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Best outdoor lights: Add ambience and style to your garden, patio or porch

Jade Vincent
30 Nov 2021
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Illuminate your outdoor space with our pick of the best decorative lights

Whether you have a sizeable garden, a modest balcony or a petite patio, the best outdoor lights can really transform your exterior space. As well as creating instant ambience, outdoor lights can help you make the most of your garden all year round, allowing you to linger longer when the sun goes down. And, just as you might choose to add a statement light to your lounge or use spotlights to highlight particular design features in your home, there are outdoor lighting options to create all sorts of decorative effects.

To figure out which outdoor lights to spend your money on, consider how you currently use (or intend to use) your space. Are you looking to illuminate a specific area for drinking and dining? Do you want to highlight a water feature or a particularly handsome tree? Do you need to light up steps, paths, and ponds to avoid alfresco accidents? Do you just want to hang some colourful string lights to beautify your balcony? What about motion-detection lights for improved home security? We've outlined the main types of lights available below, followed by a selection of the best outdoor lights to buy for spaces of all sizes.

Save 20% on the Nordlux Vejers Outdoor Wall Lantern

With a matte-black anti-rust frame and a dome-shaped glass casing, the Nordlux Vejers from John Lewis blurs the line between classic and contemporary design and is our favourite outdoor wall light. While this light would ordinarily set you back £45, it's currently available with 20% off.
John Lewis
Was £45
Now £36

READ NEXT: The best garden furniture, from wooden benches to swing chairs


The best outdoor lights: at a glance


How to choose the best outdoor lights for your garden

What type of outdoor lights should I buy?

Wall-mounted lamps: Great for illuminating a specific spot such as a seating area or flower bed. They tend to run off an interior or exterior mains supply. Best to go for a fixture with an anti-rust coating.

Security lights: Designed to deter intruders and help you move around safely in the dark. Most are fitted with a PIR (passive infrared sensor) that's activated when motion is detected and is a great energy-saving feature. Some lights allow you to programme how long the light stays on for and at what distance the sensor detects movement.

Spike lamps: An easy way to light up paths, borders and edges. Most commonly solar-powered so you can just push them in the ground without having to deal with any wiring. If you're looking for a brighter effect, consider a mains-powered spike light.

Lanterns: An atmospheric and portable option that adds a warm glow to wherever you choose to plonk it. Typically battery or solar-powered.

String lights: Versatile and very easy to install. Can be draped over balcony railings and fences, wrapped around columns and trees and used to define borders and edges. Use hooks or staples to attach to surfaces. They can run from a mains supply, but opt for a battery or solar-powered set if you want to avoid wiring.

What kind of power supply do I need?

If you don't have an external electrical socket you can run outdoor lighting from an internal power source. You'll need to make sure that the circuit is protected by an RCD (a residual current device, designed to break currents when necessary to prevent electric shocks) and that it can cope with the additional load you're putting on it. If you're fitting a single security light, installation can be fairly straightforward, but if you're adding a number of lights, it's advisable to run a new supply from a fuse board. If in any doubt, seek guidance from a qualified electrician. Or, if you'd rather not go down the electric route, consider a battery or solar-powered option instead.

Do I need special bulbs for outdoor use?

It depends on the kind of fixture you buy. Certain outdoor lights are designed to incorporate an LED within the unit. The LED isn't replaceable but has a lifespan that typically lasts between 20,000 and 25,000 hours (up to 25 years based on three hours' use per day). You can use regular halogen or LED bulbs in units with a weatherproof casing; LED bulbs are more energy-efficient and long-lasting. Philips Hue has a range of outdoor lights that you can control using your smartphone, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant when hooked up to a Hue bridge, allowing you to set timers, countdowns and colour combos. Philips advises against using its regular bulbs outside.

Are there any functionality features worth looking out for?

Depending on where you plan on positioning your outdoor lights and how you intend to use them it may be worth checking out the functionality that different lights offer. Lights with motion detectors are quite common, along with those that can automatically illuminate when they detect the sun has set. For a little more customisation some lights also include the ability to tweak their illumination time using timers or, for complete control, there are smart lights like those that sit within the Philips Hue ecosystem that you can fully customise from an app.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best solar-powered lights

The best outdoor lights to buy

1. Nordlux Vejers Outdoor Wall Lantern: Best outdoor wall light

Price: £45 | Buy now from John Lewis

With its matte-black anti-rust frame and dome-shaped glass casing, this wall lantern from John Lewis blurs the line between classic and contemporary design. It runs off a mains power supply and is pretty straightforward to install, although we'd always recommend calling out an electrician if you're unsure about wiring. Bulbs are easy to replace by unscrewing the glass case like a jar. Note that as the bulb isn't fully exposed, it gives off a subtle glow rather than a bright beam. In addition to this black unit there's also a galvanised steel option.

