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Landscape Lighting. How to Choose the Right Outdoor Lighting

Updated on July 5, 2010

Attractive landscaping adds beauty and value to a home or business. Deciding what type of lighting should be used to compliment it is easily as important a decision as choosing the plants and trees themselves.

There are several factors to consider before making a purchase. If you review them, you'll be able to make a much more informed decision - which means you'll come out with landscape lighting that works for you and your lifestyle.

Photo by Simon Howden
Photo by Simon Howden

What is the area you are working with look like? Are you hoping to illuminate your entire yard, light a path, or create a gentle glow for an intimate area? Are you concerned about energy-use? How about security - is that an important factor?

You may want to think of your outdoor area in sections as you plan your lighting scheme. While you might opt to follow a particular style or theme throughout your entire landscape, there are different types of lights even within the same style group that may work better for a particular area depending on what you'll use the spot for.

There are so many types of fixtures that serve various purposes in the lawn, garden, or patio. You'll find ground-stake styles, mounted varieties, post-cap (for placing atop deck/fence posts), and more.

Budget is something that should be considered at the outset. Prices for outdoor lighting are all over the map, so it's a good idea to have a loose figure in mind while shopping so that you don't end up spending more than you wanted to. Homeowners can spend $30.00 for a single set of simplistic ground-stake lights and be satisfied. Others may invest thousands, desiring high style and dramatic effects.

Let's take a very basic look at some of the choices you'll be faced with and as well as some factors to consider in deciding which is best for you.

Another Example from Amazon: Modern Lighting

About Style

Only you know what your individual style is...or do you? Maybe you already have an idea of the type of light fixtures you like best. If not, it may help to narrow your tastes down to one of the following categories.

Rustic~ Rustic styled lights will have a more natural or "country" look to them. You'll see weathered-looking finishes, and ornate designs. If you enjoy the aesthetic of old-fashioned objects, rustic may just be the way to go. Fixtures with woodland creatures or trees on them would typically fall in this category.

Modern/Minimalist~ Lighting from this category will be sleek and simple. This is for you if you like crisp, clean lines and favor symmetry. Modern fixtures can compliment an updated home or even provide a fun and artistic contrast outside an older-looking one. Some, leaning more toward the minimalist end of the subgroup, are meant to be virtually invisible as fixtures. These kinds of lights can be a nice way to subtly draw attention to some of the attractive features of your landscape.

Trendy~ These are the funky and fun fixtures. Many fashion designers have moved in to the home d├ęcor arena, lending their artistic talents and creative ideas to the industry. The result is a new generation of outdoor lighting that is bold and stands out - an ideal option for someone who does a lot of entertaining.

Energy Efficient~ As categories do, these ones often overlap and you may find a trendy light set that could also be called modern. Similarly, energy efficient lights can be found meeting any style criteria you're looking for. These days, you really have your pick of power bill friendly lighting kits. More on these below.

Functional~ This would include floodlights, motion-lights, and other lights that serve a purpose beyond beautifying your yard. Of course, you may find style and beauty in some of the utilitarian light fixtures available on the market today. Again, the choices are virtually limitless.

Once you've found a style or a couple of styles that you like, you can go about looking at placement and functionality.

Maxsa Solar-Powered Motion-Activated Security Light, Super Bright LED
Maxsa Solar-Powered Motion-Activated Security Light, Super Bright LED

This security light is solar powered and uses LED technology. This would be an optimally energy-efficient and eco-friendly choice.


Energy Efficient Options

Energy efficient landscape lighting is such a popular idea that the options have really expanded over the last few years. Here are the most popular choices for adding an eco-friendly (and money-saving) factor to your outdoor area.

