The first thing you have to think about before you start looking is which area you want to light up. If it is going to be a path, you want something quite bright which will help to navigate people safely as opposed to lights which just look nice. You’ll also want to avoid wiring becoming a trip hazard. Likewise, for summer barbecues, decorative lights which give a warm glow rather than blinding everybody with their brightness could be the best.
This will likely reduce the amount available to you, but at the end of the day, you want the best for the job.
Essentially, these are powered from the sun. This means they are cost-free to run and eco-friendly. No wonder they are so popular in the UK.
Technically, they are actually battery powered, as the energy they accumulate all day is stored here. They are perfect for placing anywhere, whether you have a seating area away from the house or want to illuminate a path. No connection cables are needed.
Solar lights can be difficult if you want the lights to be on over winter or in cloudy conditions, as the UK is notorious for its dark, damp months. You should be fine to use them in summer, though. Some will have switches which will turn them off if you want to store them ready for next summer again, without wasting battery. You may also be able to get a set with a battery which can also be charged via USB.
A wired option, which is generally more reliable than solar powered, especially when the nights get darker. They can plug into an outside socket, or be fitted to the wall and wire-free if you get a specialist to install them.
You will be more restricted in terms of placement because of this. They’ll also cost to run.
Perfect for sticking into the grass or ground, which keeps them firmly in place. This is ideal if you want to illuminate a rockery or path without cords and want something substantial.
If you want a lamp for the middle of the table, or for decorative purposes, then lanterns are great. They can give off the feel of real candles to create a good level of ambience, and can often be picked up and carried around if you want something transportable
Ideal if you want something permanent and to light up a relatively large area. They don’t take up any space either, so are great if you want to maximise the room and just make the most of what is already there
A fancy word for string lights. It covers the wide various styles, such as fairy lights, bunting or line lights. They are designed to hang lower and add a lot of ambience
Often found in porch areas, they can dangle from a higher level to illuminate the immediate area. You may also be able to use one under a gazebo, or in an outhouse
A relatively modern answer to lighting. These are designed to fit into your outdoor decking or into any steps leading up to your house
This is essentially the level of colour of the light. The lower this number, the warmer the hue. 2,700K is an indoor soft white and this can go up to 5,600K, which is bright white shade. It depends on the atmosphere you want to create, but generally the higher this number, the more illumination it will give out.
As opposed to telling you how bright a bulb is like the Kelvin rating does, the lumens (lm) are a raw measure of light output (essentially the brightness). They have replaced watts as the main measurement of this with the introduction of LED bulbs, as watts measure input but lumens measure output.
The higher the lumens, the brighter the light. Indoor lights are usually around 300-500 lumens, and some outdoor flood lights emit in excess of 20,000lm.
If you want to replace a watt-rated bulb with lumens:
- 100W incandescent bulb > 1600 lumens
- 75W > 1100 lumens
- 60W > 800 lumens
- 40W > 450 lumens
Electrical, battery and solar-powered outdoor lights all have an IP (Ingress Protection) Rating, which lets you know how compatible they are with certain weather conditions.
The first digit of an IP rating refers to intrusion protection, so whether dust or larger objects (such as insects) can penetrate the sealing.
The second is all about the protection from moisture, such as rain or fog.
- 0: No special protection
- 1: Protection from a large part of the body, such as a hand and from solid objects greater than 50mm in diameter. Deliberate access still possible
- 2: Protection against fingers or other objects over L80mm and D12mm
- 3: Protection from entry by tools, wires etc. with D2.5mm or more
- 4: Protection against solid bodies larger than 1mm (e.g. small tools)
- 5: Protected against dust which could be harmful
- 6: Totally dust-tight
- 0: No protection
- 1: Protection against condensation
- 2: Protection against water droplets deflected up to 15 degrees from vertical
- 3: Protection against spray up to 60 degrees from vertical
- 4: Protection against water spray from all directions
- 5: Protection against low-pressure water jets (all directions)
- 6: Protection against string water jets and waves
- 7: Protection against temporary immersion
- 8: Protection against prolonged effects of immersion under pressure
The majority you see will be around IP44 or IP54. If one number is replaced by an X, it has not been rated for that particular issue.
Consider the type of bulb and size, and whether this is accessible for you to buy. Some forms include LED, halogen and incandescent.
Some bulbs, particularly in LED lights, are usually not replaceable so bear in mind the lifespan of the current fitted bulb. You will also want to look at the wattage, as this determines how bright the light will be. The higher the W, the brighter the bulb. Great if you have a particularly dark corner to illuminate.
Other Things To Look For
- Portability – Do you want to be able to move it around the garden, or take it with you if you go camping/on holiday/inside?
- Charging Options – If you want to opt for a solar light, some of these also offer a backup to use them as wired devices or charge the battery manually, which helps in low-light areas and could come in handy