your outdoor décor.
String lights add sparkle and can be wrapped around trees and posts, along walls and pergolas, and in gardens. You can add color with paper lantern-style lighting, or use more decorative strings of lights. Convert an old chandelier for outdoor use by removing the electrical wiring and replacing it with remote-controlled, battery-operated candles. Hang solar lights from shepherd’s hooks to light the way along a path.
You can light your outdoor spaces from above or down below. Your nightscape can lean toward romantic starlight or urban modern. Choose warm or cool lights, subtle or bold. Blend different types of lights. But no matter what you pick, make sure you think about these outdoor lighting safety tips.
- If you’re going to install the exterior lighting yourself, be sure you use equipment, wires, cords, and bulbs that are rated for outdoor use. Low-voltage lighting systems, like 12-volt LED lights, provide sufficient illumination without the risks associated with 120-volt, indoor electrical fixtures and wiring. LED lights cost a little more than incandescent bulbs, but use far less electricity and last much longer.
- Connect the cables to an outdoor transformer that is mounted near a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet. Hide the cables under soil or mulch, where they will not be walked on or mowed over.
- When hanging light strings, avoid any tree branches that might touch power lines. Use insulated holders, not nails or staples.
- Install light bulbs that are labeled waterproof or water-resistant.
- If you’re using candles outdoors, keep them at least five feet away from any flammable materials, like tree branches and furniture.
When in doubt, consult an electrician.
Extend the daytime enjoyment of your outdoor living space into the nighttime. Using exterior lighting creatively and safely is always a bright idea!