For all homeowners, outdoor lighting is a necessity.
But we also know that for each individual, outdoor lighting represents something unique and different. For some, it is both a functional and beautiful art. For others, it can quickly become an overwhelming and stressful task.
Homeowners often turn to quick fixes or cheap, but short-lived lighting solutions that need constant repair and monitoring. With so many different options, brands, and companies to choose from, it’s easy to become frustrated.
Here at Villa Neri, we know you have many options when it comes to lighting your home and we’re glad you’ve found us. Regardless of whether you’re a new homeowner looking to install your first garden lights, or a homeowner that’s simply frustrated with your current fixtures, we’ve got you covered. We love staying up-to-date and knowledgeable about our lighting, and firmly believe that our clients should also have that information and transparency. Throughout our quest to create the best products for you, we’ve put together a detailed, informative guide on the most common outdoor lighting fixtures and designs to help you figure out how to best illuminate your home and landscapes.
There are four preliminary things to consider with outdoor lighting.
- Previous lighting fixtures: Are there currently any outdoor lighting fixtures attached to your home or garden? Do they work? What kind of lights are they? (You can take a peek down below to figure this out if you aren’t already familiar with the different types!)
- Existing outlets and connections: Where are your outlets? Does your house have outlets? Will you need to modify any existing structures or add new ones?
- Durability and weather: Not all lights are created equal. Some work in places where it is mind-meltingly hot all the time. Some fizzle out at the slightest drop of water but others can be extremely durable and completely weatherproof. You’ll want to check the durability of your lights, and keep in mind things like snow, ground freezing, precipitation, etc.
- Cost: What’s your budget for all this? “This” includes things like installation fees (if you plan on hiring someone to install your lights) and extra bits and bobbles (think extension cords, wiring). A 10-light system installed by a pro typically starts at about $2,000 to $2,500. Keep in mind that cheaper products, though tempting for your wallet, might end up costing you significantly more in the long term when all the replacements and repairs are said and done.
These four elements can present clarity to you and eliminate any confusion when it comes to knowing what to look for and where to go in the world of outdoor lighting. Next, let’s figure out what exactly you want your lighting to do (in addition to making sure you can see where you’re going!).
What kind of lighting are you looking for? What is your house’s style? Do you want pathway and safety lighting, general ambiance lighting, or are you looking to accent and highlight certain aspects of your house and landscape?
- Functional (task) Lighting: Perhaps the most common and standard type of outdoor lights. Task lighting illuminates your yard to make it safer and welcoming for you and your guests. It helps make pathways visible and illuminates those hard-to-see corners. These lights include path lights and floodlights, among others.
- Safety and Security Lighting: Lights placed near windows and entryways, or even the perimeter of your property. These can help deter unwanted guests, both people and animals alike, and help you feel more at ease knowing there are no shadows or corners for them to hide in.
Style & Design
- Ambient/Effect Lighting: These well-placed lights can add to the visual appeal of your home and walkways. They help create a unique mood and ambiance so that your property looks sleek and orderly both in the day and at night.
- Accent Lighting: Whether you have a porch you’d like to highlight, or a garden sculpture, or even a magnificent tree, accent lighting can help bring attention to these landscape features while providing a gentle glow.
Types of Lighting
Here are just a couple of types of lights, each scaled and sized differently to highlight all your nooks and crannies.
- Floodlights and Spotlights: Floodlights and spotlights are great workhorses for safety and task lighting. Though they both illuminate a broad general area, they differ in their beam spread. Floodlights are wide, with a beam spread that goes up to 120 degrees, which makes them great for general lighting, safety, and visibility. Spotlights are much smaller, with a beam that’s around 45 degrees, which makes them easier to aim and focus on architectural or landscape details.
- Path Lights: These little guys are the perfect choice if you want a mix of subtle, visual interest, and functionality. They illuminate walking paths for your safety, as well as showcasing and accenting the features of your landscape. They are flexible, can be used in many locations, and are easy to set up.
- Ceiling, Pendant, and Wall Lights: These lights work well for ambiance, task, and safety functions. They are perhaps the most traditional way to illuminate an entryway, porch, or driveway, and a well-designed outdoor wall or ceiling light can accent the features of your door and add warmth to your entryway. Pendant lights can also add an extra visual flair in comparison to traditional ceiling or wall lights.
- Post Lights: Though they can be quite large, post lights can offer a regal and elegant look to your landscape. They are both decorative and functional, as their wide spread can be used to mark driveways and entrances, and provides a large circle of light.
The type of installation and wattage you’ll need depends on what purpose the light serves. In most cases, outdoor lighting is used to light paths, or for other functional purposes, so higher wattage bulbs work best. If you’re looking for more decorative pieces, then a lower wattage bulb will serve you better. Below, we’ve listed out a few options for powering your lights, keeping in mind both time and financial considerations.
- Solar: Solar lights are cost-effective, wireless options that are both good for the environment and won’t skyrocket your electric bill. This kind of source is perfect for accent or access lighting (like path lights), and because they use solar lighting, they’re guaranteed to keep working even during power outages. They’re easy to install but don’t necessarily last a long time.
