The 7 Best Ways to Light Up Your Backyard

Quarantine or not, with the warmer months upon us, so is the rise in our use of outdoor space. Whether you’re lighting up the grill, enjoying dinner al fresco on your deck, drinking a glass of wine on your porch or simply running around the backyard with your kids, warmer months mean more time outside. This time of year, we get lots of calls on perfecting your outdoor lighting game, so we went ahead and put together a list of the 7 most common outdoor lighting options and our favorite products and brands. 

7 Backyard Lighting Ideas: 

  1. Security Lighting: Security lighting is safety lighting to illuminate large areas and scare off would-be burglars or destructive animals. Powered by standard, 120-Volt current, this lighting is installed in high spots such as above a garage to cast wide beams of light down onto main walkways or the backyard fence entrance. Your best bet for security is motion-sensing flood lights that contain two or three-bulb housing units that go on only when built-in sensors detect movement in the area.

Our pick: The Revolve 270° Triple Head (in bronze or white). Its three optical LED lights produce a powerful 2400 lumens to light up your landscape as bright as day for up to 100 feet for as long as you choose. $78 on Amazon.

  1. Path Lighting: Path lighting is soft to moderately bright safety and landscape lighting designed to help you navigate walkways while attractively highlighting them. Install it on the ground along both sides of main walkways from the back door to your fence door, along stepping stones from the main walkway to a backyard feature like a fountain, and/or around flower beds. Path lighting is often available in low-voltage (12- to 15-V) and solar LED options. If you choose low-voltage path lights, you’ll need to use a transformer to reduce the 120-volt house current to 12 volts; energy-saving solar versions, meanwhile, require no extra wires. Even if your walkways are shaded, these lights will stay bright for several hours after dusk, thanks to a solar rechargeable battery or remote solar panel you station somewhere else in the yard that gets direct sun.

Our pick: a six-pack of solar path lights by Hampton Bay (available at Home Depot; $60) along with its LED bulbs, auto on/off power, and crystalline solar panel.

  1. String Lighting: String lighting is soft, low-voltage accent lighting used to evoke a warm, intimate ambiance that’s especially desirable for entertaining. Hang string lights wherever the activity is to illuminate patio furniture. Look for waterproof, rechargeable, traditional battery-powered or solar-powered outdoor string lights (which usually come with a remote solar panel), preferably those with long-lasting LED bulbs. Such lights avoid the need for running extension cords across the yard, enable lighting in far corners of the yard without electrical outlets, and ensure that lights stay on safely even if spattered with rain.

Our pick: we like the Vintage LED String Lights from Threshold™ that give off a warm white glow of 10 indoor-outdoor bulbs (available at Target; $24). These Edison-style bulbs are energy-efficient and will last longer than your average incandescent option.

  1. Outdoor wall lighting: Outdoor wall lighting is a low-voltage, moderately bright form of safety and accent lighting used mainly to illuminate and improve navigation in small recessed areas of the yard where shadows lurk. You can mount them on any vertical surface, such as along the interior of your pergola; above stairways; and around sunken seating areas, pools, and other low-lying spots. Wall sconces with an open-bottomed design are the best option because they cast the maximum amount of light down onto recessed areas.

Our pick: We like this Hampton Bay Black outdoor wall sconce available at Home Depot for $23.

  1. Lanterns: Laterns are another great option that offer soft, low-voltage accent lighting for a small expanse of an outdoor wall. They’re often installed in the vicinity of the back door to highlight a window or arch. Most lanterns are semi-flush mount, consisting of a glass-and-metal exterior attached to an arm affixed to a plate on the wall. However, battery-powered tabletop lanterns bring that same visual interest. Choose lanterns with a translucent as opposed to a clear glass covering to provide diffuse, glare-free nighttime lighting that doesn’t distract from other backyard light fixtures.

Our pick: We like Globe Electric’s modern matte black take on caged lantern (available at Amazon – $50)

  1. Deck Lighting: Deck lighting is standard-voltage, moderate-to-high-intensity lighting designed to help folks get up, down, and across the deck by night safely. It’s installed as a series of LED lights recessed into grooves in the surface, so that you can safely walk over them, never even feeling them underfoot. Deck lights also belong around the perimeter of the deck surface, in between the individual steps of stairs, and/or along deck stair railings.

Our pick: Consider Kerr’s 14-piece low-voltage incandescent lighting starter set (available at The Home Depot; $234). Its four-by-five inch lights are durable enough to withstand weather and foot traffic and maintain a consistent glow.

  1. Spotlighting: Spotlighting, also known as up-lighting or simply landscape lighting, is standard-voltage landscaping lighting used to shine narrow, moderate- to high-intensity beams upwards, usually to showcase a plant or ornamental feature. To light taller objects, such as trees, opt for bullet-shaped lights on a base you drive into the ground with a stake. Bullet lights have an adjustable head that sits above ground and casts bright pins of light over longer distances at an angle of your choice. For shorter features, such as shrubs, try well lights, round lights that are pushed into the ground to cast light upwards over shorter distances. Because they’re hidden in the ground, they let small garden features take center stage.

Our Pick: We like Portfolio LED low-voltage spot light (available at Lowe’s Home Improvement; $34 each). Sold individually, these spot lights connect to your 12-volt low-voltage lighting system in a matter of minutes thanks to the user-friendly installation process.

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