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Best Exterior LED Lighting Guide in 2020 (+10 Photos)

Best Exterior LED Lighting GuideExterior lighting greatly affects the curb appeal of your home, its ambience during the evening hours, and its security.

Lighting around external walls, roofing, pillars, windows, and other outdoor spaces can make your home feel warm and inviting. It can deter would-be intruders. It can also help you entertain guests and mark special occasions.

Your choice of exterior lighting will be determined by what you mainly want it to achieve and there are many options to help you reach your goals.

Technology like LED lighting has increased modern exterior lighting choices for homes.

Gemstone Lights has prepared this guide to make it easier to select the right home exterior lighting option.

We look at what you need to consider when selecting outdoor lighting and some of the best options for each choice. Plenty of images are included too, so you may come across something that you had not considered before.

Let’s get started…

How to choose the right lights for your home

Choosing outdoor lighting should start with one question:

What do I want my lighting to achieve?

Everything will follow from your answer. There is no point considering all the other factors like style, placement, and energy-efficiency until you can answer that question.

For most homeowners, the answer will be one or more of the following:

  • Extra security for family and guests
  • Increasing the curb appeal of the home by accentuating its main architectural features
  • Tastefully illuminating the entire exterior of your home
  • Installing task lighting for specific areas like driveways, walkways, porches, decks, or entertainment areas
  • Highlighting a specific feature of your property like a lanai, gazebo, or pergola
  • Marking special occasions with different string-lighting colors and designs

The technical factors to consider

Once you know what you want to achieve with your exterior lighting it’s time to get a little more technical.

Remember that, when choosing exterior lighting, there are some factors that you need to consider that don’t apply to indoor lighting.

You’ll want your exterior lighting to be heavy-duty and weather-resistant enough to last years into the future.

This applies equally whether you live in the heat of Phoenix, AZ or the cold of Alberta, Canada.

Day and night, outdoor lighting is exposed to the elements. If your home is in an area that experiences a climate with a wide range of temperatures, frequent storms, heavy snow or rainfall or other extremes of weather, this will affect your choice of lighting.

Traditional Exterior Lighting Fixtures

Traditional Fixtures

Some traditional fixtures like wall sconces, post lights, and ceiling lights are made from bronze, copper or wrought iron. These are specifically designed for heavy-duty wear and tear.

Cast aluminum also stands up to the elements well (as evidenced by its use in window frames).

Modern LED Exterior Lighting

Modern LED Exterior Lighting

The best modern LED exterior lighting solutions use high-quality LEDs and components as well as UV-protected wires and lights for added durability.

With Gemstone Lights LED lighting, each light and connection have an IP 65 Waterproof rating and can operate in temperatures from -40 Fahrenheit to 176 Fahrenheit (-40C to +80C).

Tracks are made out of powder-coated aluminum that is extremely unlikely to rust or degrade.

Our Expert Tips

You can use the UL rating and ETL certification as an indicator of the quality, safety, and durability of the outdoor lighting that you are considering.

The ETL Listed Mark as proof of product compliance throughout North America as well as other parts of the world. It demonstrates compliance with the requirements of widely accepted product safety standards.

We are ETL certified in the USA and Canada. You will see the ETL Listed Mark stamp of approval on all of our products. Do not trust products that do not carry this mark as they may not meet safety standards - even low voltage lighting requires this.

The URL rating of the lighting will indicate its suitability for outdoor use.

Send us an email to check if you’re not sure about the durability of your LED lighting solution.

From ambient lanterns and candle-like fixtures to string lights, it’s easy to make your outdoor spaces more inviting.

Your preferred style of lighting will be dictated by the style of your house, as well as what you want it to achieve.

Traditional exterior lighting styles

Traditional Style

Traditional styles of ambient exterior lighting include:

  • Rustic lanterns
  • Traditional wall sconce fixtures
  • Themed lighting fixtures (e.g. nautical, tropical,
  • Tuscan or farmhouse style)
  • Pendant lighting
  • Traditional post lights
Modern Exterior Lighting Styles

Modern Style

More modern or contemporary styles of ambient exterior lighting are often simpler in design with clean lines and solid colors. Examples include:

  • Modern mounted lighting
  • Motion-activated lighting
  • Contemporary pole lights (often solar-powered)
  • Modern landscape lighting
  • Light posts for a driveway
  • LED outdoor string lights
Exterior security lighting with motion sensor

Security Lighting

With security lighting, the style is often less important than functionality.

This type of lighting may be controlled remotely with distance and size controls and may employ motion-sensor technology.

The placement of your lighting will greatly depend on your main goals.
Best exterior lighting guide in Canada and US

Driveway, Front Door or Garage Lights

For overall security, it is often best to place the main spotlights, floodlights or motion-sensor lights at the driveway, front door or garage.

However, they need to be placed so that they do not disturb you or your neighbors when you are inside your house in the evenings.

Wall-mounted exterior light

Wall-Mounted Lights

Wall-mounted exterior light fixtures must be mounted to a flat vertical surface, like a wall or wooden post.

