Outdoor Lighting for the Home & Farm

October 18, 2023

a beautiful farmhouse illuminated at night

Outdoor spaces, whether expansive farm fields or cozy backyard patios, come alive at night with the right lighting. The soft glimmer of a wall light or the powerful beam of a floodlight not only beautifies and accentuates features of your outdoor environment, but also contributes to security and safety.

Light Emitting Diode (LEDs) Bulbs

LEDs are semiconductor devices that emit light when an electric current passes through them. Not only do they offer energy efficiency, but they also bring versatility to lighting solutions.

Benefits of LED Lighting

  • Energy Efficiency: Consuming less power means both eco-friendliness and cost savings.
  • Longevity: LEDs can last up to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs, leading to fewer replacements.
  • Cool Lighting: They emit minimal heat, making them a safer choice in areas with children or pets.
  • Versatility: They come in a variety of color temperatures suitable for different moods and settings.
  • Durability: Built tough, LEDs withstand shocks, vibrations, and varying weather.

Best Uses for LED Lights in Outdoor Settings

  • Path and Landscape Lighting: LEDs are perfect for garden paths, driveways, and highlighting landscape features.
  • Security Lights: With their quick start-up time and clarity, LEDs make excellent floodlights and motion sensor lights.
  • Decorative Lighting: From festive string lights to wall fixtures, LEDs offer vibrant colors and consistent illumination.
  • Fence Post & Boundary Lighting: Their reliability and long-lasting nature make LEDs a go-to for marking boundaries like fence posts or wall fixtures.

Halogen Bulbs

Halogen bulbs are an evolution of the incandescent bulb, distinguished by their use of halogen gas. This gas reacts with the heated tungsten filament, recycling evaporated tungsten back onto the filament, which enhances brightness and efficiency compared to standard incandescents.

Benefits of Halogen Lighting

  • Crisp, Clear Light: Halogens offer a bright, white light, closely resembling natural daylight.
  • Instant Light: Halogens illuminate instantly upon switching, with no warm-up time.
  • Dimmable: Compatible with dimmer switches, halogens allow for adjustable lighting moods.
  • Affordability: While generally more cost-effective upfront than LEDs, they might be less efficient in the long run due to higher energy consumption.

Points to Consider

  • Energy Consumption: Halogens use more energy than LEDs, potentially raising electricity bills if used heavily.
  • Heat Emission: Halogens emit more heat than LEDs, a concern in heat-sensitive areas.
  • Lifespan: Longer than incandescents, but shorter than LEDs.

Best Uses for Halogen Lights in Outdoor Settings

  • Spotlighting: With their bright and focused light, halogens are perfect for spotlighting specific features in gardens or entryways.
  • Security Lighting: Their instant-on capability makes halogens a reliable choice for security lights, especially in combination with motion sensors.
  • Ambient Garden Lighting: Their warm glow can create cozy and inviting outdoor spaces, perfect for evening relaxation or gatherings.
  • Path Lighting: Their excellent color rendition ensures clarity, making them suitable for pathways or steps where clear visibility is crucial.

High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Bulbs

HID bulbs generate light by channeling an electric current through a gas-filled chamber, which in turn produces a bright arc of light. This gas can be metal halide, sodium, or even xenon, each offering a different hue and intensity of light. Unlike halogens or incandescents, HIDs don’t use a filament, which can increase their lifespan.

Benefits of HID Lighting

  • Superior Brightness: HIDs provide unmatched brightness, ideal for large outdoor spaces.
  • Extended Lifespan: Lacking the filament commonly found in halogens or incandescents, HIDs tend to have a more extended durability.
  • Cost-Efficient for Large Areas: For big areas, fewer HIDs achieve desired brightness, reducing costs.
  • Variety in Light Colors: Depending on the gas, HIDs emit different light hues, from crisp white to warm glow.

Points to Consider

  • Warm-Up Time: HIDs require a few minutes to reach full brightness.
  • Energy Consumption: Efficient for big areas, but not ideal for small spaces due to higher energy consumption than LEDs.
  • Replacement Costs: HIDs have a long life, but replacing them can be pricier.

