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Outdoor Lighting Tips (How Bright is Bright?)

Posted by Ross Spark, Guest Columnist

Mar 1, 2018 12:10:00 PM

Gone are the days of incandescent bulbs, Our lighting tips will explain lumens and brightness.

Gone are the days of incandescent bulbs which are known for their excessive power consumption. Some places still use fluorescent tubes and sodium vapor lamps, and mercury vapor lamps are required for extremely high-intensity light. However, generally speaking, today, compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and light emitting diodes (LEDs) have become very popular due to their long life and extremely low power consumption.

If you decide to use solar-powered LED you may still be in a quandary as to how bright your bulbs should be, especially if you are going to use them outdoors. So, let’s take a closer look at how the quantum of light required for a particular area is determined.

Essential Light Measurement

Previously, the light used to was measured in watts, which is directly related to the amount of power consumed. So, you could get a 100 watt, 500 watts or even 1,000-watt bulb and you would expect the intensity of light to be in proportion to the wattage. However today, light is measured in lux and lumens.

Lumen is the unit that defines the intensity of light. This unit can be directly related the amount of light energy that is being emitted from a particular light source. You will find the specifications of how many lumens a particular bulb emits from its packaging. It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to print that information.

Light Intensity for Outdoors Solar Lighting

Selecting the correct lighting to use outdoors is a critical matter. If you do not provide for enough light, the area will be insufficiently lit, which could even be dangerous. If you provide more light than is necessary, then you could wind up with unnecessarily high electric bills, and even if you use solar-powered lighting, the energy that is harvested in the daylight hours will be wasted. This table is useful for selecting appropriate lighting arrangements:

LED Outdoor Light Recommended LED Lumens
Floodlights 700-1300
Motion Sensor Lights 300-700
Shed Lights 150-300
Lamp Posts 120-180
Landscape Spotlights 120
Outdoor Path Lighting 100

Factors that Affect Outdoors Lighting

Outdoors lighting needs to be dealt with in a different way from indoors lighting. There are a few factors that affect the way light behaves and dictate the approach you need to take.

Background Shades

If the area is painted in dark shades of black or has dark colored walls, the light tends to get absorbed and you have to use higher-intensity bulbs.

Presence of Objects

If there are likely to be many objects in the area to be lit, then you know that you need to use more bulbs as the objects will cast shadows.

Light Pollution

The three components of light pollution are light glare, light trespass, and sky glow. These are all undesirable elements produced by a light source. Light glare is the harsh brightness that is sometimes generated. Light trespass is the extra light that illuminates a neighboring property, and sky glow is the amount light that escapes to the night sky. These need to be controlled, as there are laws that prevent excess light pollution.

Light Distribution

You need to know where and how you want to direct the light. At entry points, it needs to be bright and focused but on a pathway, for example, it can be moderate and uniformly-spaced.

If you take into consideration these factors, you will be able to select appropriate lighting. Here are a few useful tips on lighting for specific purposes:

Outdoor Path Lighting

Track lighting is usually considered decorative, but for people using a walkway, it is desirable for the road to be well-lit. Solar LED lighting is a common choice, but it is recommended that 100 lumens per bulb should be used.

Landscape Lighting

Landscape lighting is a combination of aesthetics and utility. In a private property, appropriate lighting can reduce the potential of crime and keep the property safe at night. Depending on the factors mentioned above, a landscape light can range from 50 to 300 lumens per bulb. 50 lumens per bulb is usually the intensity of light that is required for a garden.

The Advantages of Solar-Powered Outdoor Lighting

Whether it is a walkway, a parking lot, garden or outdoors restaurant, solar-powered outdoor lighting is a good option to consider. The main advantage is that the need for wiring is eliminated. They are also maintenance-free – once they are installed with a light-sensitive switching system, they will switch themselves on and off every evening and morning.

If you use LEDs for your solar-powered outdoor lighting, then you will be able to get maximum durability as well. Once installed, solar lighting will incur zero energy bills, so although the installation cost is relatively higher than regular lighting, it is more cost-effective in the long run.


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