Outdoor Lighting Terminology


As with many other industries, outdoor lighting has some terminology that is specific to lighting. With advances in lighting technology, there are several new types of bulbs and fixtures creating even more industry specific terminology. Whether you are adding outdoor lighting to a newly built home or simply want some new deck or patio lights, knowing the terminology helps make sure you purchase exactly what you need for your particular needs. In an effort to help make you an informed consumer, we offer the following list of outdoor lighting terminology.

Line voltage-This is the main electrical line of your home which is 120 volts. Fixtures that run off of line voltage are hard wired into the main electrical line of your home.

Low voltage-While plugged into the main electrical line, low voltage systems include a transformer that steps down the voltage from 120 to 12 volts. These systems are very safe and consume less power.

Solar lights-These need no electrical power. They generally have a small solar panel attached which captures energy from the sun, that is stored in a battery to be used to power the light once the sun sets.

CFL bulbs-These are compact fluorescent bulbs. The use up to 75% less energy that incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times as long. They can be used outdoors in covered fixtures or in protected locations. Special flood light CFL’s can withstand the elements and don’t have to be covered or protected. All CFL bulbs contain mercury and should be properly disposed of.

LED bulbs-These light emitting diodes are the newest bulbs on the market and the technology continues to evolve. They are extremely energy efficient and last even longer than CFL’s. These bulbs are used in many solar and low voltage fixtures.

Photocell lights-These lights are often called dusk to dawn lights as photocell lights have a special cell that reads the amount of incoming light causing them to come on at dusk and go off at dawn. Photocell lighting is a great choice for security lighting purposes.

Flood light-These produce a wide beam of light and as the name suggests flood an area with light. These are used for general purpose lighting over a wide area.

Spot light-These produce a concentrated beam of light and are used to highlight one particular area and can be used effectively to illuminate a particular plant of feature of the landscape.

Up lighting-This application makes use of a spot light mounted below the feature that you want to illuminate. Up lighting and down lighting can both be used to create dramatic looks in the landscape.

Down lighting-This application uses a spot light mounted above the feature that you want to illuminate.

While this list doesn’t cover all outdoor lighting terminology, it does cover some of the most commonly used terms. We hope that it helps you as you shop for outdoor lighting for you home.


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