How to Buy Outdoor Ceiling Lights

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How to Buy Outdoor Ceiling Lights

Lights have been used for centuries to illuminate porches, exterior doorways, and gardens primarily for safety, security, and accessibility, but also for aesthetic purposes. Outdoor lights create a warmer and more inviting atmosphere.

About Outdoor Ceiling Lights

Earlier outdoor lights included candles and wood and oil fuelled lamps. Lights may have been simple torches or enclosed lamps. The development of gas lights in the 19th century and electric lights in the late 19th to early 20th century meant that lighting external spaces could be made easier and more efficient.

Placement of Outdoor Ceiling Lights

Outdoor ceiling lights are hung from porches, patios, terraces, balconies, verandas, or similar spaces. A porch is primarily a space where people can stop under cover (and light) before entering a building, though larger porches can include seating and other furniture and may be used for relaxing and socialising upon. In Britain early porches were included in medieval churches to provide shelter to attendees. Verandas are large porches with a roof and often a railing. They often extend across the entire front of a property and sometimes to the sides and back also. They are often found on Australian and American properties. Patios are brick or stone areas of the garden. They may be slightly overhung by a roof where lights could be placed. Terraces may be ground floor or open spaces on higher floors, such as roof terraces. They are usually more open to the sky and are more often found in hot, dry climates such as the Mediterranean. Balconies traditionally protrude from the wall and are also common in Mediterranean properties. In Britain balconies more usually incorporate a roof, which forms the floor of the balcony above.

Types of Outdoor Ceiling Light

Outdoor ceiling lights are available in many types and styles. They are available for different types of lighting such as task lighting, accent lighting, ambient lighting, and security lighting. Task lighting refers to the lighting required to carry out specific tasks. In a porch or veranda, this may include looking for keys, opening the door, reading, or similar activities. It is brighter than other types of light and more focused. Accent lighting is used to enhance. Less useful in small porches than task lighting, it can, however, be incorporated into outdoor lighting schemes. Accent lighting is softer than task lighting and creates pools of light and shadow that add contrast and depth. Spot lights can draw attention to interesting features while lanterns hung from larger porches or verandas create a warm, intimate atmosphere for socialising or relaxing. Ambient lighting is background or diffuse lighting that aims to mimic natural daylight. It is useful for working on general tasks after dark. The effect can be quite flat, so it is not as frequently used as accent lighting to create warm, cosy environments. Ceiling lights are especially useful for ambient light outdoors as they often cast light onto a wider area than wall lights. Floodlights are another example of outdoor ambient lighting. Security lighting specifically refers to lighting designed to deter intruders. Lights are equipped with passive infrared sensors, which are activated by movement or heat within the range. They come on automatically when activated and cast wide, bright areas of light. This type of light may also be referred to as welcome lighting and used to light areas when, for example, someone is returning home or visiting. The method utilising passive infrared sensors is the same. Having lights that only come on when activated in this manner saves energy. They can also be fitted with timers.

Choosing Outdoor Ceiling Lights

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing outdoor ceiling lights. Some are listed below.

Which Style

Consider the type of lighting needed and the appearance or style before purchasing outdoor ceiling lights. Different styles of light are more appropriate for different types of lighting. Traditional homes may be complemented by attractive and ornate lanterns, which cast inviting accent lighting. Traditional lamps often utilise metals such as iron and brass. Both traditional and modern homes might include spot lights, which cast accent light and can create beautiful theatrical effects. Contemporary lights usually have a simpler design than traditional styles, often incorporating light, clean metals such as stainless steel and chrome. Flush fitted lights have a neat and functional appearance. They may be used for ambient or security lighting. Outdoor ceiling lights are available in different materials such as glass, steel, brass, and iron. Brass and iron are especially useful for outdoor lights, as they are exceptionally sturdy as well as being usually rustproof. For ceiling lights in porches where there is some shelter, this is not as important as for fully exposed outdoor lights.

Which Bulb

Outdoor ceiling lights are available with different bulbs, which affects their usage and energy consumption.


Useful as bright spot lights

Relatively low energy efficiency

Fluorescent (low energy)

Useful for lights on throughout the night

Energy efficient

Light emitting diode (LED)

Smart and unobtrusive for contemporary light fittings

Very energy efficient


Emit warm, inviting light

Relatively low energy efficiency

Safety Considerations

Always ensure the light purchased is suitable for outdoor lighting. This should be clearly stated by the manufacturer/seller. Outdoor (and bathroom) lights carry IP ratings consisting of the letters IP followed by two numeric characters. IP stands for Ingress Protection. The first numeric character refers to the protection level against ingress (or entrance) of solid objects and ranges from 0 to 6. The second numeric character refers to the protection level against ingress of water (or other liquids) and ranges from 0 to 8. Levels of protection are indicated in the table below. In both cases, higher numbers translate into higher protection levels.




Objects over 50 mm


Objects over 12.5 mm


Objects over 2.5 mm


Objects over 1.0 mm


Dust (limited protection)


Dust (total protection)




Condensation and vertically falling water drops


Vertically falling water drops


Sprays of water from any direction


Splashes of water from any direction


Low pressure water jets from any direction


High pressure water jets from any direction (limited protection)


Short periods of immersion


Long periods of immersion

It is recommended that outdoor fittings have a minimum IP23 rating. Note that if external areas are cleaned with pressure sprays, ratings should be IP45 or above (for low pressure sprays) or IP46 or above (for high pressure sprays). For comparison, bathroom lights should have a minimum rating of IP44. IP ratings should be clearly stated by the manufacturer/seller.


There are some simple considerations to bear in mind when purchasing and installing an outdoor ceiling light. One is the wiring. Outdoor ceiling lights are usually run from the internal wiring and need to be compatible with this. Another is the height of the ceiling. If the ceiling is very high, it may be difficult to access. A light that is suspended from the ceiling will make it easier to clean and change the bulb. Consider where light switches are placed. Ideally these will be close to the area, such as directly beside the front door for front porch lights and in the living room for back patio lights. Security lights may either have an inbuilt passive infrared sensor or be connected to a separate sensor. The latter can be useful where many lights are utilised. Sensors should be placed in an area where intruders are less able to tamper with it. A useful option for security lights is a manual override which enables the light(s) to be left on constantly. Take into consideration that too large a pool of light from security lights and floodlights could intrude upon neighbours’ properties.


Outdoor ceiling lights provide a warm and inviting welcome to the home. They aid accessibility and also deter intruders. Outdoor ceiling lights are placed on porches, verandas, and similar areas. Various types and styles are available, and which is selected will depend upon the type of lighting required and desired style, as well as installation considerations. To find the perfect outdoor ceiling light, browse listings or search for specific terms. Buy from reputable sellers and manufacturers and look out for IP safety ratings and energy efficient models. The ideal outdoor ceiling light will complement the property exterior and provide appropriate lighting for the required purpose.

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