How Many Lumens You Need for Outdoor Lighting?


The invention of light emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) has made incandescent bulbs become things of the past. They are widely used in home security because of extremely low power consumption and long lifespan. That’s when the term “lumens” comes into being. The number of lumens necessary for outdoor lighting is heavily reliant on the lighting purposes of each area.

What Is Lumen?

A lumen, known as “light output”, is a unit replacing watts to measure the intensity of visible light. It often refers to the amount of light emission from a light source, whether it’s LEDs or Fluorescent. More lumens mean greater brightness. Upon the purchase of a bulb, you can find details about the number of lumens this bulb can emit during lighting on its packaging.

You are perhaps more familiar with the term “watts” than “lumens”. Watt is a unit of measurement to calculate the amount of energy used by a light bulb in light production. However, along with the invention of more energy-efficient bulbs, this measurement isn’t always accurate in indicating levels of brightness. A higher wattage doesn’t necessarily mean better light. When it comes to choosing suitable bulbs for illuminating an area, what matters most is the light level they can produce, not their energy consumption.

Lumens for Outdoor Lighting

It is very important to know the right amount of lighting for outdoor use. Lack of sufficient lighting can pose great risks to your properties’ security while using more lighting than actual needs may result in a power overload. Even if you are using solar panels to power the whole electricity system, it doesn’t make sense to waste energy.

The number of lumens required in each area varies according to your desired lighting effects besides the length and breadth of that area.

  • For outdoor path lighting: It is often considered decorative accent lighting. However, visitors need to see the walkway clearly, so 100 lumens are enough for lighting the whole area, including commercial properties.
  • For step lighting: Depending on the length and number of steps, choose bulbs with between 12 and 100 lumens to minimize cases of stumble and deter thieves.
  • For landscape lighting: The number of lumens falls into the range of 50 to 300. It depends on your specific needs, either for preventing properties from criminal intentions or enhancing external looks. 50 lumens per bulb is ideal for garden or small shrubbery lighting.

  • For pond/ pool lighting: Compared to those areas above, ponds or pools are rather dark at night, possible posing danger to careless people. Therefore, no wonder bulbs lighting such regions require a greater number of lumens, usually between 200 to 400 ones each.
  • For different types of outdoor lights: Hardscape lights (on walls) that emit about 50 to 185 lumens are great, while flood lights need from 700 to even 1300 lumens. Around 300 to 700 lumens is the necessary number for a motion sensor light to work well outdoors.

Whatre Factors Affecting Outdoor Lighting?

In comparison with indoor lighting, the way to handle outdoor lighting is not the same. There are several factors that you need to consider carefully before deciding on the necessary number of lumens.

Light Pollution

The term “light pollution” refers to light trespass, light glare and sky glow. To be more specific, light trespass is the amount of light used to illuminate other items in the surrounding area. On the other hand, sky glow shows the amount of light escaping into the night sky. Light glare is indicative of harsh brightness produced by outdoor lighting on the frequent basis.

All of these elements have negative impacts on the quality of light emitted by a certain light source. Therefore, you need to put them under great control to ensure the best outdoor lighting.

Background Shades

Given that dark background, shades are more likely to absorb the light, you should install more bulbs of higher intensity in such areas.

Light Distribution

It is important that you know about the sensible distribution of light. Some areas require more lighting while others favor dimmer light. For example, the pathway at the entry should receive the major amount of outdoor lighting. At the same time, don’t forget to make the pathway uniformly spaced so that people can mind their steps better.

As for places with a variety of objects, you should install more bulbs than in clear areas. This is because the presence of too many objects in the same area will cast more shadows and darken that area.

Light Wastage

The amount of light emission may not be consistent with the number of bulbs that you install. This is when light wastage occurs. If a light is installed on the wall, the chances are that more light will be wasted. The same situation is applicable to installing lights close to the ground.

Tips for Efficient Outdoor Lighting

  • In the long run, light wastage can cause inefficiency and unwanted loss of power, which could add up to monthly electricity bills. To minimize wastage, it is advisable that you refrain from installing lights close to the ground.
  • Solar energy is a good choice to consider in terms of cost efficiency when it comes to lighting a walkway, garden, parking lot, etc. There is no need for wiring while maintenance expenses are kept at the lowest as possible. Once a light-sensitive switching system is installed, solar panels will automatically switch on and off every morning and evening. Although set-up cost may be higher than conventional lighting, during operation, solar lighting will make up zero percent of the total energy bills.

  • Watch out for the potential consequences of excessive lighting. In some areas, the authorities have issued regulations that restrict the level of illumination intensity for environmental interests. A breach of such laws could cost you a heavy fine.


Generally speaking, the number of lumens for exterior lighting greatly varies among different areas. Refer to our advice for each region, consider above factors that affect outdoor lighting and select the right intensity and type of lighting for your properties.

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