Solar~ As you may have guessed, these kind of lights are powered by the sun. Solar powered light fixtures have really come a long way in recent times, and the small solar panel affixed to most models is hardly noticeable. Installation is a snap, since there are no wires to plug in (or hide). The absence of cords or plugs allows a lot of freedom of placement, as well. A limiting factor, however, is that solar powered fixtures must be placed in an area where they will absorb enough sun during the day to run at night. Check the specifications on the model you purchase for charging-time needed. These don't require mercury to run.

LED~ Light Emitting Diode technology is new to the outdoor lighting industry, and it's quickly catching on. Enthusiasts consider LED lighting to be the future of landscape lighting. A typical LED light fixture will outlive its incandescent counterparts by decades, and are around 80% more energy efficient. The diodes are much smaller than bulbs, also, and so lend themselves well to understated, minimalist fixture styles. These are going to be more costly than other types, but will easily pay for themselves over the long run in the form of energy cost savings. LED lights also contain no mercury.

Compact Flourescents~ This is an option that is more efficient than traditional incandescent lighting, but not at the levels of LEDs or solar powered lights. This can be a less costly way to cut down the eco-footprint and power usage of your outdoor lights. CFs, however, do contain trace amounts of mercury - still much less than their incandescent counterparts.

Practical Matters

So, you have an idea of which lighting style you most like the looks of. Hopefully you also have a grasp of the energy efficient lights on the market so you know the basic pros and cons of each.

Layout~Let your inner artist out as you map out your lighting plan. A sketch of your working area can help you decide how many lights you want and exactly where you want them placed. Landscape designers know that strategic light placement can enhance a property immensely. Fixed post lights are nice to light a path, but for lighting beds and displays you'll want to consider getting some fixtures with movable heads - this allows you to point the light where you want it. This ability to adjust can be handy as your landscape matures and changes. The spot your light points to today may not be ideal in a few years when your plants have grown taller or you've added something new to your landscape.

Security~Flood lights are ideal for areas where more illumination is desired. Use them to line a driveway or perimeter area where security is a bigger concern. Motion sensor lights are a popular way to scare off would-be burglars. They also save energy since they only come on when something passes in front of the sensor. Installing exterior lighting is one of the least costly and most effective things you can do to deter thieves.

Cost~ We briefly discussed budget earlier, and it will of course be a major factor in choosing your own outdoor lights. Often, the saying "you get what you pay for" is appropriate in outdoor lighting shopping. Try to find higher quality models on sale or just buy one set at a time,rather than purchasing all the lights for your entire property at once. This way, you end up with a better product that's going to endure years of weathering. There's nothing wrong with purchasing an inexpensive lighting set for a quick & cheap upgrade but don't expect the really lower end sets to last too many seasons.

Most of all, choose landscape lighting that works for you. Seasons will come and go, changing elements of your outdoor area as they do. The light fixtures you install, however, will remain constant - so make sure you get something that appeals to your own individual sense of beauty and you'll enjoy them the whole year through!

For more information on landscape lighting, visit

Photo by Simon Howden
Photo by Simon Howden


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    • Ksenia Kuznetsova profile image

      Ksenia Kuznetsova 6 years ago from Ukraine

      Thank you for the information! Your hub answers really important questions on outdoor lighting.

    • profile image

      Dheeraj 6 years ago

      Outdoor lighting have became a very important part of our life.In the days Outdoor lighting will become a very important part of our life and that's why I had already planned to do the best outdoor lighting my new home and for that I had chosen Havells Sylvania brand as they are considered to be one of the best when it comes to lighting section.

    • profile image

      Ammar 6 years ago

      Nice Article...Outdoor lighting has became a important part of our life and now one is taking a special care in deciding the best fittings for outdoor lighting.One of my uncle has also recently brilliant outdoor lighting in his pool area and for doing the same he has used Havells Sylvania products.He says I can't find any other brand other than Havells for doing it.

    • profile image

      Rajeev 6 years ago

      Excellent hub...Outdoor lighting is a very important point of consideration for us.I am using Havells lighting(Bollard ans subra) in my garden and these lighting provide me a good quality look..The lighting are just amazing and they provide a brilliant look to my garden.

