Whether you are trying to update your curb appeal or simply want to start spending more time outside with your friends and family, outdoor lighting is one of the best ways to spruce up your current landscaping scheme.
However, many outdoor lighting options are not only unattractive, but not as functional as we’d like them to be. Choosing the incorrect light fixtures can make it impossible to see after sunset due to glare, poor placement, or even just plain old poor illumination capabilities.
Want to know more about the best ways to light the front of your house?
Here are some tips to help you make the most of your new outdoor illumination.
Why Should I Light the Front of My House?
There are two main reasons why you need to light the front of your house. Not only does a well-lit home look beautiful at night (or perhaps even during the day, if you have decorative lights that highlight key features during times of low light), but it can also add to the curb appeal of your home if you are trying to sell it.
In addition, lighting can create architectural interest and provide task-related lighting.
In other words, outdoor lighting can set a mood and perform a task – or both, in some cases.
Understanding how both function in your home is key to making sure you have the best possible outdoor lighting plan.
Things to Consider
Before you can start shopping for the best ways to light the front of your house, you need to consider a few key features. These will help make it easier for you to find the best sources of lighting.
Security vs. Landscape Lighting
Many people assume that security lighting and landscape lighting are one in the same. A light is a light is a light – right?
Not so fast.
Security lighting is not the same as landscape lighting, so it’s important that you think about your goals before you rush off to the store.
Lights that mount beneath the eaves of your house, or worse, those that turn on via a motion sensor as soon as someone approaches, are not designed to be welcoming.
That’s not to say that you can’t choose a lighting system that accomplishes both goals.
There are plenty of dual-purpose lighting systems out there to help you welcome your guests – but keep everyone safe as well. Instead of opting for an intrusive spotlight security light, consider one like the Wall Eye, which is meant to be mounted under a step or a retaining wall.
In addition, you can strategically place your lighting so that it welcomes visitors but also increases the sense of depth and safety around your property. Make sure you have lights all the way from your yard to your sidewalk to your front door – and make sure there is light on the far right and far left perimeters of the property, too.
Layering isn’t just for your hair. When you layer light, you introduce key elements of ambient light, accent light, security light, and decorative light – creating the perfect lighting schemata for your entire property.
Security lighting – or task lighting – serves a specific purpose. It helps get people to your front door without falling. While a traditional pagoda light might be too overpowering for your landscaping details, a tree-mounted textured architectural accent light is a great way to highlight your landscaping features.
You should next consider your ambient light. This will give your lawn the same warm feeling and ambiance that you have inside your home. You might want to add unique lights such as ground-mounted units that lead up to your entryway, which will draw visitors to your front door and welcome them to your home.
Finally, your decorative lighting.
These serve no other purpose than to add a bit of visual appeal to your lawn. Try to keep these low in wattage – nothing more than 45 watts. This will prevent them from distracting from the other lighting around your home. After all, these lights aren’t designed to guide your visitors but only to be visually appealing.
More Isn’t Always Better
You could easily run off to the hardware store and buy dozens of 150-watt floodlights to line them up in front of your house. Sure, these lights will highlight the stonework and architectural features of your home – but they won’t do a lot to make it more attractive on their own.
Instead, opt for a few tastefully-placed and designed features that will work in harmony to wash your home with light – and not flood it with blinding illumination.
More is not always better; use your lights together (and with your intended design scheme in mind) to develop the most attractive landscape.
You also need to consider the architectural style of your home.
Choose light fixtures that work with – and not against – the design scheme of the rest of your home. For example, if you have a Victorian home, a carriage lamp on a wrought iron stand will not only elegantly light your home, but it will remind visitors that it is uniquely Victorian.
Think carefully about how and where people move as they traverse around your property.
For example, where are your main pathways and stairs? How often do people use them? You will need to make sure these walkways are well-lit so that people don’t fall, but also so that there aren’t any shadows.
In addition, you will want to install the brightest lights at each task location. For example, wherever anybody needs light to perform a specific job, you need to make sure you include enough lighting to help them get that job done.
Key places include gate latches, front door knobs, and garage door handles.
Choose the Best Fixtures
When selecting the best ways to light the front of your house, make sure all of your lights have LED sources. These can be in the form of bulbs or integrated components, but LEDs are ideal because they don’t change color temperature when dimmed.
Incandescent bulbs become yellowish, which can make your plants look unappealing and unhealthy. Instead, choose an LED color temperature in the 3,000K range as well as those that have a CRI of 90 or more.
You should also consider the style and finish of your outdoor lights. Traditional lights usually have ornate designs with decorative touches like flourishes or curved hooks. These tend to fit well in traditional styles like Craftsman or Colonial Homes. A transitional light won’t be quite as ornate, allowing it to fit into a wider variety of homes. Contemporary outdoor lights might have a streamlined, minimal design with innovative features.
In terms of the finish, bronze is by far the most popular finish, but you may also find them in black and brass, too. Some people even choose white finishes – again, this option is entirely up to you and should be matched to the design and colors of your home.
What are the Different Types of Lighting for the Front of My House?
Now that you know the best ways to design your exterior illumination, here are the different types of lights you might consider to light up your home.
Lanterns are an excellent choice if you plan on doing a lot of entertaining on your front porch.
