Whether you’re installing a new fixture on an exterior wall, or you need to replace a bulb in your decorative bulb string lights, choosing the right type of outdoor light bulb is essential. When you select the right bulb, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’ve got exactly the right level of illumination for the task at hand, whether it’s…
1. Lighting up dark corners for added outdoor security
2. Illuminating pathways for safety
3. Highlighting your garden’s best features
4. Socialising, cooking, or relaxing outside
5. Creating ambiance and boosting your garden’s aesthetic
The truth is that indoor and outdoor light bulbs are the same thing. In fact, you don’t need a special bulb for an outdoor light. If the bulb is going to be well protected from the elements inside a sealed unit like a lamp post, a regular LED will do the trick as long the fitting is correctly IP rated.
A regular light bulb in an IP65 rating light fitting can be used outside in wet and windy conditions.
A big obstacle that many homeowners encounter is that they don’t know what to search for to find an outdoor light bulb; they don’t know what outside light bulbs are called. And it can be tricky, because there isn’t really a single term that covers it.
The best term to search for will depend on the type of outdoor light you’re looking for.
There are a number of different outside light bulbs to choose from depending on the type of lighting you’re installing. Some of the most popular include LEDs for outdoor bulb string lights such as the festoon-style applications, incandescent garden light bulbs for permanent fixtures, or solar-powered bulbs for a gentle atmospheric glow.
There are several primary technologies that are currently being used to power outdoor light bulbs: solar, LED, halogen, metal halide and incandescent. Incandescent bulbs are the oldest, and while they’re gradually being phased out, they do have a number of positive qualities, such as being more affordable than LEDs on average, and being dimmable as standard.
However, LEDs are perhaps a more common find in gardens, especially in permanent fixtures as these bulbs are usually made from plastic, rather than glass, making them safer should they shatter. If you’re making an effort to consume less energy, outdoor LED light bulbs typically consume 80% less energy than incandescent light bulbs.
Another technology is solar. While some solar garden light bulbs have been designed to look like bulbs, they’re actually very different. Rather than using electricity, these bulbs feature a solar-powered battery inside to produce light in dark conditions once they’ve been charged up throughout the day. As they only work when they’ve been exposed to adequate levels of sunlight, they are less reliable than LEDs and incandescents, but are very popular options for decorative and atmospheric lighting.
Outdoor bulbs can come in colours from 2100K to 6500K, which ranges from an almost sunset hue orange to a natural daylight colour. There’s really no right or wrong here, and it all comes down to personal preference. However, for safety and security purposes, a bulb that comes in higher on the scale - around 6000K-6500K - can produce a brighter, clearer outdoor space that’s easier to see and monitor. For leisure and relaxation purposes, a warmer orange glow can create a lovely environment.
Of course, when it comes to outdoor light bulbs, you’re not limited to just white. The Crompton brand especially is known for its extensive range of alternative colours, including blues, reds, purples, pinks, greens, and more. They’re well worth checking out if you’re looking to add a bit of character or mood lighting to your garden space.
Outdoor LED lights typically range from 1 to 25 Watts. However, with the widespread shift to outdoor-rated LEDs, Wattage - which shows how much energy the bulb uses to produce a specific brightness - isn’t always the most accurate indicator of brightness.
Instead, it’s best to look at Lumens. Outdoor lights usually emit anywhere from 250 to 1000 Lumens, with the higher number indicating the most brightness. 900 and 1000 Lumen outdoor bulbs are best suited to safety and security applications, while the dimmer bulbs are ideal for creating more of a gentle, welcoming, and inviting glow.
Light bulbs suitable for outdoor installations are very common and very much in demand, which means that almost every light bulb manufacturer will have at least one option. Some of the biggest names in outdoor lighting include Bell Lighting, Calex, Crompton, Dencon, and GE. This means that there really is a huge range of choice.
So to make the right decision, here are a few things to look out for:
There are many different styles of outdoor light bulb, including elliptical, GLS, and pygmy style. Perhaps two of the most highly sought after styles, however, are the wide-faced reflector style, and the Edison-style golf ball-shaped light bulbs.
Reflector style is often the preferred design for use in spotlights, as the wide face casts a broad light and illuminates quite a large area, making it great for safety or security purposes. In contrast, the golf ball style lights are massively popular for outdoor string lights because they are beautifully decorative. The bulbs with exposed filaments have an air of the antique about them, making them very popular for festoon lighting.
This is a consideration that many people overlook, but it’s an important factor for two reasons. The first is respect for your neighbours. If placing a light somewhere that’s visible to your neighbours, consider a light bulb with a narrow beam angle of 10 or 25 degrees which is less likely to shine into other gardens or annoy people in other houses.
The second is energy wastage. A wide beam to illuminate just a small garden feature can waste a lot of energy. Angles of 180 and 200 degrees should only be considered when a very large area needs to be illuminated. Try to stick to the narrowest beam suitable for the application, and which is able to direct light exactly where you need it.
Top 3 Handy Hints
1. Choose long life bulbs
If you’ve installed a decorative light string along a high wall in your garden, across the top of a shed, or in any other hard-to-reach location, it’s always best to choose an outdoor light bulb with a long life. After all, you don’t want to have to replace your solar string light bulbs every month if it means getting up on a ladder every time, do you?
2. Keep an eye on IP ratings
While any light bulb can be used outdoors as long as the fitting has the correct IP rating its always best to check the IP rating of the light fitting before fitting the bulb
3. Check the finish
Outdoor bulbs can come in both clear and frosted finishes, so be sure to check the finish on a bulb before making a purchase. Clear bulbs will give off a brighter, clearer light, so consider these for use in security or safety lighting installations. Frosted bulbs ‘mute’ the light a little, giving off more of a gentle glow and calming atmosphere.