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Smart Outdoor Lighting

10 tips for better illuminating your landscape

From the Editors of Lighting

Want to light up your (night)life? Use these 10 tips for the best outdoor illumination.

1. Outdoor Light Levels

Think of outdoor lights as you would candle-level lights: It’s there, but it’s not a distraction. Along pathways, light with a minimum of lumens—as close to 1 as you can get. Try out different lumens in fixtures and review them at nighttime for light that’s not blinding, but washing and highlighting.

2. Right Rating

Choose fixtures with the right rating—wet, which means they can withstand exposure to moisture.

3. Look at the Light

Remember: In exterior lights you don’t want to see the light itself; you want to see the effect of the light.


Saturn, Hinkley Lighting

4. Night Lights

Position accent lights on focal-point landscape items, including trees, fountains, and more.


Outdoor lighting should be focused on structural elements, such as trees, Kichler Lighting.

5. Down Glow

Place doorway sconces at about eye height for effective and pleasing illumination. For a covered entry or porch, an outdoor-rated chandelier is a good option. 


Light pushes away from the eyes while a soft rectangular glow adds a few more lumens.Ursa LED Outdoor Sconce, Hubbardton Forge

6. Slim Shady 

A shade on any outdoor light is essential to help the light diffuse instead of point.


Sail 17 Bubble Outdoor Sconce, Besa Lighting

7. In Motion

Install motion-sensing lights outside basement or other exterior doors that aren’t main entrances—say the garage doors.

8. Watch your windows

Another key tip for outdoor light? Never push the light into a window, or a neighbor’s window; the goal is to use the light to see out.


Stillwater, Z-Lite

9. Walk this Way

Lighting the sidewalk or other walkways is a must-do for outdoor lighting. Make sure any fixture casts its glow downward; casting it up can create blinding light.


Arc, Hinkley Lighting

10. Step Right Up

Add step lights, often mini lights, for just a few lumens to help movement during nighttime hours.


Placement ensures safe navigation around your yard. Progress Lighting

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