patio lighting
Michael S. Thompson

Where To Begin

Good lighting makes a walkway easy to navigate after dark, provides safety and security, and creates a welcoming ambiance. Flexibility is the key.

Bright, standard-voltage lights, such as an under-eave porch light or a post light, add strong illumination to repel intruders or allow you to walk without tripping when carrying in the groceries. However, they are too glaring for entertaining. Low-voltage lights are mellower, and bright enough for most evening activities.

For most patios, a combination of the two types of lighting is ideal. If you already have strong standard-voltage lighting, consider installing dimmer switches so that you can soften the effect when you want.

Frog Patio Light
Michael S. Thompson

Types of Lights

Path lights like the one at left, usually have shades that produce a wide, downward spread of light.

Lantern-type lights both illuminate paths and provide general lighting.

Spotlights or floodlights can be swiveled to point at a feature or an area of the yard.

"Brick lights" are shaped to resemble a patio paver and are actually installed in the soil, where they point diffused light upward.

Rope lights are strings of tiny, evenly spaced bulbs that can be hung from a tree like Christmas lights.

Deck lights can be fastened to a vertical structure such as an overhead or a trellis.

Courtesy of Lamps Plus/

Economic Option

An inexpensive option for patio lighting will likely be a kit that contains 10 or so lights, a programmable transformer, and all the cable and connectors you need.

If you want to install a variety of lights or if you don't like the lights that come in kits, you will need to purchase the components separately.

When choosing a transformer, check its specs or consult a salesperson to be sure that it is strong enough to supply power to all the lights you need.

Well lit patio
Thomas J. Story

Lighting Techniques

Position lights so that they will provide illumination without shining into people’s eyes. Often, this means placing low-voltage lights lower than 2 feet above the ground and standard-voltage lights higher than 7 feet.

You can also place lights behind a barrier or use fixtures that provide shielded or diffused light. Most yards benefit from a combination of two or three types.

Downlit patio and fountain
Mise au Point/C. Nichols


Use lights that point downward to gently light up a patio or walkway, or to accent trees and shrubs.

Patio lit with spread lights
Mise au Point/C. Nichols

Spread Lighting

Use short downward-spreading lights not only to light up a path but to light up shrubbery or flowers. Try different colored bulbs for decorative effects.

Silhouette patio lights
Mise au Point/C. Nichols


To emphasize the shape of a tree, shrub, or bed of flowers, try aiming a spotlight or floodlight at a fence or wall from close behind the plant.

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