Best Uses of HID Lights in Outdoor Settings

  • Farm and Barn Lighting: On extensive properties, HID lights can illuminate large sections of fields, barns, or storage areas, ensuring operations can continue even after sundown.
  • Security and Perimeter Lighting: For properties that need robust security lighting, HIDs offer the brightness and coverage to deter potential intruders.

Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) Bulbs

A coiled compact fluorescent light bulb glowing in dark. The bulb is inside a metal wall lantern attached to the brick wall of the exterior of a house.

A CFL is essentially a downsized version of a standard fluorescent lamp. CFLs generate light by channeling an electric current through a gas inside the bulb, causing the phosphorescent coating on the bulb’s interior to glow.

Benefits of CFL Lighting

  • Energy Efficiency: CFLs consume roughly 70% less energy than incandescents.
  • Extended Lifespan: They can last up to 10 times longer than incandescents, leading to fewer replacements.
  • Cost Savings: Their efficiency and lifespan offer noticeable savings on electricity bills.
  • Versatility: They come in diverse shapes and sizes, fitting various fixtures.

Points to Consider

  • Warm-Up Time: Like HIDs, CFLs require some time to reach full brightness.
  • Temperature Sensitivity: CFL performance may be hindered in extremely cold temperatures, which can cause them to become dim or not turn on at all.

Best Uses for CFL Lights in Outdoor Settings

  • Porch and Entryway Lighting: Given their pleasant, diffused light, CFLs are a good fit for porches or entryways where bright, glaring light isn’t necessary.
  • Garden and Landscape Lighting: Their soft illumination can highlight plants and features without overpowering them, adding a serene ambiance to gardens or patios.
  • Security Lighting: While they might not be as instantaneously bright as other options, the energy efficiency of CFLs can be advantageous for lights that remain on throughout the night.
  • Decorative Fixtures: Due to their versatility in design, CFLs can be incorporated into various decorative fixtures to enhance the aesthetics of an outdoor space.

Solar-Powered Lights

An African-American man installing a solar landscaping light in a lawn.

Harnessing the power of the sun, solar-powered lights offer homeowners and farmers a sustainable and energy-efficient way to illuminate their outdoor spaces.

How They Work

  • Solar Panels & Photovoltaic Cells: These cells capture and convert sunlight into electricity throughout daylight hours.
  • Energy Storage: Electricity is stored in built-in rechargeable batteries.
  • Sensors: Allow for automatic activation at dusk and deactivation at dawn.


  • Cost-Efficient: Minimal operating costs after the initial purchase.
  • Low Maintenance: Fewer parts to wear out than traditional lights.
  • Eco-Friendly: Reduces carbon footprint by relying on a renewable energy source.
  • Versatile: Options range from decorative garden lights to motion-sensor security lights.

Placement Tips

  • Sun Exposure: Position lights where they can capture the maximum amount of direct sunlight, ideally away from shadows cast by tall trees or structures.
  • Strategic Positioning: Optimal for pathways, entrances, and high-traffic areas.

Maintenance and Longevity

  • Cleaning: Wipe solar panels periodically to remove dust and debris, ensuring optimal efficiency.
  • Battery Lifespan: May require replacements every 1-2 years, even as solar panels last longer.
  • Durability: Contemporary solar lights are crafted to endure various weather conditions.

Flood Lights

Flood lights are high-intensity artificial lights. They’re equipped to illuminate a large area with bright light, making them a favorite for venues ranging from sports arenas to home driveways.

Benefits of Flood Lighting

  • Vast Coverage: Flood lights provide extensive, even coverage.
  • Enhanced Security: Their intense brightness deters intruders and unwelcome wildlife.
  • Durability: Built for the outdoors, they withstand various weather conditions.
  • Versatility: With different wattages and beam angles, they fit diverse lighting needs.

