The Definitive Guide to Outdoor Lights.
Exterior lighting is widely regarded as tricky to get right, yet with the help of The Lighting Company you’ll soon be lighting gurus making the bright choices.
What are the best lighting ideas for lighting up outside spaces be that front or rear gardens?
Here, you will find advice to get your garden all lit up and ready to impress no matter the season!
In this guide we offer comprehensive lighting guidance for all exterior spaces. Whether it be residential or hospitality lighting, you’ll find advice, practical tips and inspiration for exterior lighting, using fixtures that are safe and suitable for outside use.
If you are simply replacing an existing old outside light or perhaps installing a new lighting plan for a landscape garden design, this guide is well worth reading. Maybe your exterior lighting requirement is for hospitality and leisure applications? Then there will be some great ideas to take away for you too!
Lighting up the outside space ensures that you can make use of the exterior areas of your home, even in the winter months. We tend to think of lighting just for the BBQ season, when we treat outside as an extended living space. However, just looking out at a decorative landscape that is punctuated with light is joyful. It stops you feeling so captive within the home, adds interest during dark winter months and allows you to safely use the garden even in the bleakest darkest winters.
You’ll be surprised to know that most people feel put off lighting exteriors simply because of lack of knowledge, it somehow seems complex. This is a shame lighting makes navigating outside safe and altogether more pleasant. So, what are your options for lighting outside? Plentiful! There’s a whole section of outside lights to buy on our fully stocked online store. However, before diving right in we should explore what your aim is. Let’s start with knowing what each type is called and what it will do to illuminate outdoor areas.
- Glossary of Outside Lights.
Front door wall lights are the most common styles of lights. They allow you to see clearly to walk to the door, get your key out and find the keyhole. They also guide a path for visitors. They can be modern or traditional. Be on a bracket or fit flat to the wall. We’ve put together an at a glance sheet for your consideration and linked each type to the website as a short cut link for you.
2. Electrical Safety for lighting exterior spaces.
We’d recommend employing the services of an electrical contractor for all electrical work and especially when you are undertaking exterior works; both the light fittings and the installation of them needs to meet strict safety standards. We’d never doubt the ability of the DIY expert, however exterior lights are as important as bathroom lights, so they need to be installed correctly to ensure water cannot ingress into the fitting so that the risk of shock is completely eradicated. A qualified electrician could save your life – it’s a small price to pay.
3. Safety ratings for exterior lights, ingress protection explained.
Outside lights need to be watertight. Being exposed to the elements season after season, day and night, the weather can take its toll. Water can track into every nook and cranny, so light fittings must be made to very high standards to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Manufacturers need to comply with safety laws, one of these is ingress protecting lights. The electrical components are shielded and sealed to prevent any objects, be it particles or water, from compromising the electrical components. Ingress Protection levels were set as a universal indicator and this measure determines which lights can be safely fitted outside and at what height or depth the rating maintains effectiveness. For example, some lights can be submerged in water and still be safe whilst others are safe to be rained on, but only if they are fitted under a canopy or shelter. Not every outdoor application will require the same IP rated light. Whilst it can seem a complicated structure of variables, the IP rating scale is a clear indication of how suitable each light is for where you are planning to install it.
The short answer is to use IP44 lights outside, unless they are under shelter and IP43 can be used. If you are submerging light, use IP65. Any submerged lights, depending on the depth of water have extra levels of protection applied. Deeper water has more pressure on the lights, often you’ll find the IP rating is limited to a certain depth, for example safe up to 1-meter depth, so we would recommend that you consult an electrician before buying submergin lights. But, all other lights marked IP44 can go anywhere in the garden, except under the ground or under the water. You can buy IP44 garden lights with confidence and your electrician will be happy to fit these.
