Types and Uses

Proper landscape lighting requires a well thought out plan in order to provide the most benefit to the homeowner. When judiciously and tactfully implemented, outdoor lighting creates a lovely night time atmosphere that is completely different from the environment during daylight hours. Decks, patios, trees, shrubs, walkways and gardens can be highlighted in such a way where they become the focal points.

The reasons for using landscape lighting may seem fairly obvious to most, but if you are still on the fence in determining whether outdoor lights are worth the investment, kindly consider the next few points:

(a) Safety & Security – Not only does the implementation of such things as outdoor path lighting and outdoor deck lighting provide a clear walkway through areas of your yard for both yourself and guests, but also serves as a deterrent against crime, trespassing and other mischief.

(b) Ambience & Functionality – I’m sure, if you are like most people, you’d like to extend time outdoors as much as possible during warm weather, right? If so, outdoor lighting is the ideal solution for quite evenings alone at home, evenings entertaining guests and as a way to celebrate different holidays throughout the year.

On top of this, there is no better way to highlight your lawn and landscape than with an expertly designed landscape lighting design.

So once you have decided to bring some of your outdoor lighting ideas to life, one of the first factors you will have to decide on is what type of outdoor light bulbs to use within your design. Most lighting fixtures take traditional incandescent and halogen bulbs. But there may be other areas on your property where using specialty light bulbs that are capable of withstanding exposure to moisture and temperature fluctuations is a necessity.

With these thoughts in mind, what follows is a brief introduction into the main types of outdoor lights bulbs used in the majority of outdoor lighting projects today.

(1) Incandescent Outdoor Light Bulbs – are the most common type of bulb used in outdoor lighting. These bulbs come in a wide range of styles and colors – and don’t cost that much. Most incandescent outdoor lights are PAR (parabolic aluminized reflectors). PAR lights are most commonly used in outdoor flood lights because of their ability to control light with precision and their weather-proof casings that are able withstand whatever mother nature can throw at them. Outdoor recessed lighting is another application that commonly uses PAR lights.

(2) Halogen Outside Light Bulbs – These lights are more efficient and last longer than incandescent lights. As such, they are more expensive. Halogen bulbs also use the identical filament technology used in incandescent bulbs. Out of all outdoor lights, halogen outdoor light bulbs provide the cleanest and brightest form of light.

One word of caution when handling halogen bulbs: if human skill oils come in contact with the bulbs, the bulbs will become overheated when burning, which will in turn shorten their lifespan. So, when handling the bulbs – whether installing or cleaning – be sure to use a cloth.

(3) Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Outdoor Light Bulbs – These lights provide more luminosity hours than halogen or incandescent lights. Not only that, they also use substantially less energy. CFLs come in compact sizes that can be fitted to standard sockets, which makes them a highly versatile bulb for landscaping lighting applications. CFLs do cost more (up front) than incandescent bulbs, but last up to 16 times as long.

A few points to consider: (a) CFLs are prone to burn out during power surges and (b) if a dimmer is going to be incorporated with your CFL bulbs, make sure the bulb is labeled for this type of application.

(3) High Intensity Discharge (HID) Outdoor Light Bulbs – These lights have the main advantage of being able to generate higher light amounts than that of fluorescent and incandescent lights while using a smaller bulb. They are best used in applications that require large areas to be lit by high light levels with the greatest amount of energy efficiency.

In residential applications, you’ll see these lights incorporated into many outdoor security lighting designs.

(4) Low Pressure Sodium Outdoor Light Bulbs – These lights are more commonly used in commercial applications than those of residential applications. While these bulbs are energy efficient, they produce a yellowish hue and have a “warm-up time” in order to achieve maximum brightness. Both of these factors are going to eliminate these bulbs from many forms of landscape lighting applications. But, when used, they typically are used as outdoor flood lights or spot lights.

(5) Solar Outdoor Light Bulbs – These bulbs are becoming more and more popular with homeowners due to their extremely low-cost usage and ease of installation and maintenance – not to mention safety considerations. A photocell, which is charged by a NiCad battery, operates the light. The battery itself is charged by the amount of light it receives during daylight hours. This means they cost nothing to light areas at night.

(6) LED Outdoor Light Bulbs – These lights, which contain no filament, last the longest of all outdoor bulbs. The only downside is that they still don’t have the ability to generate the lumens (or output) of other traditional light bulbs. But this is changing yearly with technological advancements in LED landscape lighting, which is why they are becoming more widely used in almost every area of landscape lighting.

So, as you can see, there are more than a few options available to you when considering which outdoor light bulb to use when bringing your outdoor lighting ideas to life. In order to determine which type is best for what application, you are going to need to do a little research.

A few final points worth noting: consider adding color to enhance the mood and drama of your outdoor setting. Also, make sure that all wiring is grounded and water-resistant rated. And never used indoor-rated lighting equipment for outdoor use. When properly applied, outdoor lighting can gives years of enjoyment, while at the same time adding a layer of safety and security to your home.