These days, the mechanics of outdoor lighting are simple enough that the average DIYer can achieve a well-lit landscape in a single weekend. Still, all of the options can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not familiar with the terminology. Whether you plan to install lighting yourself or turn all of the work and planning over to the pros, you still have a lot of decisions to make. It helps to know the basics, which is what we’ll be covering here over the next couple of weeks.

Let’s start with the different types of outdoor light fixtures:

  • Lanterns – whether mounted on a wall bracket, close to the ceiling, hung on a chain, or topping a post, a lantern-style fixture is your basic porch or yard light; although with all of the styles they come in, the only thing basic about them is their function—to shed enough light on your front path or entryway to keep you and your guests from tripping or fumbling with keys in the dark.
  • Bollard and Post Lights – you’ve probably see these short, standing light fixtures lining driveways or walkways. They’re also a useful and attractive means of lighting decks, swimming pool and jacuzzi areas.
  • Spread lights – similar to bollard lights, these fixtures are low to the ground and usually have dome-shaped covers that spread the light in a broad, diffused pattern that’s good for highlighting flower beds, plants, fish ponds and other ground features.
  • Well lights – these fixtures are usually concealed in the ground and provide decorative up-lighting that highlights trees, shrubs and architectural features.
  • Spot lights – generally used for accent lighting, these adjustable fixtures are best concealed behind shrubs to provide up-lighting, or hidden in trees and pointed downward for a moonlight effect.
  • Flood lights – these bright lights are best for basic safety and security. They are usually attached to light and motion sensors, causing them to only come on in the dark when there is motion inside their perimeter. This has the triple benefit of saving on energy, assuring there is always a light on when you need it, and alerting you to potential trespassers on your property. They can also have the drawback of annoying your neighbors, so be careful where you point them.

Now that you’re armed with knowledge of the types of fixtures available, as well as the purpose each type serves, you’re better able to start putting together a lighting plan for your yard, garden or patio that’s both functional and attractive. But lighting fixtures are just the tip of the iceberg. Next week we’ll cover more of the basics by taking a look at the different power sources and types of light bulbs appropriate to outdoor fixtures. So stay tuned!

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