Outdoor Lighting: What You Need To Know Before Installing

Fortus Electric can help install and maintain outdoor lighting

Facts to consider when installing Outdoor Lighting

Are you on the fence about starting an Outdoor Lighting project for your home or business? Wondering what type of outdoor lighting is right for you?

Installing outdoor lighting for your home or business is an exciting step in increasing outdoor safety and extending indoor designs to your outdoor space. Outdoor lighting projects have a wide range of styles and purposes depending on your needs. When beginning to plan the outdoor lighting you should consider: the lighting’s purpose, your desired style, and whether wires will be buried outdoors, and installed to power your new lighting system. Consulting with a licensed residential or commercial electrician to plan and install your desired lighting will ensure your system meets your needs and remains safe and functional through the years.


The Purpose of Outdoor Lighting:

Outdoor lighting can serve many purposes. In homes and yards, lighting can enhance your landscaping and provide safety when you are outdoors at night. Many stores and offices prioritize outdoor lighting for customer safety, to draw attention to an entrance, and to extend design from indoor to outdoor commercial spaces.

Safety Lights for walkways installed by Fortus Electric

Safety Lighting:

Adding lights to any heavily-traveled area around your home or business ensures the safety of anyone walking or driving nearby. Residential electricians recommend adding outdoor lighting to walkways, driveways, home entrances, yards, outdoor stairs, and any obstacles that could pose a danger to someone walking outside in the dark. Residential outdoor lighting will greatly decrease potential accidents and increase a sense of safety for yourself and your neighborhood.


For commercial clients, safety lighting can increase the visibility of walkways, entrances, and parking lots. Increasing visibility outdoors increases a sense of safety and makes these spaces more accessible for customers and employees. Lights for commercial visibility and safety are often a different style than lights used for decorative landscape design. Fortus Electric’s experience in commercial lighting updates and full commercial remodels ensures that your space will be well lit with safe, long-lasting, easy-to-use fixtures that meet your safety and aesthetic needs.

Landscape Lighting for flower Beds
Modern bed edge lighting for your flower beds

Landscape Lighting:

Lighting for landscaping moves a step beyond safety lighting and combines safety with outdoor design to make outdoor lighting that is both functional and beautiful. Landscape lighting can fit seamlessly into your existing landscaping or can be part of a full redesign of your outdoor space

Landscape lighting balances light throughout a yard to make plants, art pieces, built landscape, and natural features stand out. Landscape lighting emphasizes the best parts of your yard and home, with the added benefits of a safe, well-lit space.

You will need to ask different questions to plan a lighting project for aesthetics and landscaping than for outdoor safety. Landscaping lighting spread throughout a yard or built into the outside of a home often requires buried landscape wiring. Depending on how much lighting you want and how much space you want to cover, you may need new transformers installed in your home to handle the new wiring. Trusting a landscaping installation to licensed, experienced residential or commercial electricians ensures that the wiring lasts underground, offering you long-term enjoyment after a one-time installation.


For more on why to install outdoor lighting: “Why you should install outdoor lighting”

How/Where Will You Power the Lights?

Like indoor electrical connections, any new outdoor lighting will connect to your home or business’ transformer. The transformer will likely “step down” the voltage between indoor and outdoor lighting. Depending on the extent of your project you may need to add new transformers to your system. Adding a new transformer will increase your home’s capacity to power new lights and ensure your home system is not overwhelmed by the lights’ voltage. 

Do you need a brand new transformer if you’re only adding a few lights to your outdoor space? It Depends.

You may need a new transformer if your current transformer does not have enough circuits to manage all your new lighting. Very large projects may require yard-specific or area-specific transformers to power certain sections of a landscape. The number of transformers and the type of power they use will depend on your chosen light fixtures and the number of bulbs being lit.

If you know that you only want a few lights close to your home you may not need an additional transformer. However, there are benefits to adding a new transformer during your first project. Electricians may recommend adding a new transformer or separating outdoor lighting wires on their own circuit, to keep indoor and outdoor wiring separate. This way, any problems with the outdoor lighting system will not affect your indoor system and vice versa.

