Outdoor lights are likely to come into contact with some moisture, so if you’re using mains voltage lights (240 volts) they’ll need to be both waterproof and durable. This is indicated with an IP (Ingress Protection) rating which consists of two digits. The higher the number, the more protection it offers.
The first digit refers to the extent to which the light is protected from anything getting inside it and ranges from ‘0’ for no special protection to ‘6’ indicating that the light is dust-tight. The second digit refers to the amount of moisture the light can withstand. It ranges from ‘0’ for no special protection to ‘8’ indicating complete protection from total submersion in water.
The minimum number for an outside light is 4. So as a general rule, when choosing outdoor lights, make sure they have IP rating of 44. This IP rating will need to be higher if the lights are going to come into contact with sprinklers, fountains or other garden water sources.
Use a professional electrician to make sure all outdoor wiring and sockets are properly installed and protected. An electrician can also install a circuit breaker if necessary and fit a transformer if you are using lights that run off 12 volts rather than 240 volts.
Choose complementary entrance lights
Good lighting at the front of your house will make visitors feel welcome as well as helping you to identify night-time callers. The brightness of the light bulb you use in your porch or outside your front door should vary between 60 to 100W depending on whether your house is on a well-lit street or a more remote location. Choose from a traditional or contemporary style to match your front door and general décor.
Path lights can be useful, too. Choose simple solar-powered lights if your property already has some background illumination from street lights or opt for more substantial post or wall lights if the driveway or entrance to your property is quite secluded and dark.
Think about security lights
Motion-sensor lights are a good security measure, and can illuminate doors and windows to deter unwanted visitors. Activated with passive infrared sensors (PIRs) they turn on automatically when they are activated by heat or movement and include a light-sensitive cell so they only work at night. Motion-sensor lights are also available as battery-operated models.
Light fittings can include a built-in PIR detector, or a separate detector can be fitted to any number of lights surrounding your home. You need to mount your detector at least two metres above the ground to stop it being tampered with. To make sure your security lighting doesn’t turn on every time someone walks past your home, the field of activation can be adjusted so it is only trigged by motion in your garden. It’s also worth getting one with a manual override facility too. This allows you to turn them on constantly if you need them.
Another option is to fit low-pressure sodium lights, which are operated by a photo-electric cell, which turns the lights on at dusk and off at dawn. Low-pressure sodium lights are much less obtrusive than motion-sensor lights and can be cost-effective to run.
Decide on garden lights
The garden should be an extension of your living space, particularly during the summer months, so invest in some lighting that will show off its best features.
Solar lights are probably the easiest option in the garden. They work by using daylight to charge an internal battery – a low-wattage LED (Light Emitting Diode) provides a soft light. Solar lights need to be exposed to daylight for 24 hours before use and are eco-friendly as they don’t use any additional energy and turn themselves off in daylight.
Decorative lights such as fairy lights and light curtains are ideal for creating a party mood and are a popular choice at Christmas. Look out for colour-changing and solar-powered decorative lights, but make sure you only use lights outside that are designed for exterior use.
Deck lighting usually consists of small recessed LEDs or larger spotlights. There’s range of different coloured deck lighting available allowing you to create a subtle or dramatic effect.
Feature lighting is a good way to draw the eye to a focal point in the garden, even after dark. Try illuminating an impressive tree with uplighters or use a string of coloured miniature LEDs to highlight pretty floral borders.