Architectural Lighting

For architectural lighting, the lights will be placed below the roofing system to accentuate certain aspects of the building.

Entertainment Area Lighting

Entertainment Area Lighting

String lights can brighten up an entertaining outdoor space or be placed between trees to add some dashes of color or intrigue to the landscaped areas of your property like a pond or other water feature.

If you are installing lighting outside your home, the size and scale will depend upon where you place them and what you want them to achieve.

You want them to look their best, even if the main reason for installing your lighting is for security.

A few good sizing options include:

  • Over garage and front door wall lights – about a quarter or a third of the width of the door
  • Front door wall sconces – about a quarter or a third of the height of the door
  • Front porch ceiling lights - a quarter or a third of the width of the door
  • Driveway and garden lamp post lights - around a quarter of the height of the mounting pole/fence post
  • Front entrance hanging lights – around one-fifth of the height of the door
  • Garage lighting – around a quarter or a third of the width of your garage door

There is also a power requirement consideration.

  • For most traditional outdoor fixtures, you will need a minimum of a 60-watt equivalent or a 75- to 100-watt bulb if the light is behind a glass shade.
  • For LED lighting, lower wattage bulbs will suffice.

If you have large outdoor spaces that you want to light up, you can look for a grander solution than the light fixtures that are designed for small nooks and crannies or smaller spaces within your property.

The desired color of your lighting will help determine the option you choose.
Traditional Warm Exterior Lighting

Traditional Warm Tone

For instance, if you want a traditional warm glow all year round, any of the more traditional lighting solutions can help.

Customizable exterior led lighting

Customizable Colors

If you want the colors to change according to the time of the year or on special occasions, programmable LED lighting may be a better option. LED lights are available in the full spectrum of colors.

For instance, it’s possible to install a system that you control remotely to change the color and configuration to red, white, and blue to celebrate US Independence Day or red and green for Christmas.

If your main priority is security, the brightness of the lighting system you install will be important.

To act as an effective deterrent, your lighting might be motion-activated and designed to surprise an intruder with ultra-bright illumination

However, bright lights can also add a dramatic effect to the outside of your property, providing ambience as well as security.

LED string lights come with their own proprietary controller, so you can make them brighter or dimmer according to the ambience you want to create.

If your main priority is security, the brightness of the lighting system you install will be important.

To act as an effective deterrent, your lighting might be motion-activated and designed to surprise an intruder with ultra-bright illumination

However, bright lights can also add a dramatic effect to the outside of your property, providing ambience as well as security.

LED string lights come with their own proprietary controller, so you can make them brighter or dimmer according to the ambience you want to create.

exterior LED lighting

LED Lights

If energy efficiency is an important factor for you, LED lights have a clear advantage over traditional lights.

They use 80 percent less electricity and the bulbs require changing only after decades of usage (many last up to 50,000 hours).

With LED lighting, only 60 percent of the energy consumed is converted to heat – that means less energy used to produce the lighting effect than with halogen or fluorescent bulbs.

Each light in LED string lights draws between 0.17 and 0.72 watts, depending on the color (RGB white light uses the most power).

As LED technology has improved, LED lighting has become softer and warmer and you now have great options for subtle and ambient lighting as well as bright lighting that makes a statement.

Motion-Sensored Lights

If you go with a more traditional lighting system, consider making it motion-sensor-activated to save power costs.

Solar-Powered Lighting

Solar-powered lighting is also a great way to reduce energy costs.

With the cost of the panels reducing in recent years, it is now an affordable option for many homes, especially in areas with a high number of sunshine hours.

What you want to spend on your outdoor lighting is nearly always an important factor. It may be a few hundred dollars up to tens of thousands.

Remember that there are a few aspects to this:

  • Costs of the fixtures – how many fixtures do you need to order to achieve the outdoor lighting effects that you want? Remember that they need to be extra-durable, which will potentially add to the cost.
  • Costs of the actual light bulbs – fluorescent, halogen or LED bulbs have different costs associated with them.
  • Installation costs - can you do it yourself or do you need to hire specialists to fit your lights? Is a new electrical system required for lighting the outdoor areas?
  • Running costs – how is the lighting going to impact your monthly electricity bill?

Remember, even though LED lights cost more than halogen and fluorescent light bulbs, they last much longer and are more energy-efficient.

Exclusive expert tips on choosing exterior lighting

To select the right exterior lighting for your home, follow these steps:

  • Decide what you want to achieve from your lighting and ensure that you have enough lights to cover what you need
  • Match the outdoor lighting style with the style of your building – e.g., modern, traditional, ornamental, etc.
  • Ensure that the lighting meets your security requirements
  • Ensure your exterior lighting solution is durable enough to withstand the weather conditions –check the waterproof rating and UL rating, etc.
  • If you live by the coast, also ensure that salt corrosion will not ruin your exterior lighting
  • Decide if you want motion-sensor lighting or hook it up to a circuit – or a combination of both

Still have questions?

Still don't know which exterior lighting solution is the best for your home? Get in touch with a Gemstone Lights expert in your area today. Our dealers are available to help homeowners across Canada and the USA.

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