Outdoor spotlight buying guide

Outdoor spotlight buying guide

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

Guide written by:

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

Flush spotlights can provide a functional and attractive light source in the garden. Deck and ground lights look great around a pool and can be connected to 240V mains power or use a low voltage system. On the other hand, solar lights don't require any electrical wiring. Read on to find the ideal outdoor spotlights.

Important features

  • Designs and materials
  • Halogen, CFL or LED
  • Light output
  • Voltage
  • Ingress protection
  • Features
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Outdoor spotlights: how to choose the right ones

Les principaux critères de choix d’un

Flush or recessed spotlights like deck and ground lights should be chosen according to their location and your lighting requirements.

In addition to picking a spotlight design and material – which will of course depend on your personal tastes – you'll also have to choose a light bulb among the many options on offer. Halogen bulbs are the most powerful but also the most energy intensive. LED bulbs are more expensive to buy but last longer and consume much less energy. CFL bulbs produce a gentle light and are moisture-resistant.

Other important factors to consider are light output, voltage and, of course, the ingress protection or IP rating of the bulb which should be chosen to match the location of your outdoor light and how exposed it is.

Once you've decided on all that, you can think of different features such as motion sensors, colour changing bulbs or smart connectivity for remote control from a smartphone.

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Deck and ground lights

Outdoor spotlights: designs and materials

Les formes et matériaux du spot de terrasse

While round spotlights and downlights are most common, it is possible to fit decks or patios with square or rectangular lights.

You will also have a choice of material. Plastic spotlights provide the least expensive option but they do also tend to be less durable, especially when used outdoors. Another popular option for decks is stainless steel which is known for its moisture resistance. Aluminium lights offer another lightweight and stylish solution. Finally, glass offers the most stylish finish for spotlights recessed in timber decking.

Choosing a light bulb for your outdoor spotlights

There are three options when it comes to light bulbs:

  • halogen bulbs;

  • energy saving or CFL bulbs;

  • LED bulbs.

Halogen light bulbs

Le type d’ampoule pour un  spot encastré extérieur

Halogen bulbs offer natural-looking lighting but give off a lot of heat and consume a lot more energy than other bulbs.

Energy saving bulbs

Le type d’ampoule pour un  spot encastré extérieur

Energy saving or CFL bulbs produce soft lighting but, most importantly, do not consume a lot of energy and have a particularly long lifespan of about 10,000 to 20,000 hours. Another important advantage of these bulbs is that they are moisture-resistant.

On the downside, these bulbs are more expensive to purchase than halogen bulbs. They also struggle when turned on and off repeatedly – though this shouldn't be an issue for deck lighting.

It's also worth noting that energy saving bulbs do have a slight delay when turning on.

LED bulbs

Le type d’ampoule pour un  spot encastré extérieur

LED stands for light emitting diode. These bulbs are the most expensive to buy but they come with no end of benefits! They boast low energy consumption, do not emit heat, have a long service life and come in small sizes making them ideal for flush mounting in walls or decking.

However, these bulbs are less powerful than halogen bulbs.

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Energy-saving light bulbs

Deck lighting: what light output do I need?

Recessed spotlights can vary in terms of light output. This is indicated in lumens and should be chosen to match your lighting needs. To light up a patio or deck, go for about 100 to 250 lumens. While you may need a bit less for path lights, you will need a greater light output for a front door.

This table should help you to compare the power of different types of outdoor spotlights.

Traditional bulb


Energy saving



25 watts

15 watts

6 watts

2 watts

220-250 lumens

40 watts

25 watts

10 watts

5 watts

410-470 lumens

60 watts

40 watts

15 watts

7 watts

700-810 lumens

75 watts

45 watts

18 watts

9 watts

920-1060 lumens

100 watts

60 watts

25 watts

12 watts

1300-1400 lumens

Standards and ratings for outdoor spotlights

When it comes to outdoor lighting, the standards in place are of course more strict than a regular indoor light.


