Whether you need security lights, ambient lighting for a particular area in your yard, or light fixtures to accessorize your home’s exterior, here is our ultimate guide to outdoor wall lighting for your home.
Outdoor Wall Lighting Buying Guide
When considering outdoor wall lighting, or outdoor sconce lighting, there are several things you should consider.
Some consumers choose outdoor lighting strictly for design, while others want lighting for security. A variety of motion-triggered flood lights, for example, work well for security. However, you certainly don’t have to sacrifice style for function.
There are many styles of wall-mounted outdoor lighting, so there are absolutely options to match the style of your home as well as your own taste.
“Sconce” is simply a term for any wall-mounted lighting, indoors or outdoors. Sconces are wonderful because they can provide any type of lighting you need—ambient, accent, or task lighting—depending on the sconce you select.
A. Exterior Sconce Purposes
Image: 1800 Lighting
Your first consideration when shopping for lighting for home’s exterior is the purpose that you want your lights to serve. This will, to some degree, dictate the types of options that will work for you.
Many homeowners seek outdoor lighting for security. There are many wall-mounted lights that work well for this, from motion detector lights to lights on a timer to lights that can be turned on and off manually. Floodlights and bright spotlights, whether they are motion-sensor-triggered or not, often work well for security.
Other homeowners need exterior ambient lighting to light their outdoor activities, such as barbecues or lounging on the patio. If you tend to spend time in your outdoor space after dark, whether entertaining or alone with your family, you likely need appropriate lighting to provide safety and the light that you need to perform whatever outdoor tasks you and your family enjoy.
Some people, however, are shopping for lighting that will simply complement the style of their home. Light fixtures can be beautiful accent pieces, working as accessories that complement your home’s overall style. Exterior lighting can improve the curb appeal of your home and communicate to your visitors your sense of style before they even enter your home.
These, functions—security, lighting for activities, style—however, do not have to be mutually exclusive.
1. Security Lights
Many homeowners opt for outdoor lighting to provide security.
Many crimes are crimes of opportunity. This means that if you can make your home a less easy target for burglars, they will often move along to another property. One way to do this is by providing enough lighting so that there are no hiding places for predators.
Motion sensor wall-mounted flood and spotlights lights are a good choice for security. There are many lights on the market that use motion sensors. Many have multiple settings so that raccoons, opossums, neighbor cats, and other small animals do not set them off.
In addition to making your home safer by eliminating dark corners, motion sensor lights have the benefit of lighting up for you when you’ve forgotten to turn on lights and return home late at night. You won’t be searching for your front door keys in the dark or tripping over stairs when bright motion sensor lights are there to light your way.
They can also provide added security by alerting you if someone is on your property. If you are indoors and the lights switch on, you know that someone or something is out there.
2. Lights for Activities
A primary reason that homeowners choose outdoor lighting is simply to provide light for their own outdoor activities. This can be as simple as an accent light on either side of the front door to help you find your keys.
Depending on what activities you want to light, there are specific lighting options that can work for you. Flood lights work well if you want to light an expanse—maybe a swimming pool or your entire lawn—for nighttime activities.
3. Lights to Complement the Home’s Style
Whether you are choosing lights for a specific purpose or not, you certainly want lighting that will complement the style of your home. A Colonial style home, for example, may not look the best with industrial-style lighting. You do not have to sacrifice form for function.
However, you may think of outdoor sconce lighting as a kind of accessory for your home. An exterior door, for example, can be nicely accented by thoughtfully chosen wall-mounted lights on either side.
Your lighting design can be an important part of your home’s curb appeal. This is why selecting lighting fixtures carefully is important. You want to think of them as decorative accents that will emphasize your home’s unique style as well as your personal sense of style. You can show visitors and even strangers something about who you are before they even enter your home.
B. Outdoor Sconce Types
Once you have decided what purpose your outdoor lights will serve, it’s time to consider the various styles that are available.
Because these are all wall-mounted lights, they can all be installed in a similar fashion. While most outdoor wall-mounted lighting is electric and must be connected to your home’s electric supply, some outdoor lights are solar powered. The power source, to some degree, may be affected by the placement of the lights you choose, then.
The primary consideration is what style will best complement your home’s exterior while still giving you the type of lighting you need. Again, form and function do not have to be mutually exclusive.
1. Flush Mount Sconce
A flush mount sconce is simply a type of light that is mounted flush with your exterior wall, as opposed to something like a barn light, where the light itself is attached to an arm protruding from the wall.
There are many styles of flush mount sconce lights available for the exterior of your home, and many are stylish in addition to being functional.
2. Semi Flush Mount
A semi flush mount is one where the actual light is attached to an arm that connects to a plate. That plate is mounted to your exterior wall. Barn lights are semi flush mounts, although not all semi flush mounted lights are barn lights.
3. Wall Lantern
Most wall lanterns are a semi flush mount sconce. That is, they are attached to a kind of arm that’s attached to a plate mounted to the wall. Many exterior wall lanterns offer a traditional style, although they are available in a variety of styles. These are a fairly common choice for exterior wall-mounted lighting.
