lanternIt seems like such a small consideration, and it’s an easy one to overlook; but just as with indoor lighting, you don’t want to neglect light bulbs as a factor when planning your outdoor lighting scheme. The options for outdoor bulbs are pretty similar to those for indoors, but there are other considerations, such as climate conditions and the amount of voltage you’re planning to use, that might affect your choices.

As we’ve discussed here previously, the main types of light bulbs to consider are incandescent, Compact Florescent Light or CFL, Halogen, Xenon and LED. We’ve seen how incandescent bulbs fair against the other types as far as efficiency and performance, so for the purposes of this article, we’ll go ahead and cross those off the list.

Next to consider are CFL bulbs. Not only are they highly efficient, CFL bulbs are also the least expensive of the remaining options, and are a great choice for porch lights and yard lamps, as well as any protected fixture in a regulated climate that will be left on for long periods of time. The key phrase there is “regulated climate”; standard CFL bulbs don’t perform well in cold weather. That said, you can purchase CFL bulbs that have a special cold weather ballast. Regardless of the climate in which you live, you should check the label on any CFL bulbs you buy for this purpose to make sure they’re approved for outdoor use.

Low-voltage halogen or xenon bulbs are a popular choice for the type of low-voltage garden and landscape lighting we discussed last week. Both come in outdoor bulbs with either frosted or clear glass. Some are mirrored to focus and intensify the light beam, making them perfect for use with spotlights. Xenon bulbs produce a cleaner, whiter light than halogen, making them a good choice for creating a moonlight effect. They also don’t burn as hot as halogen. They are, however, more expensive. When using either of these bulbs, keep track of the wattage. The combined wattage of all of the bulbs on a single system will help determine the size transformer you need to use.

LED bulbs are commonly used in pathway lighting such as bollard lights, and they’re rapidly becoming the preferred choice for party and holiday string lighting. Since LEDs produce light without heat, they’re a safer choice for holiday displays. They are also the most efficient and longest-lasting of any of the previously-mentioned bulbs. Costing just a little more than CFL bulbs and performing well in all types of weather make LEDs an excellent choice for outdoor lighting.

Now you’re armed with all of the basic elements necessary for building a lighting strategy for your own outdoor space. Next week we’ll help you along even further by sharing some expert design tips for lighting up your garden. See you then!

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