Ok the long version:
IP stands for Ingress protection you’ll see IP followed by two numbers
IP44 the first number denotes the level of protection the light has against solid particles getting into the light fitting. The second number IP?4 is the level of protection from liquids, water in most cases. The below chart shows the liquid protection and where the light should be used. Zero gives no protection and should not be used outside and 3 may be used outside, yet you’d most likely need to mount this high and limit the water getting to the light from certain angles. You’ll normally be fine with this light against a house wall under the eaves of the house or a canopy, if there are upward splashing risks for example next to a pond or pool this would not be safe. As a rule of thumb IP44 gives good all-round protection unless you are planning to jet wash the light (most of us would never do this). In a domestic setting there are not too many reasons to power spray your light from close range! Commercially, in a factory, it could be a possibility, and, in that circumstance, you’d need to consider at what range would apply and either select a 5 or 6 rating for the last number. If it will be underwater at any point, you’ll need to choose 7 or 8.
Inside a garden room (if it’s water tight with wall and a roof), you could treat this as you would an internal room if the electrical connection to the house is installed correctly and RCD protected (Residual Current Device which is designed to shut the power off if there is a risk of electrocution. This is normally housed in your fuse board (otherwise referred to as a consumer unit); your electrician can advise you on this further).
4. The importance of Lighting exterior spaces for safety.
We’ve talked about the electrical safety of exterior lights, which does sometimes make people wonder if an outside light is worth all the fuss. Yes, it is! Employing the electrician to fit a light is only a one off complication and cost, as the electrician does the complex bit. A single cost which can be as little as one hours’ work verses going without the security and peace of mind that lighting brings. Without exterior lights, you, your family, your visitors and your guests could be risking trip hazards daily. It limits the use of your outside space to summer, even then you’ll be withdrawing to brighter interiors as the sun goes down.
If you’ve ever tried to find your wayward cat or dog in the darkness, you’ll know just how annoying it can be. You hear a noise outside, and you are terrified to look out. But, at the flick of a switch or even automatically (if using a PIR sensor), a light shines brightly and you can carry on safe in the knowledge that it’s just a badger, not a burglar, putting your mind at ease straight away.
Lighting around your home is sensible, lighting steps, pathways and doorways makes the garden and home accessible for invited guests. Lighting in the evenings is also is sited as a prevention to crime. When streetlamps are switched off, crime or at least the fear of crime increases.
5. Care of Outside Lights
Exterior lights need minimal care; however, routine annual maintaining can extend the looks and life of your exterior lighting. Outside lights get dirty, as rain carries particles of dirt. Brush off this dirt and wipe down the fittings with a damp cloth and when it’s dry, you can touch up paintwork if it has started to peel. Sometimes, stainless finishes may tarnish unless periodically wiped with a baby oil or barrier oil such as WD40, which is very useful to also lubricate screws and fixings. These can become rusted or self-weld themselves together, making it almost impossible to undo them when it’s time to change the bulb.
Manufacturers often include care instructions; these are sometimes ignored but they can form part of warranties. Without maintenance, your lights will still be safe but may not be usable, or as attractive for a long term. How long would it take to maintain an exterior light, minutes?! It’s worth taking a little time, it saves money long term.
6. Troubleshooting old exterior light fittings.
Broken glass can occur often and if you feel that a cracked glass is not too important, think again. The glass can form part of the safety standards and without having intact glass, your light may risk becoming dangerous as the electrical parts may be exposed to water damage.
Replace this immediately and if it’s not possible to get watertight replacement glass, replace the entire fitting for a new one.
Most of the time, it’s simply a case that the light bulbs blow or have reached the end of their life and simply need replacing. Even LED light bulbs have a lifespan. Sometimes incorrect light bulbs are installed, as the instructions and light fitting may get separated over time. Some light fitments with built in sensors or timer switches will not be compatible with light bulbs that have electrical components built in. For example, old style fluorescent bulbs, (sometimes these are curly spirals or ‘U’ shaped). Basically, bent fluorescent tubes (CFL’s) which are called compact fluorescent lamps have electronics which interfere with timers and sensors in light fittings. Inadvertently, when the lights and bulbs both have electronics, they are not compatible with each other and damage is caused. If the light bulb loses the battle, you may be able to replace that part; however, if the light fitting is damaged, you’ll have no option but to replace the light.
When lights with sensors are installed, there is a set up process which must be followed. Refer to the manufactures’ instructions for its set up. If you have a PIR sensor light, and it seems to be playing up, it may simply be that it needs to be adjusted for the change in atmospherics; there are sensitivity settings that you can experiment with.
