5 Simple Steps For Choosing Outdoor Lighting Fixtures for Your Home

how to choose outdoor lighting 

Choosing the right gas lamp or electric lamp for your project can be difficult. The anxiety can build when creating a custom piece that won’t be fully realized until it’s in your hands.

But never fear, we’re here to help you choose the perfect outdoor lighting fixture for your space!!

With just a few simple steps, you can better assess the right combination of choices that will make guests applaud your wonderful style and turn a simple space from just your house to “that house” on the street.

1: Understand the Environment

Envision the space you’re thinking of adding an outdoor lighting fixture to and ask yourself, “Is this space a part of the main structure or detached surfaces? Is the area covered? Will I need high output lights for safety and security? Ambient soft lighting for entertaining? Or spot lighting for landscape illumination?”

Most outdoor lighting fixtures serve a very specific purpose, so it’s important to know what type of environment you’re attempting to create.

For primary outdoor lighting, consider natural gas mantles or high output LEDs in a lamp model with large, clear glass panes and minimal decorative accents.

For ambiance, a flickering open flame or soft light bulbs would be more appropriate. You may also add tinted or decorative glass panes and/or choose a lamp model with smaller transparent surface space to reduce the amount of bright, primary light emitted from a luxury accent lamp.

Table of Contents

2: Choose the type of INSTALLATION and PURPOSE that’s right for your home

Familiarize yourself with your lighting options so you can choose the appropriate outdoor lighting fixtures. The most common outdoor lights are:


A wall light, or wall-mounted light, is a fixture that is attached to a flat vertical surface by a mounting bracket, perpendicular to the ground, and great for framing entry doors, patios, or near a highly trafficked garage door.


Ceiling lights or hanging lights are attached to overhead structures/ceilings and can either be flush-mounted or hanging from a chain or fixed rod.


Post lights are stand-alone outdoor lighting fixtures that are separated from any structure, extending directly from the ground, and positioned 6-12 feet off the ground to illuminate in a 360 degree, unobstructed pattern. The post can either be buried in the ground or anchored onto a concrete pad. Post lights are generally used to illuminate a home’s exterior walkways and areas detached from the main structure.

AGLW Coachmans-no scrolls-and Colonial posts, New York, NY


Similar to post lights, but fixed on top of a (typically square) column versus a round post, pier mounted lights can either sit flush or be fixed to the mounting surface with a designated bracket. Homeowners most often use pier-mount lights on entry pillars and property perimeter piers for unique exterior lighting that can showcase specific parts of their home.


Just as you would expect, security lights produce high output light intended to brightly illuminate the outside of a structure. Security lights are typically mounted high to cover large areas and can be motion activated. Typically this type of outdoor lighting fixture is installed as a wall light, but depending on the home layout, there are many other creative variations a homeowner can use.


Designed to illuminate both the house and surrounding greenery, these lights are typically low voltage and come in three styles: Path, Spot, and Flood. When utilized in the right way, these lights create a wonderful layered look that adds depth and drama to the home and property.

The Coachman - pier mount outdoors

3: Find the correct SIZE outdoor lighting fixture for the location you need

You’ll want to choose light fixtures that are the proper size for the location they’re being installed.


This will depend on the number of lights and doors. Outdoor wall-mounted fixtures are fantastic for a front door or other welcoming area.

  • If you’re installing one light per door, choose a light roughly 1/3 of the height of the door.
  • If you’re installing 2 lights per door, choose lights approximately 1/4 of the height of the door.
  • If you have double doors, we recommend always installing a light on either side that can be in between 1/4 and 1/3 of the height of the door; but if only using a single light, choose one approximately 1/3 the height of the door.

AGLW Bavarians, Pittsburgh, PA

Many of our customers use wall-mounted outdoor lights near their garage doors or other main exterior walls, as shown here.


It depends on the size of the covered area. If you have other lights in the space, try and choose similar styles, either of the same size or slightly larger to accommodate the space.


The height and width of the pillar, as well as the surface space available to install the fixture, will determine the appropriate size light to choose.

  • For a pillar measuring 4-6 feet high with a surface measuring 16-24 inches square, use a lamp approximately 2-3 feet high x 12-18 inches wide.
  • For a pillar measuring 6-8 feet high with a surface measuring 24-36 inches square, use a lamp approximately 3-5 feet high x 18-24 inches wide.

AGLW Old Allegheny, Pittsburgh, PA


A standard residential post should extend from the ground approximately 6 feet high, and the light on top should add an additional 2 feet, bringing the total height of the fixture to approx. 8 feet high. This will ensure that the lamp is positioned just above average height, so the light can be enjoyed and easily maintained, but also out of reachable distance from the ground for safety.

If installing your outdoor lighting fixture on a hill or slanted surface, using a slightly longer post (perhaps 7 or 8 feet) may be appropriate.

essex model gas glow outside light

For a larger estate home or commercial projects, a 6-12 foot post can be used, depending on the application, and the light on top should scale up with the size of the post. Check out our collection of estate-sized lamps for some great options!

gas street lamps in oakmont, pa


Size is less dependent on the needs of the space than the size of the home, so you’ll have to use your judgment or work directly with your installer for their recommendation.

4: It’s all about STYLE!

Choosing the correct style of outdoor lighting fixtures for your home’s architecture can enhance or distract from the overall feel of the house. For example, you wouldn’t want to install a super-modern feature on a very traditional structure. So alignment is key!

If you’re not quite sure of the architectural style of your home, start HERE! The National Association of Realtors has compiled a list of the most common residential styles for you to choose from. Once you have that information, you can conduct your own research based on the style of your home. 

5: Use decorative ACCENTS

You have your installation type, you have your size, and you have your style. Now come the final touches; the small details that will make the lights uniquely yours.

Some of the most popular outdoor lighting accent options include:

  • Finial: The decorative ornament on the very top of an exterior lighting fixture.
  • Glass: Clear, beveled, seedy, water, frosted. There are several options to choose from.
  • Color: Choose an exterior finish that complements the other features of your project.
  • Other accessories: Ladder rests, plaques, and decorative bases are just some of the accessories available to complete the custom look of your outdoor lighting fixture.

Have Questions About Starting a Project?

And there you have it! You’re now well on your way to creating the perfect lighting fixtures for your individual space.

Ready to start customizing your own signature outdoor lighting? Start here.

If you have any questions about these tips, or if you’d like support in selecting the right options for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team by phone at 724-274-7131 or by email for a free design consultation

About Our Blog

Keep up to date on our latest news, lamp and torch technology, and up-coming events.