Outdoor lighting can transform a plain yard into an inviting oasis. With the right lighting, you can highlight architectural features, illuminate pathways, showcase plants and trees, and create ambiance for entertaining. Getting it right requires planning and strategic placement, but you don’t need to call an expensive electrician. With some DIY tips, you can install beautiful and functional outdoor lighting yourself.

Assessing Your Outdoor Lighting Needs

The first step is deciding what you want to accomplish. Outdoor lighting serves both aesthetic and functional purposes. Consider what areas you want to light and what activities happen there after dark.

Key Questions to Ask Yourself

Take stock of your current lighting situation. Note areas that are too dark and locations where you want to add or improve lighting. This will help determine how much lighting you need and where it should go.

Outdoor Lighting Techniques

There are several techniques for lighting up your yard:

Outdoor Lighting Sources

Outdoor lighting uses various types and styles of fixtures:

Combine different types to achieve both ambient and accent lighting.

Choosing Light Bulbs

Selecting the right bulbs is key to achieving your lighting goals while minimizing energy use. The most common options include:


Incandescent bulbs are inexpensive and easy to find, but they're inefficient and have a shorter lifespan than newer options. They also put out a lot of heat.


Halogens are similar to incandescents but more energy efficient. However, they have higher upfront costs.


Fluorescents last much longer than incandescents and use less energy. But they have a larger profile that won't fit all fixtures. Consider compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs.


LED bulbs are the most energy efficient and longest lasting option. Although more expensive initially, their longevity offsets the higher cost over time. LEDs also remain cool to the touch.

For accent and spot lighting, choose bulbs with a high lumen output in the color temperature you desire. For ambient lighting, select soft white bulbs with a lower lumen output.

Opt for ENERGY STAR rated bulbs to maximize efficiency. Choose the right wattage and style recommended for the fixture. Outdoor bulbs should be rated for exterior use.

Choosing Light Fixtures

Carefully select fixtures suited to your lighting goals, home style, and location. Key factors to consider:

For wet areas like patios or ponds, choose fixtures rated for damp locations. Use motion sensor lights only where needed, like driveways or backyards, since they can be triggered unintentionally.

Choose ENERGY STAR rated fixtures for better efficiency and performance. Pay attention to the lumen output, beam angle, and lighting pattern. For softer ambient lighting, look for fixtures with wider beam angles that spread the light.

Positioning Your Lights

Proper placement amplifies the impact of outdoor lighting. Follow guidelines for positioning:





Experiment with positioning and angles to determine optimal placement before permanently installing fixtures. The magic is in the details.

Tips for Installing Outdoor Lighting Yourself

With the right tools and safety precautions, you can install your new outdoor lighting without an electrician.

Safety First

Tools You'll Need

Wiring Tips

Installation Guide

Follow manufacturer instructions for safe installation. General steps include:

  1. Mark light locations with spray paint.
  2. Dig trenches for underground wiring.
  3. Mount fixture bases securely on walls or poles.
  4. Run wiring from lights to power source and make connections.
  5. Attach fixtures to bases and install light bulbs.
  6. Test lights to ensure proper operation.
  7. Fill in trenches and enjoy your new outdoor lighting!

With the right homework and safety steps, you can install beautiful and functional lighting without spending a fortune on installation costs. Just take your time and use quality materials rated for outdoor use. Soon you'll be enjoying your yard after dark!