Popular Types of Flood Lights

  • Motion-Activated: Automatically activates upon detecting movement, optimizing energy savings and bolstering security.
  • Solar-Powered: Use sunlight for eco-friendly illumination without compromising on brightness.
  • LED Flood Lights: Offer long-lasting illumination with significant energy savings compared to traditional options.
  • Halogen & HID Flood Lights: Bright but may use more energy than LEDs.

Best Uses for Flood Lights in Outdoor Settings

  • Security: Placed around the perimeters of properties, flood lights can detect and deter potential threats.
  • Highlighting Features: Be it a beautiful tree, a statue, or architectural elements of a home, flood lights can cast them in a spotlight, enhancing their visibility post sundown.

Safety Considerations

Ensure correct and strategic installation. Improper placement can lead to light pollution or glare hazards for passing drivers. Consult lighting professionals for optimal placement and angling.

Wall Lights

Outdoor wall light on lodging cottage wooden door, selective focus

Wall lights are fixtures designed to be mounted on exterior walls. They come in a variety of styles, from traditional lanterns and sconces to more modern and minimalistic designs. Given their positioning, wall lights offer both uplighting and downlighting, creating dynamic shadows and highlights.

Benefits of Wall Lighting

  • Guided Illumination: Create a pathway of light along walls, guiding visitors and highlighting the architectural beauty of a structure.
  • Safety and Security: They illuminate entrances and paths, reducing trips and enhancing security.
  • Design Flexibility: With various styles, they complement any home design.
  • Ambient Lighting: Beyond function, they create a warm and welcoming ambiance.

Types of Wall Lighting

  • Lanterns: A timeless choice, lantern-style wall lights evoke a sense of tradition and can be either simplistic or ornate based on design preferences.
  • Sconces: Typically more decorative, sconces come in various styles and can be used to create patterns of light and shadow on walls.
  • Flush Mounts: These fixtures sit flush against the wall, providing a clean and understated look, suitable for contemporary homes.
  • Spotlights: These focus a sharp beam of light either upwards or downwards, perfect for highlighting specific features or areas.

Best Practices for Installing Wall Lights

  • Height: For best results, mount wall lights around 5.5 to 6.5 feet from the ground. This height ensures effective illumination without causing discomfort from glare.
  • Spacing: For a balanced lighting effect, ensure lights are spaced 8 to 10 feet apart.

Motion Lights

an illuminated motion light attached to the garage.

Motion lights, as the name suggests, are lighting fixtures that turn on automatically when they detect movement within a certain range. They utilize sensors – typically infrared – to perceive changes in heat waves from moving objects, such as a person walking by.

Benefits of Motion Lighting

  • Enhanced Security: Deters potential intruders with sudden illumination.
  • Energy Efficiency: Uses energy only when needed, reducing bills.
  • Convenience: Automatically lights up paths, eliminating the need for manual switches.
  • Safety: Illuminates dark areas on approach, reducing trip hazards.

Popular Types of Motion Lights

  • Floodlight Motion Sensors: These powerful, bright lights are ideal for illuminating large areas, such as driveways or backyards.
  • Wall-Mounted Motion Lights: Common near entryways, these lights offer both security and convenience for those trying to find their keys in the dark.
  • Pathway Lights: Often solar-powered, these smaller lights ensure safe footpaths and enhance landscape aesthetics.
  • Ceiling and Porch Motion Lights: Installed overhead, they light up entrances without the need for switches.

Key Considerations When Installing Motion Lights

  • Sensitivity Settings: Adjust sensitivity to prevent false triggers from small animals or moving branches.
  • Range and Direction: Ensure the sensor covers the desired area; some models offer adjustable coverage
  • Timer Settings: Set how long light remains on post-activation.
  • Bulb Choice: Opt for energy-efficient choices like LEDs for added savings.

Fence Post Lights

Fence post lights are specifically designed fixtures to be mounted on top of fence posts. They come in varied designs, from traditional lantern-inspired models to sleek, modern iterations, but their primary function remains the same: to light up fences and the surrounding areas.