If you select a lantern, pick one that does not contain clear glass, like this option by Westinghouse.
You should also avoid those that have candle-shaped bulbs that are visible, as these can cause glare. Instead, choose frosted shades and point the fixtures downward so that the light will hit the floor. You may also need to add low-wattage bulbs or dimmers to welcome your guests.
Step lights are also popular, but you will need to be careful about how you position these to prevent them from glaring directly into your eyes.
The best step lights, such as shielded newel-post lights, have shields to direct light downward onto the stairs instead of into your eyes. You can also use LED step lights strategically placed beneath stair treads to keep the light on the steps and divert your attention downward.
As with lanterns, pendants positioned above the door can add a nice, classic touch – but you need to be careful about using bare bulbs.
Instead, use dimmers or low-wattage bulbs. Lanterns and pendants should not be used in isolation or as the main sources of light outside your home – both can make it more difficult for you to see in the dark.
Use translucent fixtures, like amber mica pendants, or those with shields to help direct light downward.
Spotlights or floodlights are usually referred to as security lights. These are great for deterring burglars but don’t do a lot to attract or invite in your guests. These lights are often aimed directly at your eyes and can be extremely harsh if they aren’t positioned correctly.
Instead, consider directing spotlights at the most unique features of your home, like the molding, brickwork, and eaves to help highlight the beauty of your home. These spotlights by Mr. Beams are a good choice, as you can mount them low to the ground and direct them upwards.
Downlights are pretty commonplace indoors, but you need to avoid using them outdoors as they have a wide distribution of light and can increase glare.
Instead, you will want to use recessed downlights that have fully concealed bulbs, like these by Slim LED. You can also use dimmers to light the front of your home.
Path lights, also known as walkway lights, are some of the best ways to create a gorgeous pathway that welcomes visitors into your home. They don’t have to be limited to the front of your home, either – path lights are also excellent choices for lighting the way to gardens, pool areas, or even backyard patios.
Path lights are designed to be attractive without necessarily flooding the path with light. In other words, they will provide just enough light to guide you along your way, but you won’t produce any glare.
Consider using LED strip lights, which will keep your lights low to the ground and out of the direct way of walkers. These are easily concealed and can be attached to wooden or stone boardwalks or low retaining walls, making it easy to light the path without creating a tripping hazard. Some even come with flexible waterproof tape so that you don’t have to worry about nailing anything down.
Looking for a more classic solution? Consider using path lights that have domes to hide them from sight. These will direct light toward the ground, reducing glare even more so while also putting the light exactly where you need it the most.
How to Choose the Best Ways to Light the Front of My House?
You don’t need to be a professional landscaper or designer to effectively and beautifully light the front of your house.
Instead, remember that balance, moderation, and efficacy are key.
To begin creating a balanced lighting plan, you need to visualize it. Start by taking a photograph of the front of your house and print it out in both color and in black and white.
Use the color photograph to help you visualize key areas of interest around your home. What features do you want brought to life at the darkest hours of the night?
Use the black and white photo to plan lights by drawing lines to indicate the direction of light coming out of each fixture. Once you have an idea of where you need to place lights and what style of lights you want to include to accent your home, you can make a list of everything you need.
Before you run out to the store, keep in mind that some municipalities and even states (like California) have restrictions on what you can put outside your home in terms of lighting.
California requires that outdoor lighting be Dark Sky certified or energy-efficient to reduce light pollution. You may also have restrictions depending on your locality or your homeowners’ association, too. Heed these before spending lots of money on light fixtures.
Finally, don’t forget about durability. It can take a long time to design the exterior lighting scheme of your dreams – and it can also cost a lot of money. Don’t jump into this project without ensuring that you are purchasing products that will last you for years down the road.
After all, a well-lit home is something to admire, and the best ways to light the front of your house are those that are effective, inviting, and meant to last a lifetime.
Are LED Lights Good For Outdoor Use?
LED light bulbs have made their way into almost every aspect of our life, including outdoors, and for good reason.
The average LED bulb saves over 75% energy compared to incandescent bulbs and lasts 60 times longer.
And yes, LED light bulbs are safe for outdoor use.
The only downside when it comes to switching to LED lights is that LED bulbs are not capable of handling higher wattage applications. If you don’t need high wattage bulbs to light the front of your home, consider switching to LED bulbs.
Where Should Spotlights Be Placed?
Begin by placing spotlights at the base of what you would like to feature. Experiment by slowly pulling the spotlight further from the featured location to vary shading until you find what fits your eye.
Prefer a silhouette look?
Place the spotlight behind shrubbery, trees, or a water feature, for a spectacular silhouette lighting effect.
How Do I Install Outdoor Lights?
When it comes to adding lights to your home, you may want to consider hiring an electrician. While it will cost you more money, you can’t put a price tag on safety.
However, if you are set on installing new outdoor lights yourself, check out this outdoor light guide on installing high and low voltage lighting.
How Much Will It Cost?
Outdoor light fixtures vary wildly in cost and can be found as low as $30 or as high as $1,500!
You’ll also want to take into consideration long term usage costs.
LED lights use a fraction of the wattage of traditional incandescent bulbs – saving you lots of money in the long run.