Outdoor lighting needs careful consideration just as indoors does, but just how much light do you really need out there in the dark to create a beautiful yet functional landscape lighting design?
We’re lighting consultants with over two decades of experience, follow our tested recommendations on how many lumens you need for outdoor lighting by each area and useful product choice.
Table of Contents
A lumen (lm) is the measurement of light that comes from a bulb or in this case exterior light fitting. It tells you how bright and intense the visible light will be.
To help you understand a lumen we discuss just how bright is 100 lumens
Wattage is no longer a good measure of brightness. With the development and improvements in lighting technology, manufacturers have started to measure light output in lumens. This is because wattage only measures how much energy a light uses, not how bright it actually is.
Various factors such as your personal preferences, the position and spacing of lamps, and the size of the area you want to light will affect how many lumens you need for outdoor lighting.
Bear in mind that a lumen level used outdoors is different to indoors. A little light used outside has a greater impact visually and practically, so less is required from each product than you may think.
An outdoor small patio needs 600 to 700 lumens with a larger one needing 1200 to 1600 lm in total.
Patio lights need to be bright for general illumination but most of the time more intimate and lower level for sitting outside or as a beautiful backdrop to be seen from inside your home.
A small deck needs 100 to 200 lumens in total, with a larger one needing 300 to 400 lm.
Deck lighting is best to built up by introducing lighting in smaller increments with many lower output products as opposed to a wide general light.
To uplight outdoor walls and fences, start with just 50 lumens per light fixture. You can effectively light up walls from quite small amounts of light.
Outdoor paths need 100 to 200 lumens in total per 3 or 4 feet, with a path light needing a 100 lumen output each.
Pathways are built up in the same way as walkways, but how many lumens for outdoor lighting here is highly dependent on how steep your path it. If there are any steps or stairs that could be dangerous then having more light will help guide you down safely at night time.
For outdoor stairs, step lights need to be around 600 lumens each with smaller marker lights around 100 lm each.
Light can be directed onto every tread or washed over generally, always ensure all steps are lit with no shadowing. The repetition of light on multiple single steps from 30-50 lumen lights adds a rhythm that the eye just loves.
An outdoor small garden needs 400 to 600 lumens in total, larger garden need 800 to 1200 lm.
Every garden size is different, so the guide is to build up accent layers of smaller 50 lumen lighting fixtures that create the aesthetic of lights and darks
Driveway lights need 1500 lumens to ensure the drive is well lit, with the lumens required for a low level driveway outdoor light recommended at between 100lm to 200lm or 1500 lm from a floodlight.
Benefit from a motion sensor turning the lights on as a car or person approaches, useful for security lighting too.
Pool and pond lights should start with 100 to 200 lumens in total, progressing onto between 300 to 400 lumens for larger areas.
Water needs to be visible at night for safety reasons, yet retain the glittering magical effect of reflected light on water.
Workshop & Garage need a minimum of 50 lumens per square foot, with work benches requiring more intense task light of 200 lumens per square foot.
Outdoor Tree lighting needs 100 to 200 lumens per tree depending on how big it is. Very large trees need to be calculated by spread as well as height and done on a bespoke basis.
Floodlights work best with a brightness of 1800 lumens,
An outdoor security light needs 500-1800 lumens at least to be effective, with security lighting being built up in multiples to cover all access areas.
We also discuss recommended outdoor security light brightness levels
An outdoor wall light needs to be 400 – 500 lumens each for accent lighting and comfortable localised illumination. The purpose of the installation may dictate more ie flooding from a wall light.
An outdoor spotlight needs 100 to 200 lumens per spotlight for accent lighting, 1000 to 1800 lumens per spotlight for task lighting.
Grazing light up walls creates attractive pockets of light for accents, more direct close up illumination over walkways for functional illumination.
An outdoor porch light should have between 300 and 500 lumens, for up and down lights models then 400 lm up and 400 lm down is sufficient.
An outdoor bollard outdoor light needs to have a brightness of 100 lumens as a recommendation, but at least 50 lm per bollard is sufficient too.
Outdoor solar lights require between 100 and 200 lumens per fixture for accent lighting and between 50-100 lm each when solar path lights.
The golden rule for great outdoor lighting design is to not over light. Always build up to the amount of light and do this successfully with testing where you can using our recommendations as a great place to start.
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