When planning outdoor lighting, you don’t want lights that are too intense or too dim. Choose something too bright, and you’ll suffer from glare and wind up with a front yard that resembles either a penitentiary or an opera house. If you select something too dim, you’ll lose the convenience and security benefits of outdoor lighting. When selecting wattage, keep in mind the specific needs and dimensions of the area you will illuminate.
High Wattages (80 Watts and up)
If you’re looking to flood your lawn with light, select lighting to accommodate bulbs with wattages of 80 or higher. According to the International DarkSky Association, an association devoted to fighting excessive light pollution, 100 watt and higher bulbs are appropriate for pedestrian areas, institutions, parking lots or roadways. Roadway lighting approved by the association may have a wattage of up to 400 watts. Such lighting is suspended high above the ground, features an opaque “night sky shield” cap and provides lighting for a broad area. For yards or gardens, the association’s maximum recommended wattage is around 80 watts. Philips Lumec manufactures a number of 82 watt LED fixtures recommended for gardens or residences.
Mid-range Wattages (40 to 80 Watts)
To bathe a small yard or driveway in gentle to moderate light, select a lighting fixture that accommodates 40 to 80 watt bulbs. Many of the lighting devices approved by the International DarkSky Association comply with this general range. To extend this level of wattage over a broad area, select a model that mounts from a post, or mount it from an arm extending from a high wall. With this range of wattages, you’ll still want to avoid mounting the lights directly adjacent to any home windows to avoid unpleasant nighttime glare.
Low Wattages (up to 40 Watts)
Using low wattage bulbs can reduce your energy consumption, minimize light pollution and target those areas you most want illuminated. In addition, while your solar lighting options are extremely limited at higher wattages, you can much more easily find a solar lamp at a low wattage. To illuminate a footpath or encircle an outdoor seating area, stagger a series of low wattage lights to provide several small, overlapping rings of light. For example, a series of 18 or 20 watt bulbs provides plenty of power to illuminate a footpath, shine light on a doorway or accent a flowerbed. As with any kind of light source, direct the light to take full advantage of its wattage. In the case of footpath lighting, as for overhead pole lighting, select a lamp with an opaque cap to direct all light downward and avoid any waste or glare.
Floodlights are useful for many purposes, whether lighting a building, car park, driveway, garden, fountain, patio, tennis court, tree, or yard. They can be used in accent, task, or security lighting. You’ll want to choose the best floodlight for the purpose you have in mind; this article will look at various floodlight specifications and steer you towards the correct choice.
With filament lighting (i.e. incandescent), bulb wattage and the amount of light produced are directly related. LED technology is not like that. Two LED products of equal wattage can emit different amounts of light, depending on energy efficiency. Comparing LED products by actual wattage is therefore meaningless.
Equivalent wattage addresses this problem by translating the amount of light produced by an LED (or fluorescent) product into the wattage of an equivalent filament lamp (in this case halogen). You can use the table below to choose floodlights by their equivalent wattage for various applications.
Location is everything
Before you even start looking for the right outdoor floodlight, determine where you’re going to install it. Most importantly, what area does the light need to cover? The height and angle at which the light is installed could make a big difference to how well it lights your chosen space.
Windows, doors, drainpipes and gutters may all be obstacles to finding the right placement, so it’s important to think about this early. When you have decided on the right spot, try and get an idea of the size of light that will fit in the space. It would be no good buying a high-powered floodlight, only to find that it’s too big to fit in the position you have chosen for it.
How do you want your outdoor floodlight to activate?
As lighting technology progresses, floodlights are becoming more sophisticated in how they are activated. In addition to the standard on/off switch that you can use to manually activate your light, you can also find floodlights with motion sensors, which will illuminate when someone (or something) passes in range of its sensor. Alternatively, ‘Dusk till Dawn’ floodlightsautomatically switch on when the ambient light falls to a certain level and then switch off again in the morning when the sun comes up.
Picking one of these options really depends on personal preference. Do you want a light that you can manually switch on and off yourself? The inherent risk with this is that the light will get left on during the day, wasting energy and reducing the life of the fitting. Motion sensitive lights are the most energy efficient, as they are only illuminated when they need to be, but the sensor could cause the light to activate when animals pass by, or even when neighbours are out in their own garden. Some might find this disconcerting. Dusk till dawn lights present a happy medium, as they don’t need switching on manually and they will just stay on through the night.
Get the right brightness
Floodlights come in a broad range of brightness outputs, perhaps more than any other type of light. You can find floodlights that output anything between 700-20,000+ lumens (for more information about lumens, see our guide here).
Which one you choose primarily depends on how big a space you need to illuminate. An outdoor floodlight with only a relatively low lumens output (700-1500lm) will suffice for patios and driveways, while commercial spaces like car parks and small fields will obviously need high-powered floodlights that output many times that. There is no hard and fast rule for picking floodlights of a certain brightness, but below is a rough guide that may help.
Small Garden (50m²)1600lm
Medium Garden (150m²)2400lm
|Application||Equivalent (standard halogen) wattage|
|Small patio (9m²)||70W|
|Back yard of house||70W|
|Small garden (50m²)||120W|
|Medium patio (25m²)||120W|
|Medium garden (200m²)||250W|
|Large patio (100m²)||250W|
|Car park||400 to 500W|
|Industrial loading bay||400 to 500W|