Guide written by:
Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford
Looking to light up your exterior walls, gardens or decking but don't know which wall lights to go for? From uplights and downlights to IP ratings and various other options, there's a world of choice when it comes to outdoor wall lights. Need some help? Let us cast some light on the subject for you!
- Outdoor wall light designs
- Bulb types
- Power: watts and lumens
- Colour temperature
- IP rating
- Materials and additional options
How to choose an outdoor wall light
Outdoor wall lights are generally installed at a height of 1.5 to 2.5 metres. These lights can be used to provide light around a deck, garage entrance or your front door while also highlighting the façade of your home. With a number of materials and shapes on offer, your wall light should be chosen with care to ensure it looks great with the rest of your outdoor décor.
One of the most important features to consider is the direction in which the light is cast; in other words, is it an uplight or a downlight? You'll also have to think about how much light it provides, the colour temperature (from warm to daylight) and the type of bulb accepted. A halogen bulb provides the brightest light while an CFL bulb will give off the softest light. If you're looking for a very low-energy option, go for LED.
Don't forget to look at the IP rating of your new light which determines its ability to withstand dust and splashing liquids. A minimum rating of IP44 is required for outdoor use. Finally, you have several extras to choose from including motion sensors or the ability to change the direction of the light.
Outdoor wall lights: uplighting vs. downlighting
It's important to think about lighting direction when choosing an outdoor wall light. In short, you can choose between an uplight and a downlight.
Uplights cast the light upwards. They require a lot of free space above them to enjoy their full effect.
Downlights cast the light downwards. This option is best for use beneath overhead features like a door canopy or balcony.
Up and down wall lights
Some outdoor wall lights feature two separate lights to cast light both upwards and downwards.
Outdoor wall light shapes, styles and materials
It's important to pick an outdoor wall light that will make the most of your exterior. To do so, you'll need to think about style, shape and materials.
Shapes and designs
Outdoor wall lights come in a huge variety of shapes including round, oval, square-shaped, rectangular, triangular and hexagonal lights.
In terms of style, you will of course have to pick something that works with your existing décor from classic or rustic styles to more contemporary designs.
Any outdoor light must be made of weather-resistant material. While plastic is less expensive, it's also less durable than materials like stainless steel or cast aluminium both of which are really moisture- and rust-resistant.
If you go for wood, you'll have a variety of species to choose from but it's important to ensure the wood is either naturally rot-proof or heat-treated. Any one of the above materials can be combined with clear or tinted glass depending on the effect you're going for.
How to choose an outdoor light bulb
Outdoor wall lights can be fitted with halogen, FLC or LED bulbs. Each option has advantages and disadvantages.
Halogen outdoor wall lights
Halogen bulbs are quite energy-intensive and have a much shorter service life than LED bulbs. However, they do provide a very bright light that closely resembles daylight.
CFL bulbs are more expensive to purchase but emit a lovely soft light. They also don't consume much electricity. Best of all, they can last up to 20,000 hours though some models do take a little while to power up.
LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs are also quite expensive to buy but don't they use a lot of electricity and they don't emit any heat. What's more, they have a very long service life.
LED light bulbs
Solar wall lights
Solar wall lights are equipped with small PV panels and are powered entirely by the sun. However, you do need to make sure the light is exposed to as much sunlight as possible to ensure it can give off enough light. This is especially important in winter when there is less sunlight available. It's also possible to find solar lights with separate solar panels that can be set up remotely in the sunniest spot of the garden.
Outdoor wall light power ratings
The power consumption of lights is given in watts. The wattage of an outdoor wall light usually ranges from 6 to 100 W. While this tells you how much energy the light consumes, it doesn't tell you an awful lot of about the type of light it emits. For this, you need to have a look at the lumen specifications.
The higher this value, the more light the light bulb emits and the brighter your wall light will be. It's up to you to decide how much light you need but bear in mind that 500 - 1000 lumens is a good range for an outdoor wall light.
Colour temperature is measured in kelvin (K). The higher the degrees of kelvin (around 6000 K), the colder or more blue-toned the light. The lower the degrees of kelvin (around 3000 K), the warmer the light.
If you want a very neutral light, go for about 4000 K.
Ingress Protection or IP ratings give you an idea of how resistant the wall light is toforeign objects or dust (represented by the first number of the code) and liquids (represented by the second number).
Your choice of IP rating depends on where you are installing your outdoor wall light but you will need a rating of least IP44 for any outdoor light.
First number = protection against solids
Second number = protection against liquids
Effective against solid foreign objects ≥ 50 mm
Protection against dripping water (vertically falling drops)
Effective against solid foreign objects ≥ 12.5 mm
Protection against dripping water when tilted at 15°
Effective against solid foreign objects ≥ 2.5 mm
Protection against spraying water
Effective against solid foreign objects ≥ 1 mm
Protection against splashing of water
Protection against water jets
Protection against powerful water jets
Protection against temporary immersion
Protection against continuous immersion
Outdoor wall lights: additional features
Once you've got a good idea of the basics, you can start thinking about any additional features you may require.
Adjustable outdoor wall lights
These lights allow you to change the direction of the light beam to where you need it most.
Motion sensor lights
This type of outdoor wall light is designed to turn on automatically when it detects movement. A really handy option for use around a front door, motion sensor lights are also good security lights as they will alert you to any activity around the entrance.
Outdoor wall lights with dimmers
Dimmable outdoor wall lights are fitted with a switch designed increase or decrease the intensity of the light to suit your needs. They may even come with remote control.
Guide written by:
Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford, 51 guides
From a background in waste transportation, I became a farmer specializing in organic market gardening. A graduate of a professional baccalaureate in Agronomy and Horticultural Production, I tried for several years as a young farmer to settle in the beautiful region of Oxford. After many disappointments, I finally started a small-business in home services, specifically in gardening, assisted by my loving, dear husband. Passionate about nature and wild edible plants, I am very attentive to ecological solutions and respectful of our environment in all aspects of my daily life. From the vegetable garden to the flower beds, from seed to harvest, I have all kinds of advice up my sleeve. Do not hesitate to ask me your questions.