Wall lanterns are a beautiful option for many homes. As the term suggests, these lights mimic the look of traditional lanterns.
Most lantern lights are used more for outdoor accent lighting, rather than security or flood lighting.
Lantern style outdoor lights are a traditional kind of design. They typically include metal detailing and glass and are available in a variety of finishes, including copper, iron, bronze, and silver-toned finishes, offering options that can suit almost any home.
4. Barn Light
Barn lights are a more casual option than lantern lights. They tend to cast a circle of light, directed downwards, rather than many outdoor lights which can be aimed to shed light outwards in many directions.
Although we might think of barn lights as a traditional style choice, they are available to suit a variety of styles of home, from traditional to contemporary and can be easily purchased in a variety of finishes. Barn lights can even work for a more modern, industrial style.
5. Bulkhead Light
Image: Home Depot
Nautical-inspired bulkhead lights offer protection for the light bulb inside by creating a kind of cage around the bulb. This creates a style that is casual but functional. The light is allowed to shine for 180 degrees around a bulkhead light, offering optimum lighting.
Although casual, bulkhead lighting can work well as an accent piece for some styles. An industrial style home is nicely complemented by a bulkhead style light, which is also utilitarian and industrial in nature.
Bulkhead lights work well in areas, such as recreational areas where you and your family may throw balls around or an outdoor workshop area, where objects may be likely to hit the lights.
Spotlights shine a light in a focused, limited area, but the light they give that area is comparatively very bright.
Wall-mounted spotlights work well to illuminate stairs or the area immediately in front of your exterior doors, all areas where you may want extra light for safety as well as convenience. If you have an outdoor kitchen or even just a barbecue area, spotlights can work well here so that you can clearly see what you are doing.
Spotlights can also be used as a kind of landscape lighting, to light any landscape features that you may want to emphasize. For example, if you have a large water feature in your yard or a flower bed that is particularly beautiful, showcase it with a spotlight. Spotlights can offer effective accent lighting for a specific section or feature of your outdoor living area.
Spotlights also work well as security lighting. They can be aimed specifically at areas that would otherwise be dark, providing cover for prowlers. Motion sensor spotlights are available at many online retailers.
Wall-mounted outdoor floodlights are a practical choice, although many are not the most beautiful. Many include motion sensors and are designed to be used as security lighting.
Floodlights provide a wash of bright light over a broad area. If you do a lot of outdoor entertaining, floodlights may be a good option to provide optimum light in an area where you have many guests. For example, if you tend to have large parties on a patio, you may want to use a flood light to create bright lighting on this patio area. You can even use floodlights to create a dance-floor in your outdoor living space.
With many floodlights, function trumps design.
C. Design Options
These many types of outdoor wall lights are available in a variety of finishes and designs. Nearly all the types of lights discussed above are available in a variety of finishes and colors. If there is a type you like—a lantern light or a barn light, for example—chances are good that you can find that type in a color, finish, and style that works with your home and your own aesthetic.
This means that no matter the style of your home or your personal aesthetic, there is a wall-mounted outdoor light to suit you.
1. Modern / Contemporary
Modern lighting fixtures have a very clean, almost minimal feel. You may want to choose stainless steel or a silver-pewter tone fixture with clean lines if you want a contemporary look to match the style of your home.
You can certainly find barn lights and flush and semi flush mounted sconces that are modern in design.
If you have a traditional style home, of course, you want the outdoor lighting to match. Many lantern wall lights could be a good match. Frosted or etched glass adds to the traditional feel of lantern style lights.
You do not, however, have to limit yourself to lantern lights if you have a traditional home. Barn lights may suit you, especially if you home is casually traditional in feel.
Whether you live near the beach or simply love a casual, beachy feel for your home, there is an outdoor lighting sconce for your taste.
Coastal décor tends to be very clean and casual. Choosing a wall-mounted light for your exterior in a white finish is a wonderful way to turn a basic wall light into a coastal-looking light.
4. Cottage / Country
Cottage style outdoor lights are certainly another option. Many barn lights and lantern style exterior lights can work with a homey cottage look.
5. Rustic / Lodge
Image: Home Depot
Whether you actually live in a cabin or just prefer a rustic look for your home, you can easily find outdoor wall-mounted lighting to suit your taste and the style of your home.
Many lanterns incorporate a rustic style.
6. French Country
French country style is a look all its own. Warm and homey, but traditional and not too casual, this style is favored by many homeowners.
If you want to complement your French country style home with exquisite outdoor lighting, select wall lights that serve a function but also work as the perfect accessory to dial up your style.
7. Mid-Century Modern
In some regions of the country, Mid-Century Modern is all the rage. The California Mid-Century Modern home tends to use outdoor space as an extension of the home’s living space.
If you have this kind of home, then, the lighting and style of your exterior space are especially important. You want wall-mounted lighting that fits with your home’s overall style.
Mission styling is unique and uniquely beautiful. It borrows from traditional Southwest architecture and people indigenous to the region.
If you are lucky enough to live in a mission style home emphasize your home’s unique style by choosing exterior lighting that complements your home’s style, rather than lighting fixtures that may compete with it.