Les normes et réglementations à respecter pour un spot de terrasse

Just like with indoor lighting, there are a couple of options in terms of voltage.

  • You can install 220 - 240V mains supply spotlights in the garden but they must be armoured or installed inside armoured conduit and buried to a depth of at least 50 cm below ground.

  • Low voltage systems, on the other hand, require a transformer to transform mains voltage (240V) down to 12V. However, they do not need to be buried at a particular depth.

IP ratings

Les normes et réglementations à respecter pour un spot de terrasse

All outdoor lights require a specific IP rating. This rating provides information on solid matter protection, as indicated by the first digit, and protection against liquids, as indicated by the second digit.

The solid protection rating ranges from 0 to 5 from zero protection to protection against all types of dust. Liquid ingress protection ranges from 0 to 8 with maximum protection providing protection against continuous immersion under pressure for long periods. If your outdoor space is sheltered a IP23 spotlight will do. Otherwise, go for a minimum rating of IP44 for a wall light and IP67 for a ground light.

Ingress protection

IP rating

First digit

Protection from solid matter

Second digit

Protection from liquids


No protection

No protection


Protected against solid objects ≥ 50 mm

Protected against vertically falling drops of water


Protected against solid objects ≥ 12.5 mm

Protected against vertically falling drops of water when tilted at 15°


Protected against solid objects ≥ 2.5 mm in diameter

Protected against sprays of water up to 60° from the vertical


Protected against solid objects ≥ 1 mm

Protection against water splashed from all directions


Dust protected

Protected against jets of water


Dust protected

Protected against powerful water jets from all directions


Protected against temporary immersion


Protected against continuous immersion under pressure for long periods

IK ratings

Les normes et réglementations à respecter pour un spot de terrasse

IK ratings indicates the light's resistance to impacts, the risk of which is higher outdoors. This rating ranges from 00 for no protection to 10 for protection against impacts up to 20 joules which means the light should survive impact from a weight of 5 kg falling from 40 cm or 2 kg dropped from 1 metre.

Outdoor recessed spotlights: additional features

Outdoor lights can come with all sorts of different features to match your desires and your budget.

Solar powered lights

Spot encastrable d'extérieur : les options disponibles

Solar lights do not consume mains electricity and don't need to be wired to your home.

Swivel spotlights

Spot encastrable d'extérieur : les options disponibles

Swivel recessed spotlights can be used to change the direction of the light beam to highlight the area of your choice.

The swivel range can vary:

  • low angle: 10 to 30 degrees; ideal if you want to highlight a specific area of the patio or a decoration;

  • standard: 30 to 60 degrees; perfect for lighting a table or to flush mount into a ceiling if you have a covered outdoor space;

  • high angle: 60 to 120 degrees: to light up an entire deck or patio.

Motion sensor spotlights

Spot encastrable d'extérieur : les options disponibles

If part of your outdoor space is also a passageway (used to enter or exit the house, for example), a motion sensor will work to turn on the outdoor light automatically.

Colour changing spotlights

Spot encastrable d'extérieur : les options disponibles

A particularly stylish option, this type of spotlight provides a number of colour variations, depending on the model, as well as different light speeds and effects (fade, strobe, flashing, etc.).

Smart spotlights


Smart outdoor lights can be controlled remotely from a smartphone or tablet which can be used to switch the light on and off or change the light colour or effect.

You can even opt for a smart light with Bluetooth to play music for a romantic evening on the patio or even for a party!

More information

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Guide written by:

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

First of all, my studies have nothing to do with decoration or DIY as I was specialised in management. My passion in DIY started 5 years ago (very recently!) Everything started when we bought a house to renovate from floor to ceiling. As I’m a self-taught person, I started working on different house projects both inside and outside. My husband helped me but the student soon overtook the teacher! And as there are a lot of green spaces in Wales, gardening tools have no secrets for me. My friends and family often come to me for advice when it comes to DIY. Today, I want to share this knowledge with you!

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