11 Tips for Safe Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lighting can enhance the beauty and security of your home, but it’s important to install and use outdoor lighting safely. Improper outdoor lighting can create hazards or nuisances for you and your neighbors. Follow these tips to maximize the benefits of outdoor lighting while minimizing the risks.

Choose the Right Types of Outdoor Lighting

There are many types of outdoor lighting to consider for different areas around your home. Make sure to select fixtures that are designed specifically for outdoor use.

Entryway Lighting

Illuminate doorways with downlights or lanterns to help guests find your home at night. Opt for fixtures with motion sensors to automatically turn on lights when someone approaches.

Pathway Lighting

Low-voltage pathway lights can beautifully line a walkway without the glare of harsh spotlights. Go for small, subtle fixtures to highlight garden paths.

Deck and Patio Lighting

To extend daytime activities outdoors after dark, install deck and patio lighting. Go for dimmable, adjustable fixtures to control the ambiance.

Flood and Spotlights

Strategically place adjustable spotlights or floodlights to brightly illuminate patios, gardens, or other focal points. Avoid lighting too widely.

Landscape Lighting

Uplights, silhouetting lights, and small spotlights can elegantly accent trees, gardens, and architectural features around your property.

Security Lighting

Motion-activated floodlights mounted under eaves or on poles can help deter intruders. Place them carefully to avoid nuisance light and glare.

In-ground Well Lights

Subtle well lights can illuminate pathways with a soft glow. They won’t detract from your home’s architecture like lamp posts might.

Rope and String Lights

For a festive touch, rope or string lights work well along fences, railing, trees, or seating areas. Use outdoor-rated versions.

Solar Lighting

Harness the sun’s energy with solar path lights, spotlights, and lanterns. Place them in sunny spots so they’ll recharge during the day.

Low-Voltage Lighting

Running on only 12 volts, low-voltage fixtures are safer and easier to install along pathways, steps, and pools.

Focus Light Downward to Reduce Glare

One of the biggest issues with outdoor lighting is glare. bright, unshielded light aimed upward can be visually disruptive for you and neighbors. It also wastes energy by lighting the night sky.

To minimize glare, choose fixtures that shade the light source and focus light downward where it’s needed. Wall sconces, downlights, and path lighting are good options, as are adjustable spotlights and floodlights aimed away from living spaces.

Use Warm Color Temperatures

The color temperature, or warmth, of light also affects visual comfort outdoors. Cool color temperatures (over 4000K) cast a harsh, blue-tinged light. Warmer color temperatures (3000K or less) provide a more inviting ambiance outside.

Aim for “warm white” or “soft white” light sources. This includes incandescent and halogen bulbs, as well as LEDs designed to replicate the warm glow of traditional lighting. Avoid “natural white,” “daylight,” or “cool white” color temperatures.

Layer Lighting for Different Needs

Rather than relying on very bright security lights alone, layer types of outdoor lighting to balance beauty, safety, and utility.

Bright security floodlights supplement more inviting entryway, path, and landscape lighting. Adjustable spotlights provide task lighting where needed, like on a grill. String lights add festive flair.

Light areas enough for safety, avoiding unevenly lit spaces hidden in darkness. But also leave some areas unlit to promote sleep-friendly darkness.

Use Timers and Motion Sensors

One way to put your outdoor lighting system to bed is by using timers or motion sensors. These controls prevent lights from staying on longer than needed.

Set timers so security floodlights, entryway lights, and driveway lights turn off in late evening when no longer useful. Motion sensors conveniently turn lights on only when needed for short periods.

Smart lighting takes automation a step further. With voice controls, you can turn outdoor lights on or off with a simple command.

Keep Lights Off When Not Needed

Even with smart controls, don’t overdo outdoor lighting. Turn off lights when not needed to avoid nuisance glare and waste.

Entryway lights could stay off until dusk on most evenings. Floodlights only need to come on when motion is detected. Patios and decks don’t need illumination if not in use after dark.

Get in the habit of turning off outdoor lights before bed. You’ll encourage better sleep and conserve energy.

Use Dimmers

Dimmers allow you to lower light levels for different needs, like keeping lights low for ambiance then increasing brightness for security.

Many LED fixtures and smart bulbs are dimmable. Use dimmers to control path lighting, accent lighting, string lights, and other effects lighting to tailor the mood.

Shield Wallpack Fixtures

Basic wallpack fixtures brightly light exterior walls on commercial buildings. But exposed bulbs can create severe glare.