Benefits of Fence Post Lighting

  • Boundary Definition: Highlight boundaries and paths in large outdoor areas.
  • Safety Enhancement: Reduces tripping risks with low-level illumination.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Serve as decorative elements, enhancing the overall ambiance.
  • Energy Efficiency: Many are solar-powered, making them eco-friendly and cost-effective.

Popular Types of Fence Post Lights

  • Solar Fence Post Caps: Harnessing sunlight during the day, these lights glow when darkness falls, requiring minimal maintenance and no external power source.
  • LED Post Caps: Energy-efficient and long-lasting, these fixtures offer bright illumination, perfect for areas that need clearer visibility.
  • Traditional Lantern Style: These models bring a touch of old-world charm, often designed with glass panels and metal frames.
  • Ambient Glow Lights: Offering a softer light, these create a mood rather than serve a purely functional role.

Installation Tips and Considerations

  • Size and Fit: Match the light base with your fence post size for stability.
  • Light Direction: Choose exterior lighting models that direct light downwards to reduce light pollution and avoid disturbances to neighbors.

Landscape Lights

Night View Of Flowerbed Illuminated By Energy-Saving Solar Powered Lanterns Along The Path Causeway On Courtyard Going To House

Landscape lights encompass a broad range of outdoor light fixtures designed to highlight and enhance the natural and architectural beauty of an area. From soft glows that outline pathways to spotlights that accentuate a fountain, these lights play with shadows and highlights to create scenic nighttime landscapes.

Benefits of Landscape Lighting

  • Aesthetic Enhancement: Transform outdoor features into nighttime masterpieces.
  • Safety: Illuminate paths and terrains to prevent trips.
  • Property Value: Enhance appeal and potential resale value.
  • Versatility: Offer adaptable styles for any desired ambiance.

Popular Types of Landscape Lights

  • Path Lights: These fixtures are typically placed low to the ground, casting light downwards to illuminate walkways.
  • Spotlights & Floodlights: Ideal for highlighting specific features like statues, trees, or walls.
  • Well Lights: Buried in the ground, these fixtures provide uplighting, perfect for casting dramatic shadows and showcasing plants.
  • Deck & Step Lights: Embedded into decks or steps, these lights provide both safety and a warm ambiance.
  • Wash Lights: Emitting a soft, diffused light, they’re perfect for creating a gentle and welcoming glow on walls or fences.

Key Considerations for Landscape Lighting Design

  • Light Layering: Combine different light intensities and angles to create depth and dimension.
  • Placement: Ensure lights are strategically placed to avoid glare or prevent shining directly into eyes/windows.
  • Color Temperature: Warm for coziness, cool for a modern look.

DIY Free Standing Light Pole

Transform your outdoor space with a unique DIY touch. This DIY free-standing light pole is not only an affordable solution but also a charming addition that blends seamlessly with your outdoor landscape.

Materials Needed

  • Matching planters
  • Cement
  • Rocks
  • Eye hooks
  • Curtain rods (with a wooden top)


  1. Prepare the Curtain Rods: Attach a wooden top to each curtain rod and secure an eye hook. This will be used later for the string lights.
  2. Cement Foundation: Mix half a bag of cement into each planter.
  3. Set the Rods: Insert the curtain rods into the cement-filled planters.
  4. Stabilize: Add water to the cement mix and let it set fully.
  5. Decorate the Planters: First, add a layer of sand and then top it off with small rocks.
  6. String the Lights: Using zip ties, attach the outdoor string lights through the eye hooks on the curtain rods, spacing them evenly around your outdoor space.

Note: For windy areas, consider using heavier planters to prevent any potential damage to the lights.

Time to Shine

Beautifully Illuminated Backyard of Residential House. Landscape Garden with Ambient Lighting System Installation Highlighting Plants. Wooden Shed in the Background.

Creating a beautiful and well-lit outdoor space need not break the bank. With some creative outdoor lighting ideas, readily available materials, and a touch of DIY spirit, you can craft an ambiance that is not only functional but also uniquely yours.