Guide to Outdoor Lighting Systems (2023)

Guide To Outdoor Lighting

Understanding Different Types of Landscape Lighting Systems

All outdoor lighting systems can be divided into two types depending on which type of electrical system they use.

The first is “line voltage”; like the other lights in your home’s interior, these operate at 110 volts AC. Since line voltage can be dangerous, a licensed electrician must wire and install the system, and an electrical conduit is typically required between fixtures to protect the wire from damage.

The second type of system is a low-voltage system which operates at 24 volts or less DC. While there can be a place for a high voltage system in some commercial environments, low voltage is the superior solution for most residences. It’s safer, requires less infrastructure (no conduit!), and is much easier to install.

For the sake of simplicity, in this guide, we’ll only discuss low-voltage systems.


Now that we’ve established your lighting system will be operating at low voltage, let’s look at how these systems work. A transformer is the first piece of equipment needed for any low-voltage system. A transformer is a device that takes the line voltage (110v) from your wall outlet and converts it into safe and simple DC power.

It’s usually mounted to the exterior of your home and serves as the power source and central “hub” for your outdoor lighting installation. 

Transformers come in all shapes and sizes, depending on the complexity of your project. The power rating for your particular model is the most important thing to pay attention to. You’ll see this specified as a wattage number like 700w or 1000w.

When calculating how much capacity you’ll need, a good rule of thumb is to add the wattage of each fixture and then add 20% to give it some headroom. 

So, for example, if you have 30 fixtures that are 5 watts each, you would need a transformer rated for at least 180 watts. 

Wiring Considerations

Types of Landscape Lighting Fixtures

Now that we’ve gotten through all of the boring stuff let’s look at the different types of lights we can use to bring your property to life.

Path Lights:

P3 Pathlight

These fixtures are strategically placed along walkways, driveways, or paths to provide a safe and welcoming guide to navigate outdoor spaces. Path lights not only improve visibility and safety but can also add beauty to your walkways, particularly when their design complements the landscape or architecture of your property.

They can create a magical effect when their glow illuminates flower beds and shrubs lining the path.



Spotlights are the perfect choice if you have specific landscape features you want to highlight, such as a sculpture, a water feature, or a majestic tree. They focus light in a narrow beam, drawing attention to these special elements and bringing a unique aesthetic appeal to your outdoor environment.

Spotlights can create stunning visual effects, emphasizing the textures and colors of your landscape.


Floodlights in use

Floodlights come in handy for areas where a broad expanse of light is necessary, such as large patios, sports courts, or other outdoor activity areas. They provide a wide, bright beam that can illuminate a large area, enabling outdoor activities even after the sun goes down.

Garden Light LED X5 Flood Light

Apart from providing light for safety and visibility, floodlights can also be used to cast dramatic shadows for a visually striking landscape.

Well Lights:

Also known as in-ground lights, these fixtures are recessed into the ground for a clean, unobtrusive look. They are ideal for casting upward lighting on walls, trees, and other tall features, creating a dramatic effect that enhances architectural and plant features.

Well Light In Stainless Aluminum Finish

Well lights can also be used for grazing or shadowing techniques in landscape lighting design.

Deck and Step Lights:

These small fixtures are typically built into a deck, stairs, or railings. They serve two main purposes: enhancing safety by illuminating potential trip hazards and adding aesthetic appeal.

Deck and step lights can create a charming and stylish atmosphere for outdoor living spaces, perfect for evening entertaining.

Outdoor Lighting Basics: Types of Outdoor Lighting

Types of Outdoor Lighting

Creating an amazing outdoor experience can only start one way; with a well-thought-out plan. Unfortunately, most outdoor lighting is an afterthought or side hustle for a sprinkler company or landscaper. These companies go to their local supply house and sell whatever product they can get over the counter. Usually, they install a “package” of eight to twelve lights (Maybe with a timer if you’re lucky!), and they ride off into the sunset, never to be heard from again. This technically gives you some lighting, but it won’t give you the breathtaking outdoor space you were probably dreaming of.

Real lighting design requires time and an understanding of your home and family. Where do you like to spend your evenings? Are there trouble spots you can’t see on the way into the house? What tree becomes so scary your children won’t ever go into the backyard past sunset? These are all things that need to be taken into account, and this information, combined with a good sense of design and breadth of fixture options, is instrumental in bringing your vision to life. You don’t have to be an expert on beam spread, diodes, color temperatures, or automation, but it’s our job to show you what’s possible.

With that in mind, this article will cover the basic types of lights used in outdoor lighting design and show you a few examples of their application. Lighting design is more than just picking out a few fixtures and hoping for the best. It’s an art form that requires creativity, an understanding of your environment, and attention to detail. The right mix of lights can turn even the most ordinary outdoor space into something extraordinary. The possibilities are endless, whether highlighting your garden, creating an inviting entryway, or creating a safe path for your children to play in.

Types of Landscape Lighting Fixtures:

Path Lights

Modern Pathlight

As their name suggests, path lights are designed to light up walkways, driveways, and garden paths, providing a safe, obstacle-free route for your family and visitors. These fixtures are typically low to the ground and project light downwards to illuminate a specific area. But don’t just consider function; path lights can be just as much a part of your landscape design as your plants or patio furniture.

Whether antique-style lanterns or sleek, modern designs, there’s a path light style to suit every home.



Spotlights are the workhorses of outdoor lighting design. They’re used to highlight the key features of your outdoor space, such as architectural elements, statues, or trees. Spotlights provide a focused beam of light, drawing attention to the areas you want to emphasize.

Consider an upward-facing spotlight to accentuate a tall, majestic tree or a series of spotlights to showcase your home’s facade.


Where spotlights provide focused beams, floodlights emit a wider angle of light to cover larger areas. These are great for security purposes or illuminating vast expanses of your garden. Floodlights can help deter potential intruders and illuminate playing fields or large entertainment areas.

Wall and Step Lights

Wall and step lights serve both functional and aesthetic purposes. They offer an effective solution for illuminating staircases, decks, and patios, ensuring safety while adding a warm, welcoming glow to your outdoor space. Recessed step lights can be subtly integrated into your hardscape design, while wall lights can range from modern, minimalist designs to traditional lantern styles.

Garden and Landscape Accent Lights

Consider incorporating garden and landscape accent lights to create a truly magical outdoor experience. These lights can be tucked amidst plants or hidden along borders to highlight your landscape’s textures and shapes. Subtle, low-voltage lights can reveal the colors and forms of your plants, making your garden come alive at night.

In conclusion, creating an amazing outdoor lighting experience is about more than just installing a couple of fixtures; it’s about understanding your space, addressing your needs, and crafting a design that illuminates and accentuates your home’s unique features. By choosing the right mix of lighting types, you can transform your outdoor space into a welcoming, visually stunning extension of your home. The outdoor lighting design journey may require time and attention to detail, but the results will be well worth the effort.

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