To reduce glare, choose wallpacks with opaque shields, louvers, or lenses to conceal the light source. Or supplement with other downlit fixtures.

Get Out of the Shadows

Place and aim lighting carefully to avoid shadows that can conceal hazards or intruders. Bright floodlights angled across doorways can reveal what’s lurking in hiding spots.

But also avoid creating harsh shadows. Uplighting trees improperly can create unnatural-looking shadows. Opt for subtle silhouetting instead.

Light Uniformly

Abrupt changes from light to dark areas can make it hard for eyes to adjust and see clearly. Strive for uniformly lit spaces.

Balanced lighting keeps pathways, patios, and other areas gently illuminated without overly bright and dark spots. It creates a welcoming ambiance.

Respect the Darkness

While lighting can promote safety and enjoyment outdoors, respect the night when possible. Avoid over-lighting your property or nuisance light spilling onto others’ homes.

Talk to your neighbors and agree on acceptable lighting levels and hours. Compromise may be needed to keep the peace and night sky preserved.

Choose Durable Fixtures

Look for outdoor-rated fixtures made to withstand the elements. Waterproof LED lighting works well in wet areas like pool surrounds. Opt for impact-resistant bollards and durable spotlights.

Also properly install lights in areas sheltered from rain. Make sure wires are protected and fixtures securely mounted. Take lighting down seasonally if needed to prevent weather damage.

Practice Ladder Safety

To safely install and maintain outdoor lighting, use ladders according to manufacturer instructions. Have a helper stabilize the ladder and don’t overreach. Routinely inspect ladders for damage before use.

Outdoor lighting can extend the beauty and enjoyment of your home into the evening hours. By following these tips, you can light up your landscape safely and effectively, creating a welcoming nighttime ambiance for you and your guests to appreciate.

Frequently Asked Questions About Safe Outdoor Lighting

What are some good lighting options for outdoor entryways?

For entryways, opt for downlights or attractive lanterns mounted by the door. Fixtures with motion sensors will automatically provide welcoming illumination when guests arrive.

What type of lighting should I use to light up my deck or patio?

To light a deck or patio, look for dimmable, adjustable fixtures like recessed LED lights, pendant lights, or freestanding lamp posts. Lanterns on tables also provide attractive, targeted light.

How bright should my outdoor security lights be?

Security floodlights should be bright enough to eliminate hiding spots and deter intruders, but avoid glare into living spaces. Look for adjustable fixtures under 750 lumens that you can direct specifically where needed.

Should I use cool or warm color temperature bulbs outside?

Choose bulbs with a warm color temperature of 3000K or below for outdoor areas. The warm white or soft white light is more inviting than the harsh glare of cool color temperatures above 4000K.

Is it okay to leave my outdoor lights on all night for security?

While it may seem helpful to leave outdoor security lights on all night, this can create nuisance glare and waste energy. Use motion sensors or timers to turn them off when no longer needed for security.

How can I reduce glare from my outdoor wallpack lights?

To minimize glare from wallpacks, choose fixtures with opaque shielding or louvers to conceal the light source and direct light downward where needed instead of out.

What’s the benefit of using timers or motion sensors for my outdoor lighting?

Timers and motion sensors prevent outdoor lighting from staying on longer than necessary. This minimizes nuisance light for neighbors, saves energy, and encourages better sleep.

How do I safely use a ladder to install outdoor lighting?

When using a ladder for outdoor lighting, keep it on level ground and have someone stabilize it. Don’t overreach – keep your belt buckle between the rails. Inspect ladders before each use.

Should my outdoor lighting be uniform across my yard?

Strive to uniformly light outdoor areas to prevent abrupt changes from light to dark spaces. Uniform gentle illumination creates a more welcoming ambiance and helps eyes adjust.

Is it ok if my outdoor lighting spills over onto my neighbor’s yard?

Avoid nuisance light spilling into your neighbor’s home. Talk to them to agree on acceptable lighting levels and hours, compromising if needed to maintain good relationships.


Outdoor lighting can extend the enjoyment of your home while also enhancing safety and security around the property. But improper lighting can create hazards or become a nuisance. By choosing the right fixture types, focusing light downwards, using warm color temperatures, and controlling brightness with dimmers and sensors, you can maximize outdoor lighting benefits while minimizing glare and disruption. Position and mount fixtures carefully to evenly illuminate spaces without shadows. And take lighting down a notch when possible, respecting the night so you and your neighbors can enjoy peaceful darkness. With the right design and practices, outdoor lighting can beautifully illuminate your landscape without disrupting the night.