Key specs – Dimensions: 23 x 22 x 25cm (HWD); Power supply: Mains; Weight: 1.6kg;Bulb included: No

Buy now from John Lewis


2. GardenBliss Solar Lights: Best solar-powered spike lights

Price: £35 (set of ten) | Buy now from Amazon

These solar-powered LED Lights from GardenBliss are ideal for illuminating paths, steps, or just sticking in plant pots. Made from plastic, they're lightweight and easy to install - simply press the height-adjustable spike into the ground, then pop the lamp on top. The light will charge during the day and then automatically illuminate once the sun goes down. The lights come with black frames as standard but are also available in a range of brushed and polished metallic finishes.

Since they're solar-powered there no cables to mess around with so they can be set up nearly anywhere - and for less than £4 a pop, they're great value, too. 

READ NEXT: The best solar lights to buy for your garden

Key specs – Dimensions: 20-30 x 12cm (HW); Power supply: Solar-powered LED bulb; Bulb included: Yes (LED)


3. Amabana Outdoor LED String Lights: Best string lights

Price: £46 | Buy now from Amazon

Ideal for creating an instant ambience, these vintage-styled, LED string lights create a soft glow effect wherever you choose to drape, wrap or hang them. The 14.6m cable is encased in heavy-duty rubber that’s designed to withstand the elements, with the lights featuring an IP65 weather-resistance rating. With 15 bulbs in total and around a metre in between each bulb, this option is best for large spaces; if you need to cover an even bigger area, you can fix multiple strings together. Note that there isn't a lot of space between the plug and first bulb, but you can buy an extension cable to give you more flexibility.

Key specs – Length: 14.6m; Power supply: Mains; Weight: 2.6kg; Bulbs included: Yes (LED)


4. Dakota Fields Gasden 2: Best outdoor sconce light

Price: £31 | Buy now from Wayfair

Dakota Fields' outdoor wall-mounted lights come in stylish chrome, matte black or copper finishes and feature an in-built motion detector, allowing them to trigger whenever movement is detected. You can set both the motion detector's sensor range as well as how long the light turns on - making this a great choice for home security. The light can also be set to turn on automatically when the sun goes down. Overall, that Gasden 2 is an up-market light that looks plusher than other models twice its price, and it performs great, too.

Key specs – Dimensions: 21.5 x 6.5 x 11.5 (HWD); Power supply: Mains; Bulb included: Yes (LED)

Buy now from Wayfair


5. CLY 30W Security Light: Best outdoor security light

Price: £22 | Buy now from Amazon

Made from die-cast aluminium, this security floodlight from CLY is an effective and affordable buy. Its sensor offers a 12m and 180-degree detection range, and the posable head allows you to shine a light on a specific area (or reduce the glare encroaching on a neighbour's garden). The included LED array emits a bright beam, equivalent to a 75W halogen bulb, and you can vary the length of the beam duration between 10 and 600 seconds.

Key specs – Dimensions: 17 x 16 x 4cm (HWD); Power supply: Mains; Bulb included: Yes (LED)


6. Philips Hue Impress Wall Lantern: Best outdoor smart light

Price: £100 | Buy now from Amazon

If you've already kitted out your house with a Philips Hue smart lighting system, it makes sense to take the tech outside and enjoy hands-free, voice-controlled lights in the garden. This Impress Hue wall-mounted lamp features a simple slimline design made from aluminium and glass, and comes with an integrated LED bulb.

Once hooked up to a Hue bridge and connected by Wi-Fi, you can control it using a smartphone, Google Assistant or Alexa. You can tune the level of light it emits (great for switching between warm and cool white) and select from an overwhelming number of colour options (16 million in fact) to create the perfect alfresco ambience. There are timers, sensors and dimmer options to play around with, too.

Key specs – Dimensions: 24 x 14 x 12cm (HWD); Power supply: Mains; Weight: 1.6kg; Bulb included: Yes (LED)



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