7. Replacing an old exterior light with new.
If you’ve tried to troubleshoot for common faults and your current light is not repairable, (often the cost of repair is more than buying and fitting a new light) it may be time to replace your garden lamp.
You need to have a new light ready to fit when the old lamp is taken down. It makes sense to employ an electrician for both removal and installing at the same time which will save money.
Choosing a new light? Perhaps check our latest styles for garden lighting be that traditional garden lamps or modern garden light fitting there’s a plentiful array of styles sort by most recent or maybe price point, with approximately 600 styles you’ll be spoilt for choice.
NB for safety sake.
It is also recommended that the old light is switched off at the fuse board if it’s damaged to prevent accidents. Never remove the light and leave wires or electrical parts open to the elements; this is extremely dangerous as it risks electric shock. Even if it’s not raining, water can still be in the air and travel on the breeze and the electric cable will carry currents that cannot be seen. There are no telltale signs that the cable is live. Never risk touching bare cables; consult an electrical contractor immediately.
8. Installing a new exterior light.
If you don’t have any exterior lights or you like to install one where there has never been a light before, it may mean that you need to get power to that place. You may need to install extra cabling and then consider how it will be operated. If you simply want to add a light outside temporarily for an event, there are some quick fix solutions such as USB charged lights. However, if the light is to be a full-time enhancement for the home or venue, you’ll need a plan. Depending on the complexity you may wish to choose some lights and allow your electrician to figure out how to get the cable in place, or you could consult a garden designer who specialises in lighting. An alternative is to plug and play. These are kit forms of lighting modular units that can be configured to suit most situations. Consider contacting us for further ideas on plug and play.
9. Choosing the right light for period homes.
Shopping for lights that suit the era of your home is often a great place to start, especially for listed properties where staying true to the style and aesthetics of the architecture is desirable and, in some cases, required.
- Medieval & Gothic Style Exterior Lights
- Victorian Style Exterior Lights
- Transitional Style Exterior Lighting
- Modern Exterior Lighting
- Converted Industrial or Agricultural buildings
- Landscape and Car park Lighting
- Hospitality Exterior Lighting
10. Advances in outside lights: LED
LED (Light emitting diodes) is the latest energy saving lighting widely believed to have cost, energy and environmental advantages over other types of light sources. LED forms 2 distinct categories; retro fit or integrated. Retro fit lamps are familiar shaped light bulbs that we’ve all grown used to, however they are made using this new technology. Integrated LEDs are complete light fittings with the light source being made as one with the fitting. Advantages are, the light becomes maintenance free with no need to replace the bulbs. The LED part is designed to last as long as the fitting. For many consumers this is unproven technology, yet the industry making the lamps believe this is the future of lighting.
Changing mindsets of consumers to LED is a slow evolution. Questions being asked by consumers range from interest, requests for evidence and extended warranties. Typically, as manufacturers launch their newest innovations there are some failures as market testing relies on a series of legislative tests and quality checks, yet lack of public knowledge can lead to incorrect use. Often non compatible switching causes issues, which does somewhat muddy the waters on the speed of uptake of these products. To quell the sceptics at The Lighting Company, we offer extended warranties free of charge – all light fitting have a minimum 2 years electrical warranty.
11. Impact of exterior lighting on the environment.
We’ve already talked endlessly about LED being the way to go to protect the earth’s resources and how much of a financial saving switching to LED makes to us all. If you’ve been living in the dark ages and missed all the hype about LED lights worry not you can catch up here with blogs and video’s making this big subject easily understood. In this section we look beyond the cost savings and ponder how light effects other people and nocturnal critters.
Consideration should be given to use exterior lights effectively. There is really little need to floodlight the entire neighbourhood. We advocate using lights when they are needed, use lower power lamps and keep light directed to ground levels rather than upwards. Have exterior lighting dedicated to the task they are required for. If you need light on the pathway, light it without spilling light up to the sky. Lighting is useful to the user however can be deemed a nuisance if you don’t want it. Bats don’t want it if confuses them, it can upset the breeding patterns of some animals and can be classed as light pollution blocking the glow of the stars.