Navigating through the many types of landscape lighting fixtures can be confusing. The following definitions should help clarify the various fixture types and their common applications.
Spotlights – They are also known as uplights, directional lights or bullets. Downlights are also a type of spotlight. Spotlights are very versatile landscape lighting fixtures because they are able to support a large variety of bulbs, beam widths and wattages. Uplighting trees are one of the most common uses for these lighting fixtures. The most popular landscape lighting spotlighting techniques are highlighting, silhouetting, shadowing, grazing, moonlighting, spotlighting and flood lighting.
Path & Area Lights – Path lights will aim the light down and to the side of the fixture, lighting up paths and walkways. Area lights also aim the lights down, however, they light up the entire area around the fixture. They can be used to light pathways, but also work well to highlight other areas of the home such as a landscape bed. Be sure to pick a path light or area light that is aesthetically pleasing since they will be the most visible.
Flood lights – A great way to add more security and to light up your yard at night is to install flood lights. Even though spotlights can act as flood lights, they are not specifically made for that purpose. Flood lights commonly have a much higher wattage and wider angle than spotlights. They are often used in 120 volt or commercial applications.
Wall Wash Lights – This is a type of flood light is specifically designed to provide fairly even illumination across a wide surface. They are used for any application that seeks to fully illuminate a surface, rather than applying an oval- or wedge-shaped illumination.
Well Lights – Well and in-grade lights include any fixture installed so the majority of the fixture is below ground (grade) level. They are used in applications where the fixture must be in a turf area (so lawn mowers can go over them) or for hardscape applications where foot or vehicular traffic may pass over the fixture. Another reason to use well lights is when the light beam needs to start very close to the ground. For example, when lighting a column it is ideal for the illumination to start at the base of the column. A staked directional fixture is taller so its illumination starts between 6-12 inches from the ground; a well light can illuminate surfaces only a few inches from the ground.
Deck Lights – Since most decks are adjacent to railings, most deck lights are designed to attach to fence posts. They are also useful for mounting on the sides of nearby structures and stairs.
Step Lights – Steps are composed of two main parts – treads (the flat horizontal pieces) and risers (the vertical pieces attached the back of each tread). The treads may be illuminated by fixtures mounted to the risers, or by fixtures mounted to side walls. Some of the same fixtures used for deck lighting also work for steps. So both types are included in the step lighting category.
Hardscape Lights – Hardscapes refer to landscape features made of stones, bricks, tiles or other hard materials. The most common hardscapes are patios, walkways, driveways, stairs, walls and outdoor kitchens or fireplaces. Most hardscape lights are those that attach to the underside of capstones and overhangs. They are easy to hide and provide subtle floodlighting of hardscape surfaces.