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How Many Lumens Do I Need For Outdoor Lighting?

Are you wondering how many lumens for outdoor lighting? You are in the right place! To answer the question how many lumens do I need for outdoor lighting, we will look at what a lumen is, how to calculate how many lumens per square foot your area needs and how much light is required for each type of light to do the job.

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What is a Lumen?

A lumen is the measurement of light that comes from a bulb or lighting product. It tells you how bright, intense and visible light will be emitted from that fixture. You will find a lumen level on modern lighting and bulb packaging, just like how you see how much watts an appliance uses.

To help you understand a lumen we discuss just how bright is 100 lumens

Lumens Not Watts

Although watts and lumens for outdoor lighting are similar, they do not measure the same thing. The wattage for outdoor lights is how much electricity a light uses to illuminate your area. Lumens tell you how visible and intense the light from that fixture actually is

Although a higher wattage usually means higher lumens and more light output, the efficiency of LED is dramatically different to halogen and incandescent so they cannot be compared by wattage, only lumens.

Lumens to Watts Conversion Chart

Being able to convert how many lumens you need for outdoor lighting from how many watts is a great tool. Here is a chart that suggests how much light output or how many lumens the equivalent wattage of halogen and LED bulbs will give you:

Brightness in LUMENS220+400+700+900+1300+
LED4W6W10W13W18W
CFL6W9W12W15W20W
HALOGEN18W28W42W53W70W
INCANDESENT25W40W60W75W100W

For a general guide we take a look at the average number of lumens you will need from the combination of lighting products for each area. It’s only a guide which will depend on how your lighting is placed and your primary function for the area, but at the very least this is a useful guide to show you the amount of fixtures or bulbs you will need to buy.

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.

Patio

Patio lights need to be bright for general illumination or for parties and more intimate and lower level for sitting outside on warm evenings or as a beautiful backdrop to be seen from inside your home.

For the bright general illumination the best answer depends on how big your patio is.

For the more lower level accent lighting you should introduce smaller levels of lumens.

Deck

Decks are like patios in that they can be cozy or bright, however the primary mood is ambient lighting. You will want to get enough light if there are steps that could cause a hazard by themselves, but not too much either because you don’t want the stairs to be brighter than the rest of the deck.

It is best to build up outdoor light lumens, by introducing lighting in smaller increments with many lower output products as opposed to a wide general light.

Outdoor Small Deck needs 100 to 200 lumens in total

Outdoor Larger Deck needs 300 to 400 lumens in total

Walkway and Fencing

The best way of how many lumens for outdoor lighting here is a combination of everything. Lumen count should be built up along the walkway from the adjacent wall or fence which acts more as an accent light layer and need not be that bright.

Path

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.

Steps

Whether it is how many lumens for outdoor lighting on steps or stairs, you are looking at how much light reaches the next level. They can be added every tread or washed over generally. PIR motion sensors can trigger brighter levels of illumination when a person uses them, returning to a more decorative level of light to be seen from a distance.

Steps need to be lit well enough of course for safety but not too bright as they play a key role in the accent lighting layer within landscape lighting designs. The repetition of light on multiple single steps adds a rhythm that the eye just loves!

Garden  

A lawn or landscape lumen total is largely dependent on how big your garden is and how much land you wish to light up. It’s best not to have too low of a lumen count here, because the lights will become less effective the further they are placed away from your house.

Driveway

Driveway Lighting is all about how far you want it to reach, so it will depend on how long your driveway is. A good starting point for how many lumens outdoor lighting you need here is to build up gradually with lower output products as the distance increases between itself and the house.

Pool Area

The how many lumens outdoor lighting you need for a pool area depends on how much light your house already gives off, because the last thing you want to do is make it too bright. But generally speaking if there are any areas where people might walk around at night then having more lights will help with visibility and safety.

Workshop or Garage

A garden shed, workshop or garage needs enough light to be general and bright everywhere with an emphasis of concentrated illumination over working areas to successfully do things close up. So a task lighting level of light is needed over work benches particularly from lighting fixtures focused on the task.

Trees

If you have trees in your how many lumens outdoor lighting design then they are normally treated as an accent light layer. Usually uplit from the ground, the aim is to create a stunning effect that when seen from a distance contributes to the building up of another pocket of light.

Path Lights

Pathway lighting is best at about 100 lumens each. This is bright enough to see the path and how it looks different from other areas without being too bright.

Step Lights

Step lights are also best at 100 lumens. This way people can walk upstairs without being blinded and strong shadowing is avoided which can obscure the difference in height between treads. Small and often is the tip for step lights!

Floodlights

You want to make sure that the light is bright enough so you can see. Floodlights work best at a brightness of 1800 lumens.

Security Lights

Security lighting can be built up in multiples or more often come on as single bright sources. At least 1800 lumens is recommended too.

Wall Lights

Wall lighting depends on the purpose of the installation. However, for accent lighting and comfortable localised illumination then wall lights are good at 500 lumens each. This is bright enough to see how it looks against the wall and how much light there is but not too blindingly bright that you would be uncomfortable having them on in your house all night!

For wall accent lighting then it’s usually lower and needs between 100 and 200 lumens depending on how high up the wall it is.

Driveway Lighting

The lumens required for a driveway outdoor light is recommended at between 100lm to 200lm. This will mean that there are no dark spots next to the house if cars are parked but not so bright as to show where it ends or create too much glare off surfaces, especially wet ones.

Spotlights

Spotlights can be used for task and accent purposes. You want them to provide the light where you need it but not so much that they become intrusive or detrimental to people’s vision when driving past at night.

Porch Lights

Direct lighting and indirect lighting require different levels of light.

Bollard Lights

Bollard outdoor lighting needs to be bright enough for you to see how it looks and what impact the light has, so they do not need to be particularly bright. So if your bollards are used as way finding then 100 lumens each is recommended, but at least 50lm per bollard should do it!

Solar Lights

Solar outdoor lighting can actually be very bright. Most people use them for areas that they don’t want to wired or where they do not have access to power sources like driveways and paths, so how many lumens are needed per solar light will depend on how much impact you want it to make on your surroundings.

For accent lighting for between 100 and 200lm solar light lumens per lamp is recommended, but if they are used as pathway lights then it’s best between 50-100lm each. This will be enough so that your path can still be seen without being too intrusive or glaring.

Calculate How Many Lights Required

This is a approximation only but it helps define how many lights you will need. It is a very simple calculation, maybe too obvious but worth giving an example just in case!

Example: A large patio requires approx 1600 lumens and you have chosen a wall light which offers approx 400 lumen each.

1600lm x 400lm = 4 wall lights.

Outdoor Lighting Lumens Per Square Foot

As a reference to calculate the lumens per square foot once you have the choice of light:

Conclusion

All of recommendations for lumens required are to be a starting point for you to begin to understand what may suit you. Always build up to the amount of light and do this successfully with testing where you can.

The golden rule for great outdoor lighting design is to not over light with too few products. Don’t forget that outdoor lighting is not just about how much light you can get from a fixture but how well it does the job and how it fits in with your garden, home exterior design scheme and landscaping.

Andrew Orange , the owner of Orange Lighting qualified and worked as an interior designer in 1993 before specialising in lighting working on high profile projects based in London. Since starting Orange Lighting Ltd in 2003 he has been sharing his knowledge and unique teaching style mostly to his designer clients, offering practical real life advice born from running a busy consultancy and lighting supply business. Launching in 2020, his blog has evolved into Quick & Easy Lighting, curating some 25 years design experience into making the lighting choice and design process achievable and easy to understand for all.