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Personal: Residential


Choosing Lighting Fixtures –
Outdoor Lighting (Residential)

Outdoor Lighting

When Canadians think of outdoor lighting, the picture is usually limited to a welcoming porch light or the security of a floodlit driveway.

Outdoor Lighting

Today's energy-efficient lighting products – which include a wide range of fluorescent bulbs and spotlights, plus automated controls and sensors – make it economically beneficial for you to creatively illuminate your yard, balcony, patio or garden, and let you do the job with sensitivity to the environment.

The cost of lighting the exterior of a typical house with two 60-watt porch lights and a pole-mounted fixture with a 75-watt incandescent bulb can climb to $60 a year if the lights are left on all night. Outdoor lighting retrofits that produce the same level of lighting can cut annual costs in half.

The use of outdoor lighting is increasing in Canadian homes – and so is its operating cost. The following information will help you make an energy-wise choice when choosing outdoor lighting options.

Types of Lighting

Light output is measured in lumens. A 100-W standard incandescent bulb produces about 1680 lumens, whereas a 25-W CFL produces about 1750 lumens. While the two bulbs produce virtually the same amount of light, the CFL does so using only a quarter of the energy consumed by the standard incandescent.

Wattage equivalency guide for replacing regular bulbs with compact fluorescents

Compact Fluorescent Lamps

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) can give you as much light as 6 to 10 regular incandescent light bulbs while using 75 percent less energy.

CFLs are more sensitive to extreme temperatures than incandescent lamps, and some types have trouble starting and reaching full brightness in cold outdoor applications. While many electronically ballasted CFLs are rated to start at temperatures as low as –30°C, some magnetically ballasted units are rated to start only above 4°C. Before buying, check the package label for recommended bulb locations.

When using CFLs for outdoor use, sealed fixtures are preferable because they increase the temperature around the lamp. This makes the bulbs easier to start and operate in the winter. These fixtures should have ventilation slots to allow heat to escape during warmer seasons.

High-Intensity Discharge Lamps

Two types of energy-efficient high-intensity discharge lighting are widely available for exterior use: high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights and metal halide lights.

HPS lamps are an efficient source of exterior lighting. While they may cost more than other sources at first, HPS fixtures use 70 percent less energy than standard incandescent floodlights and 40 percent less energy than common mercury vapour fixtures. HPS fixtures have an estimated lifetime of approximately 10 years.

Metal halide PAR (parabolic aluminum reflector) lamps are more energy efficient than tungsten-halogen or compact fluorescent PAR lamps. They provide a blue-white light source and can be used to highlight plants in gardens.

Solar-Powered Lights

Solar-powered lights, which use the sun's energy to charge batteries for night-time use, are designed for walkways, patios and gardens. Some models are equipped with motion sensors to turn the lights on when motion is detected.

Lighting Controls

During daylight hours, outdoor lighting can be turned off automatically with photocells. While this is an effective way to ensure that lights are not left on during the day, it may also keep them on all night. If you need outdoor lights for just a few hours in the evening, you can control them better and more efficiently with automatic timers. The additional use of a photocell prevents daytime use if the timer is not reset for seasonal variations in the length of the day.

In areas that need lighting only when someone is present, use motion sensors to turn lights on when movement is detected. They are convenient, save energy and discourage prowlers.

Outdoor Lighting Tips

  • Replace standard incandescent bulbs with outdoor CFLs. CFLs last six to 10 times longer than standard bulbs and use two-thirds less energy while giving off the same amount of light. They're perfect for hard-to-reach fixtures. Make sure you purchase the ENERGY STAR® labelled CFLs manufactured for outdoor use.
  • Choose infrared or halogen parabolic aluminum reflector (PAR) spotlights for large areas, such as driveways or entranceways. Replacing 75- or 150-watt outdoor spot and floodlights with 40- or 90-watt PAR lights makes economic and energy-saving sense, and they are ideal for security lighting.
  • Enhance the effectiveness of security lighting with motion detectors on halogen bulbs. These bulbs consume about 40 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs and last up to four times as long. For maximum efficiency, buy sensors that aren't triggered during daylight and adjust the sensitivity so that they are not activated by animals.
  • Install timers on exterior lights and set them on a regular schedule. They're energy savers, as are photocells, which automatically switch lights off at daybreak.
  • Use decorative surface-mounted linear fluorescent fixtures to make garages look less industrial.
  • Look for lighting products bearing the ENERGY STAR symbol – an international guarantee of maximum energy efficiency. These products are sold at home improvement and hardware stores.
  • Harness the sun's natural energy with simple solar-powered lights for landscapes and paths.


The ENERGY STAR name and symbol are administered and promoted in Canada by Natural Resources Canada and are registered in Canada by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.