Article | How to Select Floodlights for your Landscape Lighting Project

Landscape lighting transforms a house and property.

What are Flood Lights?

Just as a flood describes water overflowing its boundaries, a flood light is defined as a luminaire that spreads light beyond the boundaries of other (more focused) lights. A flood of water is usually a problem, but a flood of light can be either good or bad (see next section).

Flood lights include a range of fixtures of various shapes and sizes. The common factor is a very wide beam angle – typically in the range of 60º to 120º. (Note that the term flood is used differently when describing lamps or bulbs - see side detail.)

The Good and the Bad – Night and Day

One key to successful landscape lighting is to illuminate objects in ways that create a beautiful nighttime scene. If the designer floods a wall with light, then the look is more daytime than nighttime; that would be bad. If a flood light fails to produce a nighttime effect, use a spotlight instead.

"Use flood lights only when the lighting design requires the illumination of broad areas – and, only in ways that create a nighttime effect."

Know the Language - Useful Lighting Terms

Use of the Word "Flood" 

There is no ‘official’ technical definition of the terms “Flood” and “Flood Light”. You may see them described in different ways. Here are the definitions we use.

  • Bulb (lamp) descriptions based on beam angle:
    • 12º = Narrow
    • 24º = Spot
    • 30º to 38º = Flood
    • 60º = Wide Flood
    • 80º to 100º = Very Wide Flood
  • Lighting fixture descriptions based on beam angle or lamp type:
    • Directional fixtures that accept MR11 or MR16 lamps = Spotlights
    • Directional integrated LED fixtures from 12º to 60º = Spotlights
    • Integrated LED fixtures greater than 60º = Flood Lights
  • Beam Angle
    This describes the beam’s width. If you think of slices in a pie, each slice is a portion that can be measured in degrees. The whole pie is 360º. Divide that pie into 6 pieces and you get 60º pieces. Each 60º slice is similar in shape to a 60º beam of light. Spotlights (or their bulbs) are available in beam angles of 60º and less. Anything greater than 60º is considered a floodlight.
  • Glare
    No one likes when light shines directly in our eyes – that’s called direct glare. You would never keep your high beams on when driving past an oncoming car. In the same way, you position lights in the landscape so they don’t shine in the eyes of residents or guests. VOLT spotlights help you do this by using glare guards.
  • Glare Guard
    This is an extension of the fixture body that acts as a shield to prevent direct glare. Some fixtures have fixed glare guards (permanently attached). Others have optional glare guards – some of them very long - that can be attached to the fixture as extra protection.

Always. . .

  • Minimize Glare.
    Because they have such a wide beam, keep residents and visitors in mind. Install flood lights so they will not project into the viewers’ eyes. Some of our lights have additional glare guards to minimize this problem.
  • Use the Least-Bright Lights that do the Job.
    VOLT® offers a wide range of sizes and light outputs. When it comes to landscape lighting, less is more – keep light levels low. Go to products.

Where To Use Flood Lights

  • House Sidings
    In most cases, select spotlights (with 60º beam angles) for house sidings (instead of flood lights). They produce wide conical beams that can be positioned between windows. The resulting nighttime effect is a symmetrical pattern of light and dark across the house. If the house were flooded with light, then it would look to be daytime – not nighttime. Go to products.

    Exceptions – OK to use flood lights on sidings for these applications:
    • When the light will be projected through plant material (shadow effect). The resulting shadows provide enough light/dark contrast to evoke nighttime.
    • When the light will be projected behind unlit plant material (silhouette effect). Again, the dark foreground speaks to the night.
    • When the wall is highly textured, such as rough stone or brick. The textures result in dark shadows so the contrast is night-like.
  • Second Stories
    Mount flood lights on gutters or roof edges to illuminate second stories. (See the VOLT® Gutter Mount.)
  • Retaining and Freestanding Walls
    Unlike house facades, these long low walls can be washed with light. There are enough nearby dark surroundings to ensure a nighttime feeling. Select flood lights (and position them) to use as much of the projected light as possible (without spilling too much light into the sky). Go to products.
  • Garden Beds
    Stake-mounted spotlights are not well suited to illuminate garden beds or low-lying plant material. Instead, use small flood lights to illuminate these plant regions. Position the lights so they do not put hot spots on individual plants. Go to products.
  • Bushes and Small Trees
    Flood lights are ideal for these plants. The lights can be positioned fairly near the plant’s base without creating a hot spot. Go to products.
  • Stands of Multiple Trees
    When you want to illuminate a stand of several trees or a line of trees, use a few powerful flood lights instead of many spotlights. This greatly reduces the number of fixtures needed. Note, this is a good technique for trees along the back or sides of a property; not good for trees in in the midst of a yard – since these powerful floods may create a glare problem for residents and guests. Go to products.
  • Other Landscape Regions
    For other regions, such as sitting areas, decks, patios or lawn areas, use flood lights mounted from above – but only when very wide coverage is needed. Be sure to mount them at an angle greater than 45º from horizontal, and at a height greater than 20 ft. Go to products.
  • Security
    VOLT® flood lights are good replacements for typical wall mounted security lights. The energy consumption will be much less, and you can select models with lower light levels. In addition to our 12v and 120V models, this category includes solar security lights. Go to products.
  • Commercial Use – Signs, Facades, Public Areas
    VOLT® produces flood lights in both low voltage (12V) and line voltage (120V). Both types are suitable for commercial applications such as illuminating signs, facades, and public use areas. Other popular lights for commercial use include wall packs and solar security lights. Go to products.

VOLT® Flood Light Styles

Cast Brass Flood Lights

With low to moderate light output, these compact cast brass flood lights are ideal for illuminating garden beds, bushes, low walls, and other landscape applications. These models are all lamp-ready (use replaceable lamps). View Cast Brass Flood Lights.

PAR36 Flood Lights

These lights use replaceable PAR36 lamps – available up to 60º beam angle. They do, however, come with frosted and diffusion lenses that can widen their beams considerably. Also, because the lamps are very wide (about 6”), the wide part of the beam starts lower than with spotlights of the same beam angle. For example, the beam of the VOLT® Big PAR 36 Flood Light is very wide at the bottom, making it more suitable for uplighting a low wide bush. Even better, these flood lights are available as well lights, so their wide beams start at ground level. View VOLT® Big Par 36 Flood Light. View VOLT® Ground Hog Par36 Well Light.

LED Flood Lights - Rectangular

This series of flood lights all feature LEDs built into the fixture body. They project much higher light levels than other types. This makes them ideal for applications that require high illumination levels such as uplighting stands or lines of trees, and commercial or security applications. View VOLT® LED Flood Lights (Rectangular).

LED Flood Lights – Wall Packs

Primarily for commercial use, these outdoor flood lights feature high lumen output and photocell control. View VOLT® Wall Packs.

Solar Security Lights

For both residential and commercial use, these wall-mounted LED flood lights include a solar panel (mounted separately) and highly adjustable motion-activated control. View VOLT® Solar Security Lights.

Spotlights with Diffusion and Frosted Filters

Even though the maximum beam angle for our spotlights is 60º, most of them can be modified with the addition of filters. Several diffusion and frosted filters are available to widen the beams – effectively creating a flood light. The disadvantage is that these filters absorb and/or reflect a significant amount of light – reducing the useful light output and lowering the energy efficiency. It’s usually better to select a flood light made for the purpose.View diffusion and frosted filters

Questions? Contact our lighting specialists – 813-978-3700 or email.