Light Up the Night

Good outdoor lighting on your porch and around outdoor steps can deter intruders, prevent falls and accidents and create beautiful aesthetic appeal.

by Lisa Iannucci
LED lights on staircases add both warmth and safety.

“Lighting steps can be done for effect or for safety, by installing low-voltage LED lights directly into them,” says Joseph A. Rey-Barreau, AIA, IES Architect/Lighting Designer and Associate Professor, School of Interiors College of Design University of Kentucky. “These are tiny fixtures that are installed on the vertical, or the riser, of the step. The beauty of LED lighting is that it has an extraordinarily long life, more than 25,000 hours, so you’re talking about 10 to 15 years of lights.”

Another way to light steps is by using path and spread lights. ‘They spread light over an area, and you can place one adjacent to each side of the step so that they distribute light across the bottom. A homeowner can buy a system, install a transformer, run the cable out in the yard, and put a stake in the ground.”

For the porch, most homeowners install ceiling fans that come with a light. “If you’re installing a ceiling fan with a light in a porch, use a damp-rated fan, which means it’s undercover, but won’t come directly in contact with water,” says Rey-Barreau.

Rey-Barreau estimates that good outdoor lighting that lasts will cost between $500 and $1,000 for the whole system. Not sure what you want to do yet? Rey-Barreau suggests installing a metal conduit, or pipe while installing the porch or stairs for future use. “Use that pipe later to run any necessary wires underneath the stairs or sidewalk,” he says.

For help with installation, you can hire a company that specializes in landscape lighting. “Get at least two estimates,” he says. “Keep in mind that anything less than 30 volts does not need a licensed electrician.”

Infrared motion detector lighting, which turns on when it detects motion up to 70 feet away, is another option. You do not even need electricity. Installing solar lighting can provide sufficient light and save energy and money.

If you want to light the way, you’ll first have to choose from many lighting options, such as those made from aluminum, stainless steel and brass, and the designs are endless. For more information on lighting options, visit the American Lighting Association website, where you can search for local showrooms. “Most anything that you could want you can find at a specialized lighting store,” Rey-Barreau says.