    • profile image

      john cambruzzi 7 years ago

      I run a landscape lighting business and I enjoyed your overview of landscape lighting in this article. LED landscape lighting is definitely the future of the landscape lighting industry. Kichler LED landscape lights are very energy efficient and use 75% less energy than standard halogen landscape lighting lamps. Thanks RooBee

    • eLightSpot profile image

      eLightSpot 7 years ago from Enid

      Solar powered lights are going to be a great alternative to make your outdoor lighting more energy efficient. Until then, LED lights are also a good option.

    • RooBee profile image

      RooBee 7 years ago from Here

      Sorry for the delayed responses of late. I've been away from HubPages, but plan to return more regularly soon!

      Kathy, I love the idea of solar-powered lighting too! Some higher end models promise more light output than their cheaper counterparts - but I haven't tested that claim. Hopefully solar technology will continue to improve over the years to come.

      Thank you Landscape Supplies Brisbane - I'm so happy to have provided some good info for you!

    • profile image

      Landscape Supplies Brisbane 8 years ago

      Landscaping lighting that too powered by solar energy; this means just initial investment and forget about the power bill after that. This sounds great will experiment with it. Great hub and great information.

    • profile image

      Kathy Shepherd 8 years ago

      I love that more solar powered lights are more readily available, although I find they do not generate a whole lot of light.

    • RooBee profile image

      RooBee 8 years ago from Here

      Thanks, Ron. Yes, I would like to expand this article to include more details, pics, etc. Hopefully I can get to that in time to help you out in choosing deck lights. Thanks a ton for coming by!!

      Connie, thanks to you also for your comments.

    • profile image

      Connie Palcowski 8 years ago

      Really enjoyed your article, please check out my website and let me know what you think!!

    • profile image

      Ron 8 years ago

      Enjoyed the LED info, very helpful. Would like to see photos of light fixtures with the right ups. Will be addin new lights on patio and new deck soon-Thanks.

    • RooBee profile image

      RooBee 8 years ago from Here

      Eek, bears!! :O I like solar, too, Dame. So glad you came by - thank you!

    • Dame Scribe profile image

      Dame Scribe 8 years ago from Canada

      I use solar lights in my yard and love their glow. I also like the idea of a motion sensor light in case of bears, lol. Great info!

    • RooBee profile image

      RooBee 8 years ago from Here

      drummer boy, I agree and think that solar is really the way to go in most cases. Thanks for reading and complimenting!

    • drummer boy profile image

      drummer boy 8 years ago from Kirksville,MO

      nice hub. I love the solar lighting as it is free once you buy the lights.

    • RooBee profile image

      RooBee 8 years ago from Here

      Thanks dear dohn! I, too, am in an apartment at present but am excited to have a house again so I can use all the landscaping skills I've learned. I'm so glad you came by to read & comment. :D

      Hi Army Mom! Thank you so much. I, too, found that there wasn't much good information out there on this subject. I hope it's helpful to you!

      andromida, hello and thank you for your kind comments!!

      Hi, badco99, my friend - thank you so very much! I've done myself a bit of keyword research here, and it's a subject with which I have experience so I thought 'what the hey.' I definitely feel that I'm ever so slowly figuring out what makes a really good hub. Cheers to you! :D:D

    • andromida profile image

      syras mamun 8 years ago

      Excellent hub and can be a great solution for those worrying about outdoor lighting.Thanks.

    • Army Infantry Mom profile image

      Army Infantry Mom 8 years ago

      This hub is great, just last week I was surfin the intrnet for this kind of information. Right on time,...Thanks

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Another quality hub, RooBee. At the outset, I still am living in an apartment but am currently looking to buy a house as it is indeed a buyer's market. This little gem will come in handy to me however, as I will stop back to check on it! Thanks again for all the support! I appreciate it.