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Homes & Land Blog > Exterior Lighting Tips

Exterior Lighting Tips

Exterior lighting can say ‘Welcome’ or ‘Do Not Disturb’

When it comes to lighting a home outside, the message can be one of invitation — or utter discouragement.

But exterior lighting isn’t all about mood and aesthetics. It also potentially adds value.

“When you pull into a driveway and see a gorgeous home, you’re going to pay more for it,” says Judith Patriski, appraiser and owner of Quad Realty Co. near Cleveland. She adds that, for upper-bracket homes, an investment in outdoor lighting can yield as much as a 50 percent return.

And then there’s safety, of course. Exterior lighting should always be sufficient to reduce the risk of accidents and to deter intruders — welcoming guests and scaring away any bad eggs.

Exterior Lighting Zones


“To minimize glare without sacrificing safety and convenience, two line-voltage (120V) lanterns on either side of the door, with low wattage bulbs, are preferable to one fixture with a high-wattage bulb,” advises Ed Scofield, president of Period Lighting Fixtures in Clarksburg, Mass.

Trees and Landscape

“Whether illumined from below or given presence by a light mounted in the tree itself, trees make stunning features,” writes Dave Toht for Houselogic. “Uplighting is dramatic because we expect light to shine downward. Used in moderation, it’s a great way to highlight architectural and landscaping features.”

Outside the Garage

The American Lighting Association recommends mounting a lantern on each side of a garage. Additionally, consider installing a motion sensor on these fixtures or a photocell that turns the lights on at dusk and o at dawn to save energy.

Walkways and Steps

Patti And William Feldman, writing for This Old House, recommend the following: “To guard against falls, even, overlapping pools of light from low-voltage fixtures are best for illuminating the full run of pathways and steps. Here, as on the driveway, staggered rather than parallel fixtures will help avoid a runway look. Popular fixture choices for these locations include ground-hugging bollard lights, mushroom lights and shaded tier lights.” Low-voltage systems may be incandescent or LED.

Fountains and Pools

Low-voltage and LED lighting are also great for ambient pool lighting, as are floating and solar lights. The American Lighting Association suggests fiber-optic lighting to create a starry background on a pool's floor and around its edges.

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