Just as you rely on a well-designed lighting plan inside your home, you should pay attention to how you illuminate the exterior. Outdoor lighting can ensure your family’s safety, improve security and enhance how you use the space.

Decorative lighting

Judicious use of outdoor decorative lights gives your home character. They can be used to highlight gardens, architectural components and landscaping. Small, low-voltage fixtures work well along the edges of walkways. These can be powered by the home electrical system, or solar cells that collect and store energy during the daylight hours.

Handrails and stair steps can be accented and illuminated by rope lighting. Rope lights are plastic tubes that house a string of LED lamps. Often these rope lights are used on deck railings to create a festive look. They come in a variety of colors and are often inexpensive.

Small spotlights are another idea for accent lighting. These fixtures can be made with a spike that pushes into the ground for easy installation. The light head can be rotated and angled for precise positioning. These fixtures can be powered by solar panels or by the home’s electrical system.

LED bulbs are an energy-efficient choice for outdoor lighting, and will last for years.

Safety and security

Lights are your friend when navigating after dark. Path lights, post lights and walkway/stairway lights aid visibility.

Many outdoor lighting products can help deter crime. It’s best to use motion sensors on outdoor lights so you don’t flood your neighborhood with light or burn up excess energy. Security lights shouldn’t shine through neighbors’ windows.

Outdoor lighting control

You can use timers to switch on security lights at predetermined times. Photoelectric sensors detect changes in light, and provide automatic operation from dusk till dawn, and don’t need to be adjusted as daylight hours fluctuate.

A combination light uses both photoelectric and motion sensors. They turn on the light at partial power at dusk, then activate it to full power when movement is detected.

Many security lights can be wired to smart home systems and controlled via computer or phone.