Choosing an Outdoor Light Fixture

Decorating, Home & Family, Outdoors
on September 25, 2005

Take an evening walk around your neighborhood and notice the various effects of outdoor security lighting. You’ll see how a pair of coach lights makes a front door stately and inviting while also deterring intruders. It’s a stylish home accent that illuminates house numbers, the stairs, or entryway for visitors.

You’ll notice why a lighted side entrance is a comforting welcome to owners returning late at night as it helps them find the keyhole. Outdoor light fixtures add style, as well as light and security, to the exterior of a house and offer a variety of decorating options and price ranges.

The fixtures operate on the standard 120V-line voltage used in the rest of a house. Outdoor fixtures are sold in a variety of styles at lighting and home centers. They come in a palette of finishes such as brass, nickel, bronze, and hammered metal and have clear and frosted glass. And many of the fixtures are sold with a built-in motion sensor that kicks on the light when someone comes within its range.

Style-wise, choose an exterior light fixture that is consistent with the architecture of your house. If you’re unsure about the style, go to, a hardware manufacturer whose site features the Architectural Style Online Guide. The guide helps you identify the design characteristics of your house and suggests the style of fixtures (and other hardware) that is most appropriate.

To replace an old fixture with a new one, you can do it yourself if you have electrical experience, use the installation service at the retailer where you bought the fixture, or hire an electrician. Definitely hire an electrician if you’re adding a new fixture, because a new electrical line requires a licensed professional.

The best location for a wall-mounted fixture on house siding is along the upper third of the door. If you’re replacing one, it is usually predetermined by the location of the existing fixture.

A home with a porch or covered front entry often requires more than one fixture. A hanging pendant lantern installed overhead provides general lighting, while a wall-mounted fixture on the siding illuminates the front door. To create a consistent stylish look, choose a style with both hanging and wall-mounted models of fixtures.

Lighting a yard with a 7-to-8-foot high lamppost is an attractive addition to any landscape. Use the post alone or dress it up with a planter box or a garden bed to mark the entrance to a front walkway, driveway, or garage.

A strictly utilitarian security light, also called a flood light, sells for about $40 and is a good choice when a wide cast of light is needed. Place one at the roof peak of a shed or garage to light up the property, a convenience at night when you’re letting the dog out for a run.