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Homeowner’s Guide to the Best Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lights add warmth, safety and style to your home's overall look. Learn about eight great outdoor lights to consider for your yard.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.

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Outdoor lightingFlying Colours Ltd/Getty Images

Choosing Outdoor Lighting

The right outdoor lighting for your home adds ambiance and warmth. It can also add safety and security from burglars, who are less likely to target a well-lit house.

There are many options to weigh for outdoor lighting. The main factors include:

  • The area you want to illuminate;
  • Your main purpose — security, enhancing your overall decor, highlighting landscaping or simply providing overall light;
  • Your budget.

First, check to see if the lighting is suitable for outdoor use. Look for the UL Listing or the ETL Listed Mark. UL refers to Underwriter Laboratories while ETL refers to Electrical Testing Laboratories. Both laboratories test the safety of various products. They generally label lighting one of three ways: Safe for dry areas only, suitable for damp locations or suitable for wet locations.

If there’s no label, it’s best to assume that the light is safe for dry areas only. Definitely look for these labels when shopping for outdoor lighting.

Here are eight popular kinds of outdoor lights to consider.

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Ceiling-Mount Lightingvia homedepot.com

Ceiling-Mount Lighting

Ceiling-mount lighting is a popular option for covered porches because it provides general light and can make a statement. From small flush-mount styles to elaborate hanging pendants, there is something for every taste and space. Lower ceilings are best suited to flush fixtures to avoid anyone banging their head. The main con is that you’ll need to hardwire the fixture, and that may include bringing power to the ceiling.

One to consider: Brimfield Two-Light Aged Iron Outdoor Flushmount Light

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Flood lightsvia amazon.com

Flood Lighting

Floodlights cast a broad beam of high-intensity light to provide top-notch visibility. This illuminates your house while also adding an element of security, because burglars tend to avoid homes with well-lit yards. You’ll often find floodlights in driveways and backyards. While floodlights are an inexpensive way to make your home more secure, they often must be hardwired into your garage or house.

One to consider: Lithonia Lighting Adjustable Standard Outdoor Flood Light

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Wall lanternvia homedepot.com

Lanterns

Outdoor lanterns can be attached to walls, hung from a ceiling or placed on a table or rail. No matter which style you choose, you can count on lanterns to add a chic, timeless look to your outdoor patio deck or porch.

Wall and hanging lanterns look especially great next to or in front of doors, while portable lanterns are great on tables. While some lanterns are powered by electricity, solar- and battery-powered lanterns are also available. Think carefully before buying a lantern that you can’t attach to a wall, post or other solid object. Some standalone lanterns can easily be toppled by a strong wind.

One to consider: Brimfield One-Light Aged Iron Outdoor Wall Lantern Sconce

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String lightsvia amazon.com

String Lighting

String lighting adds a soft glow and gives off a magical outdoor vibe. String lights look great suspended from a ceiling or wrapped around a deck banister, column or tree. If you’re looking for a good amount of light with pretty ambiance, opt for larger bulbs. String lights are inexpensive and easy to hang, but they often don’t provide much illumination, and they can take a beating from the elements if they aren’t in a protected area.

One to consider: Lampat 25Ft G40 Globe String Lights

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Solar lightsvia amazon.com

Solar Lighting

Solar lights harness the sun’s energy in a special cell during the day and turn on automatically as darkness falls. You commonly see solar spotlights and path lights, although they come in other forms as well. They are eco-friendly and usually inexpensive. Downsides? They often can’t collect enough energy on cloudy or rainy days to perform well. Same in winter, when days are shorter and snow can block light from reaching the solar cell.

One to consider: LITOM 12 LEDs Solar Landscape Spotlights

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Path lightvia homedepot.com

Path Lighting

Path lights illuminate and define your outdoor pathways. You can also position them to bring attention to any favorite parts of your garden or yard. You typically see them on stakes driven into the ground, but there are also path lights that sit flush with the path. If you don’t go with solar path lights, you will need to connect the lights to a power source. When hardwiring to a power source, you’ll need to bury the wiring at least 18 inches deep or encase it in conduit.

One to consider: Hampton Bay 20 Lumens Solar Gray LED Landscape Path Light with Seedy Glass Lens

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Motion lightvia homedepot.com

Motion Sensors

Motion sensor lighting adds an element of security to your home and yard by automatically turning on whenever movement is sensed within a certain range. These are best pointed at walkways leading to your front and back doors, decks, patios, and potentially dangerous areas such as a swimming pool.

Compared to a home security system, they’re an inexpensive way to deter burglars. Just know that motion sensors usually need to be hardwired into your electrical system and that they’re often tripped by cars, pets and other non-threats.

One to consider: Defiant 180 Degree White LED Motion Outdoor Security Light

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Smart lightsvia amazon.com

Smart Lighting

Smart lighting can fit in with every style of outdoor decor. What makes it “smart” is that it can be controlled from a smartphone app or a voice assistant, such as Alexa.

By using the app or voice assistant, you can put the lights on a schedule, turn them on and off no matter where you are, and more. Some smart lighting even works in conjunction with other smart devices, such as security cameras. While smart lighting offers a lot of convenience, it tends to come with a higher price tag than conventional outdoor lighting.

One to consider: Ring Solar Pathlight

Amanda Prischak
Amanda Prischak is a freelance writer based in Erie, Pennsylvania.