If you prefer an industrial look, there’s outdoor wall lighting for that too. Some bulkhead lights work nicely with an industrial style, but barn lights can work well too.
Outdoor lights available to consumers tend to come with a variety of special features, including LED dimmable lights, motion sensor lights, and dark sky compliant lights.
A. Title 24 Compliant
Many outdoor lights are compliant with California’s Title 24, a regulation that sets expectations for energy efficiency.
Whether you live in California or not, purchasing a Title 24 compliant light means you are purchasing an energy efficient option. This is good for the environment as well as your bank account.
B. Dusk-to-Dawn Lights
These are a practical choice. As the night sky begins to dim, dusk-to-dawn lights begin to brighten, only reaching full brightness when it’s dark out. They gradually dim and shut off as the sun rises.
The technology behind this is a kind of photocell that senses the level of ambient light and tells the fixture to react accordingly.
Dusk-to-dawn lights offer many benefits. First, you don’t have to bother with turning lights on and off to get the lighting you want. You don’t even have to bother with setting a timer. Dusk-to-dawn lights do it all for you. Second, you get an amount of lighting that is customized to the specific conditions, rather than a traditional light with just an “on” and an “off” setting.
Many homeowners enjoy the ease associated with dusk-to-dawn lights as well as the experience of having just the right amount of light in every situation.
C. LED Dimmable Lights
For many years, LED lights have been a good choice for the convenience and energy efficiency that they offer. However, it’s only been relatively recently that LED lights have been available as a dimmable light.
LED lights last much longer and use less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, both significant benefits.
While the LED lights have a smaller range of light—that is, they don’t shine quite as bright or dim as low as traditional incandescent lights—they are still a good option for a variety of reasons.
D. Types of Bulbs
In addition to LED lights, you can purchase fixtures that require traditional incandescent lights, fluorescent lights, low-pressure sodium, high-pressure sodium, and vintage filament bulbs (pictured above). These all offer different advantages in terms of appearance and energy efficiency.
Some types of replacement bulbs may be easier to find than others.
E. Dark Sky Compliant Lighting
Some consumers prefer what is termed dark sky compliant lighting. This is a term that refers to lighting that reduces light pollution.
Dark sky compliant lighting includes the type of bulb used (for example, LED, rather than incandescent), how bright these bulbs are, the placement of the lights, and the way that the light is directed.
If you want total dark sky compliance, you want to make sure that your lights don’t light upwards and that they only light the area that needs to be lit.
F. Motion Sensor Lights
Many homeowners opt for motion sensor lights. These work well as security lights, as they light brightly when movement is detected in their area. This works as an effective deterrent to would-be criminals, who will often move on and select an easier target.
While many motion sensor lights are utilitarian and may not offer the style you desire, there are still many stylish options available. These may not offer the same flood light capabilities as some of the more utilitarian lights.
Your primary considerations are probably style and function. Once you’ve thought about they types and styles of outdoor wall lighting available and have considered what you want your lighting to do, there are more practical things to consider, such as a power source for your lights, installation, and cost.
A. Power Sources
You basically have two options for power sources for outdoor lighting: electrical lights and solar powered lights. Both have clear benefits and some drawbacks as well.
1. Electric Powered Outdoor Wall Lighting
Many wall-mounted exterior lights are often powered by your home’s electrical system.
The benefits of this are that you are guaranteed lighting, even when there hasn’t been enough sun to power solar lights.
Because electrically powered lights are connected to your home’s electrical system, these lights are best installed by a professional electrician. It’s certainly something you can do yourself if you are very familiar with and feel comfortable and competent doing electrical work, but consulting a professional is always recommended.
2. Solar Powered Outdoor Wall Lighting
Some wall lighting options for your home’s exterior are solar powered.
These offer several advantages. Solar powered lights are energy efficient and can save money on your electric bill each month. Because they do not have to be connected to your home’s electrical supply, you have more freedom, in one way, in where they can be mounted, although they must be placed in such a way that the solar panel gets sufficient sunlight.
Because no electrical work is required, this is a better DIY project than electrical lighting may be.
Professional installation may be your best option. However, installing a replacement light where one already exists outside your home may be a manageable project, depending on your skill level. As with any electrical work, use caution and consult appropriate resources.
C. Cost and Budget
1. Initial Costs of the Lights
The cost for your home’s outdoor wall lighting can vary greatly, depending on the types of lights you choose. Prices can range from under $50 for a single light all the way to over $4,000 for a single high-end lantern style light.
2. Operating and Maintenance Costs
Another cost that you should consider is the operating costs of a particular light. Solar powered lights can save money on your monthly electrical bill. Some lights require special filament bulbs that may be costly to replace.
3. Installation Costs
Professional installation costs can vary, depending on the type of lighting you choose, the location where you need it installed, and the region of the country in which you live. Installation costs, not including parts, can run from about $64 per light all the way to about $150.00 per light.
Where to Buy Outdoor Wall Lighting Online
Now that you know the details of all the outdoor wall lighting options available, here’s our selection of the best online merchants to buy an outdoor wall lighting from: