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LED Lights: Are They Worth it for Outdoor Lighting?

So, you’re planning a functional and beautiful landscaping lighting design to spruce up your home’s exterior at night. A nice, simple layout – Check. Stylish and elegant lighting fixtures – Check. LED bulbs – Are they worth it?

For decades, incandescent bulbs made up the vast majority of lighting options available but often caused high electricity costs, overheating issues, among others. Later, CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) technology brought us bulbs synonymous with dark, blurry photos and potential mercury poisoning. Then LED bulbs hit the shelves and soon became one of the most innovative and energy-efficient options in the world of illumination. But are LED lights a good option for outdoor lighting?

How do LED Lights work?

In a nutshell, LED bulbs produce light by passing electric current through a semiconducting material (the diode). As the current flows through the diode, it releases energy in the form of photons (light) through the principle of electro-luminescence.

Which is better for outdoor lighting, LED or incandescent bulbs?

LED and incandescent bulbs are two of the most popular lighting options available for outdoor lighting. But which one is better? To answer this question, we must first examine the benefits and drawbacks you can expect after using each type to light up your landscape.

Benefits of Incandescent Bulbs for Outdoor Lighting

  • Incandescent are inexpensive to manufacture and are usually the cheapest option available.
  • Incandescent bulbs are available in a wide array of sizes and shapes.
  • Incandescent provide a pleasant, warm light with excellent color rendition, even without flickering. They also come on at full brightness as soon as you flick the switch.
  • None of the materials in an incandescent bulb are toxic, making it easier to dispose of used ones.
  • Most incandescent bulbs can be dimmed.

Drawbacks of Incandescent Bulbs for Outdoor Lighting

  • Incandescent bulbs don’t last as long as LEDs. A typical incandescent bulb will fizzle after about 1,000 hours of use, while a 12-watt LED bulb lasts around 25,000 hours.
  • Incandescent waste a good deal of energy – 90 percent of the energy goes toward heat and only 10 percent toward light.
  • You end up paying more electricity costs and perhaps buying more bulbs in the long term.
  • Incandescent bulbs are “fairly fragile” and can succumb to overheating quite quickly.

Benefits of LED Bulbs for Outdoor Lighting

  • LED bulbs consume over 75 percent less energy than their incandescent counterparts, producing the same amount of light as incandescent with less power.
  • LED bulbs can last up to 25 times longer than incandescent, averaging about 25,000 hours.
  • Because LED bulbs rarely get to about 84 degrees Fahrenheit, this prevents massive heat buildups that can turn outdoor lighting projects into a firefighter’s nightmare. Less heat equals fewer opportunities to direct that heat towards flammable materials.
  • While incandescent typically burn out in a flash, LEDs get dimmer over time, giving you extra time to replace them.
  • LEDs are naturally unidirectional, meaning they release light in a designated, focused direction. This feature helps save energy and is excellent if you’re trying to illuminate specific exterior areas.

Drawbacks of LED Bulbs for Outdoor Lighting

  • LEDs are typically more expensive than traditional bulbs. The good news is that the price for LED bulbs has dropped considerably over the years and is expected to continue to fall as more LED products enter the market.

So, which is better?

The superior benefits you can get from LEDs make them the better choice over incandescent bulbs.

Why are LED landscape lights more expensive than traditional types?

If you choose LED lights for your landscape, you will likely have to pay more as they’re more expensive than other types (and for good reasons.). We’d hate to sound like a broken record, but perhaps the main reasons for this higher price are because LED bulbs last longer, use less energy, generate less heat, etc.

What are the recommended LED wattages for landscape lighting?

When planning an outdoor lighting design, you don’t want lights that are too bright or too dim, which is why it’s essential to know the recommended LED wattages for outdoor lighting. Choose something too intense, and it may “blow out” exterior features that are best viewed in lower light, making them look visually unattractive at night. Then again, if you select something too dim, certain features won’t get noticed after dark, some spaces may become dangerous to navigate, and you’ll lose the security benefits of outdoor lighting. So, what are the ideal LED wattages for landscape lighting?

Selecting the best wattage for your LED landscape lighting depends on several factors, including the desired effect and mood, the target areas’ dimensions, and the preferred brightness.

Note: Since LED technology is continually evolving, “wattage (W)” is quickly being replaced by “lumens (lm)” as the best way to measure a bulb’s brightness and select the right LED bulbs. As such, we’ll include values for both units in this section. Our article Watts to Lumens: How to Choose the Right LED Replacement Bulb Using Lumens explains how to convert watts to lumens, so you can check it out to see how we arrived at our “lm” estimates below.

Below is a guide showing you a few light ranges and the recommended watt and lumens values for each:

  • High-wattage lights: If you’re looking to flood your lawn with light (using floodlights, for example), LED lighting fixtures that accommodate wattages of 20 (~1100 lm) or higher are ideal. Similarly, the maximum recommended wattage is around 20 watts (~1100 lm) for yards or gardens.
  • Mid-range wattage lights: Adding gentle to moderate light to a small yard or driveway requires LED bulbs that provide 10 to 20 watts (~450 to ~1100 lm), with 15 watts (800 lm) being the standard. Some up and down lights and pool and pond lights may fall in this category.
  • Low-Wattage Lights: If you want to illuminate exterior features with softer light and minimum glare, you’re better off choosing low-wattage LED bulbs up to 10 watts (~450 lm). Not only can they reduce your energy consumption, but they are ideal for highlighting things in your landscaping or creating gentle illumination on pathways. For instance, 5-watt (~300 lm) LED bulbs can provide plenty of power when used in up and down lights, pathway lights, step/deck lights, spotlights, and lights used to accent a flowerbed. However, for pathway lights, stair lights, deck lights, and other types intended to keep you and your visitors safe while traversing the property at night, you might want to err on the side of safety and go brighter.

Conclusion: Are LED Lights worth it for outdoor lighting?

Absolutely! LEDs are the ideal choice for outdoor lighting. They’re bright, energy-efficient, and come in various shapes and forms to meet your practical and decorative landscape lighting needs.

Siesta Lighting offers a wide selection of unique, affordable, and reliable LED lighting options for your outdoor landscape lighting. If you want to learn more about LED lighting or need help finding the best LED lighting fixtures for your landscape lighting, call us at (407) 517-9496 or leave us a message.

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