How many lumens do you need for outdoor lighting?

How many lumens do you need for outdoor lighting?

Whether you’re setting up a floodlight, atmospheric landscape lighting or path lights, you want to make sure your lights have the right intensity before you install them. After all, lights that are too bright can ruin the atmosphere you want to create, while lights that are too weak could be a safety issue if you’re illuminating stairs or walkways.

Read on for a comprehensive overview of the right amount of lumens for outdoor spaces, from pond to driveway. Just make sure to take into account any local or national guidelines that might be applicable to your outdoor space - whether it’s city council regulations or local safety standards, you don’t want your dream lighting design to break the law.

What Is A Lumen?

Simply put: watts measure energy, while lumens measure light or brightness. Back in the day, the strength of a lamp was always expressed in watts: the higher the wattage, the brighter the lamp. Thanks to the introduction of LED lights, that’s no longer the case. Because of their energy efficiency, LED lights can produce more lumens with less energy. For example, a LED lamp of 6.5 watts will emit about as many lumens as a 50-watt halogen bulb.

To avoid confusion, the brightness of a bulb is now expressed in lumens, which quantify the amount of light the human eye can detect. The higher the lumens, the brighter the lamp, regardless of energy consumption. While this system may take some getting used to for those who are better accustomed with watts, it will make comparing light output between traditional lamps and LED lamps easier.

There’s a caveat, however: not every garden light may give off as many visible lumens as the box professes. The indicated lumens describe the output of the bulb, but the actual design of the lamp and of the LED reflector influence how much of that output is visible. You should also be aware that low voltage lights or cheap light fixtures may suffer from lumen loss over time.

It is therefore advisable to buy high-quality lights from a trusted partner; this will ensure you get the right light output, the desired longevity and the required safety standards you need to make your garden lighting perfect. Using our decades of experience with lighting cities and outdoor spaces around the world, VillaNERI has created an effective and durable pathlight that is built to last over twenty years and give your garden the special touch it deserves.

How Many Lumens Do You Need?

Calculating the required brightness of a lamp is not an exact science. When estimating how many lumens you need for your outdoor lighting, much will depend on your personal taste, the position and spacing of your lamps, how large the area you want to light is, … However, we can give you a ballpark figure that will work for the most common outdoor lighting designs.


Floodlights are bright lights, often positioned at a driveway, that switch on when movement is detected. They serve to help you navigate the driveway in the dark, but also to discourage burglars taking advantage of the darkness. You want these to be nice and bright, so floodlights usually require 700 lumens or more. Just make sure your floodlight isn’t directed at your neighbor’s window.

Path and Stair Lights

Garden pathways require between 100 and 200 lumens, depending on your taste. If your paths are uneven, you’ll want to err on the side of caution and go brighter; if you’re looking for slightly muted lights at an even spacing, around 100 lumens will be sufficient. If you are lighting stairs, make sure your lights are positioned in such a way that they don’t cast shadows on half of the stairs, making them dangerous to navigate. In such case you may be better off with many small 30-50 lumen lights than with two bright lamps.

Atmospheric Landscape Lights

If you want to add lighting accents to your garden landscape or illuminate certain features, you’ll want anywhere between 50 and 300 lumens. Small bushes and shrubs lit from below will look wonderful at 50 lumens; for larger, more sculptural garden elements, and for a more dramatic effect, you’ll want to go a bit brighter.

Motion Sensor Lights

Different from floodlights, motion sensor lights are the kind that are meant to light your way as you approach your door or walk along the house. You’ll want between 300 and 700 lumens for this purpose, depending on the surface area.

Pool and Pond Lights

For that magical effect of light emanating from below the water surface, you’ll want to install lamps of 200-400 lumens in your pool or pond. A pond will look nicer at the lower end of the range; in a pool, where visibility is key, you’ll want to go for the higher end of the spectrum.

In Conclusion

Brightness is subject to personal preference, but having a ballpark number of lumens for each lighting purpose will help you make the right choices for your outdoor space. Combining different light intensities in different spots in your garden will create a sophisticated and layered effect, so don’t feel tempted to install the same bulbs everywhere – unless they’re dimmable, which will give you endless customization options.