Installing extended buried wiring and a new transformer as part of an outdoor lighting project will ensure seamless repairs and additions in the future. If you find a need for further lighting or changes to the system after your first lighting installation, having existing wiring safely connected to the proper transformers makes for an easier second install.

Every outdoor lighting project is different and will require a personalized electrical plan. Discussing your lighting needs and your transformer’s current functions with a licensed electrician will ensure that you are not purchasing anything you don’t need and that your space is safely prepared for all your dream projects.

What About LED Lights?

LED lights are small, energy-efficient bulbs that produce bright light while emitting less heat and LED lighting bulbs for efficiency and cost savings
energy than regular halogen bulbs. They last longer than most standard bulbs too and can save you money long-term.

So, why not choose an LED bulb for your outdoor lighting? LED bulbs are known for their brightness, and are often used in street lamps and safety lighting. If your priority is safety and visibility, LEDs may be right for you. If you want to create landscape lighting that shows off your space without flooding it with light, you’ll likely want low-voltage bulbs.

Your lighting choices all depend on the purpose of your outdoor lighting and your preferences on brightness. Once you know all your lighting options, plan carefully so that your final lighting fixtures and bulbs match your style and keep your property lit safely.

What Are Low-Voltage Lights

Most landscape lighting uses low-voltage light bulbs and wiring they are safe to use outdoors because. Low voltage lights function at about 12 volts. Your transformer will “step down” any higher voltage provided inside your home or business to ensure a safe amount of energy travels to the low voltage bulbs. You can set these lights on a timer or connect them to a remote for easy control because they all connect back to the transformer.

Many electricians recommend low-voltage light bulbs for outdoor lighting because they provide consistent, soft light that illuminates a space without being too bright and harsh. Light fixtures with low-voltage bulbs can light up small, accented spots in your space, bringing focus to important plants or structures in your yard. Outdoor lighting designers love low-voltage bulbs for their versatility, softer light, and trustworthy wiring.

What About Solar-Powered Lights?

Solar Power Lighting

The majority of Solar-Powered outdoor lights are DIY sets or individual lanterns purchased from your local home garden store. These lights are low maintenance and can be a great start as you plan designs for your outdoor lighting. However, because they are individual units rather than a set of lights their design is difficult to control long term.

Electricians recommend that you consult a professional electric contractor for solar powered light systems. Even though solar-powered lights seem less complex and easy to manage on your own, hiring a professional for design and installation can naturally incorporate your lights into the landscape. Residential and commercial electrical contractors can also give you access to a wider array of light fixtures and light designs that are available through DIY kits.

Should I Buy DIY Outdoor Lighting Systems?

There are options available for do-it-yourself outdoor lighting, ranging from individual solar lights to generator-powered light systems. These small-scale lights seem accessible and functional but often do not last long, do not light up consistently, and may require you to lay dangerous above-ground wires and extension cords that pose a danger to visitors. DIY lighting systems will not provide the long-term, reliable lighting needed to keep your outdoor space safely and beautifully lit.
Hardwiring outdoor lighting ensures long-lasting, safe electrical connections. Hardwiring and burying wires should only be done by a licensed residential electrician or commercial electrician. Electricians are experts in circuit safety and all the ways to keep outdoor wiring safe from all outdoor hazards: rain, snow, curious animals, lawn care, plant roots, etc.
Hiring a licensed electrician for your outdoor lighting project will give you the reassurance and peace of mind that your yard has safe, long-lasting lighting installed by professionals with

  • Outdoor-grade wiring with protection from elements and animals

  • Properly buried wires

  • Safely-connected circuits and transformers

  • Easy-to-control remotes, light switches, and/or timed lights

  • Correct bulbs for each lighting fixture

  • Expertise in installation and repair work for long-term enjoyment

Outdoor lighting projects require you to balance safety and design. Outdoor lighting experts can help you create a beautiful, well-lit outdoor space for your home or business. Consulting an electrician and hiring a team for installation will keep your new lighting safe, energy-efficient, and functioning for long-term use.

Need help with your outdoor lighting project give us a call at 336.341.3752 or submit our “Request a Quote” and we will give you a hand.

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