- Wired – Wired installations tend to require electricians to help install them, but save you the trouble of having to worry about rechargeable solar batteries or conventional batteries.
- Low Voltage (12V): Low voltage lighting is currently the most common option for residential outdoor lighting. Low voltage solutions are usually good value but can be complex, need a transformer, require some DIY-ing on your part, and may not last for as long as you’d like them to. You might be able to dig a few trenches (low voltage cables must be buried at least six inches deep) and connect some fixtures and cables yourself (or call in a handyman), but if you don't have the right receptacle to plug the transformer into, you’ll need to find a licensed electrician to install one.
- Line Voltage (120V): Line voltage is often used in commercial and public-space applications, as they are brighter and the products that use it are typically more durable. Traditional line voltage lighting is made to last but can be labor-intensive and extremely expensive. VillaNERI is different from traditional line voltage: we’ve engineered our lights to ensure that our customers get quality lighting, comparable to commercial use, without the hassle – our pathlights don’t require hiring an electrician or replacement of batteries.
- NiCd has been troublesome in years past for its “memory effect,” meaning it is meant to be charged and depleted fully, which isn’t what happens with outdoor lights, where there is a constant charge-discharge cycle with day and night. Consequently, the battery’s voltage depletes over time.
- NiMH, though not as finicky as NiCd, still requires a full discharge every once in a while, which can be a pain, and they tend to generate a lot of heat.
- Li-Ion batteries are the kind you find in small electronics, which means they can actually be more dangers for outdoor lights, as they need a protection circuit. In addition, they can be quite expensive.
- Lithium Polymer is more cost-friendly, but has a low energy density and a decreased cycle count, which just means you’ll be racking up those purchases in the long run.
We’ve done our research and know the best installation type for the job – an innovative line voltage installation gives you all the benefits of a commercial lighting product without burning a hole in your wallet or causing unneeded stress.
Keep on reading to learn more about which bulbs work best, and other last-minute considerations when installing your lights.
We know that different lights use different types of bulbs (and consequently different energy sources), so we’ve put together the three most common types of bulbs for your consideration.
- LED: These bulbs consume just a fraction of the energy of other bulb types (1-11 watts of power, versus 20-60 watts for halogen lights), and are more than capable of holding their own when compared to traditional bulbs. They can last up to 40,000 hours, have zero UV emissions, and come in a variety of colors and brightness (and perhaps most importantly, they don’t give off the type of light that makes human skin look unnatural and green)
- Halogen: Halogen lamps are a more traditional choice, though they buzz and can be a bit noisy. Their illumination comes from an electric current that runs through tungsten wire, which generates heat and a bright white light. In comparison to LED lights, they are less energy efficient: they consume around 90 watts of energy and can get quite hot when in use. They have a lifespan of 1,000 hours, and have minimal UV emissions.
- Fluorescent: Fluorescent lights are great for young seedlings and plant starts. They are easy to find and install, but unfortunately, don’t last as long as LEDs. They are quite delicate, bulky, and don’t provide a high lumen intensity.
Additional Factors to Consider
Though these items might not be at the top of your radar when looking for outdoor lighting, we’d love to share our knowledge on some subtler design nuances that will really make your landscape and lights pop.
- Color Temperature: Though this might not be a top priority in your lighting considerations, remember that the light quality is just as important as light quantity. Color temperatures 3500+ K are generally cooler temperatures (blue tone) while temperatures 3000- K are warmer (amber tone). Outdoor lighting is best done with warmer temperatures, which provide a healthy, natural glow to create a relaxing environment.
- Smart Lighting: In a day and age where nearly everything is technologically connected, it only makes sense for your garden lighting to be the same way. Here at VillaNeri, we’ve designed our lights to connect to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and smart speakers for maximum ease and control.
- Photo Cell: Dusk to dawn lights are timed and turn on automatically, which means you don’t have to go turn on the switch. This option works great for functional lighting, such as wall lights and post lights. We’re fans of great yields for less work, so our light comes with an automatic dusk to dawn feature installed.
- Motion Sensor: These lights turn on when they detect motion, and can be useful for security or task lighting. Their reliance on motion sensors means the lights are only in use for a certain amount of time; they therefore consume less energy and may work as a cheaper lighting option. That being said, if you’re concerned about security, you should know that motion sensors aren’t always completely reliable and that “dusk to dawn” lights are preferable for that use case.
- Style: When it comes to the perfect look, you’ll want to match your exterior design with your interior, to allow for a seamless transition between the two spaces. There are a number of different fixtures and styles for lighting solutions, so you’re sure to find one that complements your home.
Outdoor lighting and design can be daunting when you dive in without knowing what you’re getting yourself into. That’s why we’ve put together this guide and our products for you. At VillaNeri, we firmly believe in transparency, quality, and beautiful design, and we have funneled our passion and research into creating the VillaNeri pathlight for you. We are committed to making this lighting experience enjoyable and stress-free for our clients and hope this information, compiled through our years of research and experience, can be useful to you as you choose the best lighting for your home.