Homeowner’s Guide To Porch Lights

Create a safe and welcoming entry to your home while enlightening your activities with the right porch lighting. Before you buy, check out these tips.

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Very few things add more dimensions to a home than a porch. It could be an open affair just outside your front door, a screened-in extension of your dining room or a cozy nook between your kitchen and the backyard.

To make that porch even more enjoyable, you’ll need the right lighting. We’ll help you choose the right porch lights to make it your home’s most sought-after living space.

Types of Porch Lights

There are four types of porch lights to consider:

  • Wall-mounted (aka sconce lights): Most homes are wired for one or two wall-mounted lights adjacent to the entry doors for safe entry and exit. These can be inexpensive and easy to install. You’ll find styles from ornate lanterns to ultra-modern brushed-metal cubes. Just pay close attention to size. “Most exterior fixtures come in three sizes; you don’t want one that’s too big or too small,” says Jacob Hofer, a lighting consultant with Creative Lighting. Hofer recommends measuring the light you’re considering, then going home and approximating the size with blue tape to see how it fits the space.
  • Ceiling mount: Adding lights in your porch ceiling can improve visibility while setting the right mood. Ceiling mounts come in flush, semi-flush and even outdoor chandeliers. Remember, outside light levels differ from those inside your home. “We recommend adding dimmers to overhead lighting in screened and covered porches,” says Ami Reitan Johannson, a designer with Greener Side Landscaping. “A light that’s bright enough to read by outside is a lot different than indoors.”
  • Bottom mount (aka post lights): As their name implies, these lights are mounted from below, atop an exposed porch railing, half-column or their own post. They work well along stairways, or as a statement piece.
  • Freestanding/plug-in/battery: If your porch isn’t hard-wired, you’ll still find lots of options to provide the illumination you need. From table-top and floor lamps to strands of twinkle lights, you can brighten a dark corner or create a festive backdrop for dinner parties.

How to Choose Porch Lights

Evening glow of the front porchchandlerphoto/Getty Images

When shopping for porch lights, keep these factors in mind:

  • Style: Consider the overall decor of your porch. Whether traditional, modern and bold or cottagecore, choose porch light fixtures that blend well with their surroundings. “All those lantern style, restoration and industrial styles aren’t going away,” Hofer says, “but we’re definitely seeing much more interest in super modern and contemporary looks.” He also notes the proliferation of on-trend porch fans with light kits.
  • Light output: Hofer says you should “consider how the space will be used and what light level you’ll need for that. The decorative lantern at your front door should give you the right brightness to safely get your keys out and clearly see who might be at the door.” Consider 300 to 400 lumens at the front door. And while some porch lights provide enough illumination for safety and security, the rest are there to help you read, do needle crafts or play a game at the coffee table with family and friends. That requires roughly 100 to 200 lumens.
  • Energy source: Hard-wired fixtures are easy to replace and reliable as long as the power is on. But if your porch is not hard-wired, add solar- and/or battery-powered lights. Whenever possible, opt for solar because those batteries don’t need to be replaced as often as alkaline batteries. Another option is to run electrical service to the porch yourself (or hire a pro.)
  • Cost: If you’ve ever shopped for lighting, you already know it can be surprisingly expensive. Set a budget for your porch lights and buy the best ones you can afford. You’ll regret going with the cheapest lights.

The Best Porch Lights

  • Barn lights: What used to be utilitarian has come a long way. Today’s versions feature a wide, simple shade to direct light downward, often with a gooseneck wall attachment. They suit any architectural style and come in a huge range of shapes, colors and materials.
  • Lighted ceiling fan: Porches can heat up, so a lighted ceiling fan provides comfort and illumination. Select a fan rated for damp or wet locations if the fixture will be exposed. You’ll find endless styles, colors and materials to suit your decor.
  • Bare bulb string lights: Draped overhead or along a wall, outdoor string lights add an inviting element to your porch. You’ll find elegant globes, tiny twinklers and colored versions to set a festive air.

Wendy B. Danks
My 40-year-plus career in marketing and communications was both fun and rewarding, not least of which was the 20 years I got to manage the largest Parade of Homes in the United States. But through it all, I was happiest when I had pen or keyboard in hand. Whether an ad, a press release or magazine article, I found a home with words.