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Shining light on garden spotlights

Author: Martin James
Published: June 12, 2013

The summer months are upon us, and that means soaking up the warm evenings outdoors, spending time in the garden, and of course summer barbeques. This year, why not make the most of your outdoor space by installing some garden spotlights? Well-placed directional lighting can help create the perfect outdoor atmosphere, bringing out the best in your garden and helping you keep the fun going long after the sun has disappeared. Join us as we take a look at how outdoor spotlights can help you get the most out of your garden, and showcase some of the most popular spotlights in the Lighting Direct range.

Why spotlights?

If you're looking to add some light to your outdoor spaces, there are many products that can help get the job done, including decking lights, post lights and wall-mounted lights. But where spotlights differ is that aside from basic illumination, they also allow you to create atmosphere and drama, and draw attention to the more attractive aspects of the garden.

The flipside to that, of course, is that spotlights also help hide parts of the garden you're less proud of by diverting attention elsewhere. Spotlights put you in control of the visual character of your garden, letting you create after-dark elegance through nothing more than light and shadow.

An added benefit of directional spotlights is that they can double as security lights too. Some feature built-in movement sensors if you're serious about things, but even if you don't go down that route, spotlights can still help create a warm and welcoming atmosphere by keeping darker areas of the garden well lit.

What to think about / how to choose

Now that we've sold you on the benefits of garden spotlights, it's time to think about specifics. For all the positives we've already covered, you still have to make sure your choice of lighting is right for your garden. We'll cover some spotlighting no-nos further on, but for now here are a few things to think about before spending any money:

How big is your garden?

It sounds obvious, but the basic size and shape of your garden dictates both the number of spotlights you should go for, and what you can do with them. A long, narrow garden, for instance, tends to have limited scope for creating a visually textured atmosphere through the use of light and shadow, while if you overdo things and install too many spotlights... that elegant after-dark character you were going for might end up being a washout.

What is the light there for?

Have a clear sense of what you're trying to achieve. Is your spotlight there to provide illumination to a general area of the garden, or are you looking to draw attention to something specific such as a water-feature? This could impact the wattage and beam angle you choose. Plus, are security features such as a motion sensor important? Decide exactly what you're looking to do first, then look for products that fit the bill.

Is weatherproofing important?

Any spotlight you buy will have some degree of weatherproofing – it is for use outdoors, after all – but the extent of that waterproofing varies. If you're planning on installing it close to the ground, for instance, you'll need splash-proofing, while many products are also protected against dust, or can even be submerged completely. The exact degree of weather protection offered is indicated by the IP rating. Check out our in-depth feature on IP ratings to see just what rating you need to be looking for.

What about the neighbours?

Give some thought to how your spotlighting ambitions are going to impact on those around you, particularly if your garden is quite small. A dramatic spotlight bathing your garden gnome collection from underneath might look great from your perspective, but your next-door neighbours might feel differently if it shines directly at their bedroom windows at night.

Types of spotlight

As with any other type of light, the lighting technology used and how it's powered vary widely from one spotlight to the next. Typically, garden spotlights will be either halogen or LED-based. Halogen bulbs are typically slightly cheaper than LED bulbs but use up more power and don't last as long. They also lose a fair bit of energy to heat, which might be something to think about depending on where you're planning on putting your spotlights. Given their outdoor setting, there are also a fair number of solar powered spotlights on the market, helping you to reduce running costs and do your bit to look after the very environment the light is there to illuminate.

Types of garden light

Hopefully by now you will have a clear idea what you're looking for. Having said that here are a few useful recommendations from the Lighting Direct range to consider:

GL7 LED Spotlight – Warm White

This affordable and contemporary LED spotlight is both versatile and highly durable. It can be used as a ground light or wall mounted, and IP65 weatherproofing means it can even withstand being submerged to a depth of 1 metre. It comes with 2m of pre-wired cabling.

Barton Spotlight

It's easy to see why the Barton Spotlight is such a big seller. It's cheap to buy, easy to set up and highly durable thanks to its aluminium construction. The understated matte black finish means it won't draw attention when switched off, and thanks to the included ground base stake, installing it is as simple as pushing the stake into the ground and connecting up.

Marlow Stake Spotlight, Black

Another popular stake light option – this one is a little pricier than the Barton Spotlight above, but you can see where the extra money goes: the Marlow spotlight features a glass diffuser, a higher spec of weatherproofing and uses transformer-free loop in/loop out wiring to connect to the mains.

Marlow Wall Spotlight, Black

The wall light partner to the Marlow Stake Spotlight above - it uses the same 50W halogen bulbs and comes with all the same features, allowing you to keep a uniform look and feel to your spotlights whether they're on the ground or attached to the wall.

Slope Stake Light – Black

Looking for a stake light with a bit more contemporary appeal? Look no further – the Slope Stake Light's soft lines and chic design make for a discrete overall package that will fit right into any modern garden. The head can be rotated through 90 degrees for added versatility.

Selene Solar Spotlights – Set of 2

They say good things come in pairs, and that's certainly the case here. This set of two solar spotlights each contain six super-bright LEDs powerful enough to illuminate a range of up to 20M. The light itself can be placed up to 5M from the solar panel, and simply require daylight to charge up rather than direct sunlight – perfect for UK weather!

Night Eye 150W PIR Security Spotlight

If security is your priority, the Night Eye Security Spotlight will give you plenty of value for your money. The adjustable dusk-to-dawn sensor means you can set exactly how dark it needs to be before the lights switch on, while the long list of other features includes a super-wide 12m, 200-degree detection range for the motion sensor.

Garden spotlights – what not to do

  • Don't try to do too much: decorative lighting is all about creating a dramatic and elegant visual atmosphere through the contrast between light and dark. Don't try to light everything or you'll lose visual impact. Rather pick one or two highlights you want to draw attention to, and leave it there.
  • Don't overlight: think about where you plan to install the spotlight in relation to the area being illuminated, and be sure not to go for a spotlight that's too bright for the job at hand. LED-based spotlights tend to produce softer light, while going for a spotlight with a built-in diffuser will also help reduce light intensity.
  • Don't use indoor lights outdoors: outdoor lights are designed to be used in outside environments, and typically are rated to withstand dust, wind and water. Nearly all lights sold for indoor use don't offer such protection and should never be exposed to the elements.
  • Don't overheat: halogen lights with aluminium casings can potentially get quite hot to the touch, so ideally shouldn't be located within reach of younger fingers.
  • Don't install ground lights in grass: it's generally a bad idea to install lights in grass, as they can easily be tripped over and tend to create headaches when it comes to mowing the lawn.
  • Don't blind anyone: directional spotlights are typically bright, so consider the full beam width and whether it's likely to be blinding.

Why not take a look at our full range of Outdoor Spotlights

Alternatively for more inspiration try our Lighting Ideas section.