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Outdoor Lighting Secrets

Last Updated on April 30, 2015 by Steve Brielmaier | 0 comments

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The style of your outdoor light fixtures should complement the style of your house. This is especially true if you have a distinctive home. Colonials demand a traditional light. Frank Lloyd Wright and prarie style homes will look best with mission-style lanterns. No matter what style your house, there is no need to be boring. Express your personal taste and style. Not everyone will see your bathroom lights, but all your neighbors will see your outdoor lanterns, so make a good first impression and express your personal style.

Color and Finish

Choosing a color will help to narrow your choices, however most decorative outdoor lights sold today are brown/bronze/rust. Choose a finish that will complement your brick and paint colors. Brass fixtures have not held up well to harsh elements and have fallen out of favor with homeowners this century. If you are considering brass outdoor fixtures, be sure to choose a weather-resistant brass finish.

Size Matters

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to undersize their outdoor lanterns, especially at their front door. Lantern lights placed beside doors need to be sized proportionate to the height of the door. A single lantern that is to be placed on one side of the door should be approximately one third of the door's height. If you have lanterns on both sides of the door, then each should be about 25 percent of the door's height. (Remember, this rule-of-thumb is just a guideline. If your fixture has an unusually long tail or top scroll, or if your first floor has ceilings over 9 feet high, you will want to exceed these guidelines.) Remember, when viewed from the street, your lanterns will look about half their actual size. When in doubt, always go larger.

What's the right Height?

The filament of the light should be placed 65-67 inches above the bottom of the door. First look at where your junction box is placed. If it is placed high on the wall, or is near an overhang, you will want to choose a fixture where the majority of the body is below the junction box. If your junction box is especially low, you will want to choose an outdoor fixture where the majority of the body is above the junction box.

Energy Savings

Outdoor lighting presents a great opportunity to use energy-saving bulbs because most outdoor lighting applications require clean, bright light and do not need to be dimmable. Fortunately these are the specialties of Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs. You will want to look at Energy Star approved outdoor fixtures, which generally include a 2-pin CFL bulb. But don't limit yourself just to Energy Star approved fixtures. You don't need to sacrifice style just to get energy-efficiency. Most fixtures can be just as efficient as Energy Star if you use a screw-in CFL bulb. Look for fixtures that have one standard “Edison” base, have frosted glass to conceal the swirly CFL bulb, and will allow a bulb with an extension of 7 inches.

Rust Never Sleeps

Choose a fixture that will stand up to the elements. Brass or steel fixtures will rust, but most finishes are built to withstand normal elements. Apply a coat of car wax to your fixtures every few years to extend the life and to keep them from tarnishing. Aluminum fixtures do not rust, but they will corrode in harsh coastal conditions. (If you live on the sea, you will want to consider weather-resistant or resin fixtures. Normal fixtures will corrode in the harsh sea air after 5 years or so.)

Dark Sky

Dark-sky compliant outdoor light fixtures are designed to reduce "nocturnal glow & glare" from urban & coastal areas. By casting light downward only, dark sky fixtures provide just the right amount of light exactly where needed. We benefit from using dark sky compliant fixtures because people can see the stars, we use less energy, and we help nocturnal animals. Learn more at the International Dark-Sky Association Web site.


Additional lighting will make your home safer. Security spot-lights are used to discourage trespassers and provide enough light for you to safely maneuver in the dark. Position them above your garage, side and back doors, but make sure they are not aimed at neighbor's windows. Look for security lighting with sensors or timers, because you don't want to burn lights all night long,. Timers will automatically turn security lights on and off at certain times of the night. Motion sensors work well because intruders are startled when they are suddenly bathed in light. They are never sure if they were just spotted out a window and will likely move on. Decorative lighting can also be used as security lighting with the addition of a motion detector or timer.

Follow these tips and you will quickly find the right outdoor light for your home. For more advice or to start browsing.

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