6 Outdoor Lighting Safety Tips That Are a Bright Idea to Follow

a front door at night illuminated with overhead lights

As the sun goes down, you don’t want to go inside your home, especially during the summer. You want to enjoy your outdoor living space, and the right outdoor lighting fixtures can help you achieve that.

Unfortunately, outdoor lighting can be dangerous, especially with its exposure to the elements, and outdated, ill-placed, and overheated fixtures also can become hazards for your guests and landscapers. That’s why our experts put together this quick list of six outdoor lighting safety tips to help light up your home and keep your family safe. 

1. Use outdoor lights and light bulbs

Outdoor lighting can take a beating – rain, snow, sleet, and hail – and as you know, water and electricity do not mix. Before you install any outdoor lighting fixtures, make sure they were designed for outside use. It’s also a good idea to make sure your fixture is “suitable for wet locations” in case it comes in contact with that previously mentioned rain and snow. 

Your light bulbs – whether they be LEDs or CFLs, flood lights or dusk to dawn, shatterproof or string lights – should also be deemed for outdoor use. 

As always, make sure your light bulbs and fixtures meet guidelines set by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. 

2. Choose the appropriate bulb 

a homeowner changing a light bulb in an outdoor fixture
Are your light bulbs safe for outdoor use?

As stated above, make sure you’re using an outdoor bulb, but also check that it has the correct wattage. Experts suggest using bulbs between 40 and 75 watts (for ideal aesthetics), but you always want to check your fixture’s specifications. If you use a bulb with a higher-than-allowed wattage, then there is a chance it may overheat the wiring and cause a fire.  

Also, your outdoor fixtures may be old and not designed to use newer bulbs, like outdoor LED lights. When in doubt, call an electrician to make sure your fixture is safe and won’t overheat with a newer bulb.   

3. Install GFCIs outdoors 

holiday lights plugged into a GFCI outlet on the outside of a home
GFCIs can be outside.

If you need an exterior outlet for your lighting (or patio), then the National Electrical Code dictates you need a ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI. A key component in outdoor lighting safety, GFCIs shut off power to a circuit to prevent electrical shock and electrocution and are required in the “wet” areas of your home. 

If you don’t have outdoor GFCIs and need an outlet for your fixtures or other lighting needs, hire a qualified electrician to install one, complete with weatherproof cover. 

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4. Conquer the dark and scary places 

While we’re not afraid of the dark (per se), darkness can create dangerous situations on your property. To help keep family, friends, and guests safe, you may want to add landscape lighting to specific dark areas of your property that can be treacherous. 

Step and pathway lighting can help to illuminate dangerous areas of your property and help people navigate safely. Dusk-to-dawn light bulbs can help to keep the area lit at night while also being energy efficient. Motion activated lights and even outdoor eave lights offer accent lighting while preventing unwanted guests from trespassing. 

exterior lighting by a pool
Don’t forget to illuminate your pool area.

Home Tip: We want to underscore the importance of security lighting. Outdoor lights can help to prevent burglaries by shining light into those dark areas, stopping potential burglars from hiding in the shadows. Motion sensor security lights can alert you when someone or something (like a racoon or bear) crosses onto your property, so prioritize installing outdoor security lighting to protect your home and family.  

5. Consider going solar

pathway lighting in bushes by a home walkway
Stay safe with solar pathway lighting.

Putting aside the environmental benefits for using solar power in your outdoor lighting systems, you may want to consider going solar for safety reasons. If you plan to install pathway lighting, many options – stake lighting, lantern lighting, etc. – require wires between stakes that can create tripping hazards. The elements may even lead to exposed wires and other dangers. By choosing solar lights, you can help the planet and prioritize safety. 

Other safer(r) lighting options include battery-powered lights or even post lights near the most traveled areas of your home.    

Home Tip: When choosing lights, we suggest outdoor LED lights. Generally, these produce less heat, which can help to lower your risk of a home fire. They also last longer and can lower your energy bill. 

If you’re worried about the brightness of them, don’t be! Today’s LED lights come in a variety of color temperatures and types, including Edison and candelabra! 

6. Mind your dark sky ordinances 

outdoor lighting fixture
Be careful where your light shines.

Though ominous sounding, a dark sky ordinance just means your lights cannot add to the light pollution in your area by shining toward the night sky. Instead, you’ll need to buy a “dark sky” exterior lighting fixture or bulb, which will direct light toward the ground. You should be able to find these fixtures by the packaging or product listing. 

Also, take into account “light trespass,” which occurs when light illuminates a nearby property and may be unwanted. An example would be a light over a garage that casts into a next-door neighbor’s bedroom window. This can cause issues with your neighbors and depending upon your municipality, might even be against the law. 

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