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Let’s Shine a Light on Exterior Downlighting

By May 25, 2023No Comments

Exterior downlighting is the use of lights on the outside of a building that are installed higher up and pointed so that they shine down, illuminating the building’s walls or the area around the building itself. There are many different forms that this lighting can take, from recessed or “hidden” recessed LED downlights that make a building seem to glow too large to “spotlight” type lights that brighten up a wider area for increased visibility. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the things that might make downlighting a good choice for your lighting system.


Why downlighting?

So why might you want to consider downlighting for your home or business? There are several reasons we’ll want to consider. First, downlighting looks nice. When it comes to exterior lighting techniques, it’s important to remember how visible external fixtures can be. Downlighting can be a subtle way of lighting up a building without creating harsh exterior shadows. Imagine a building with lots of nearby foliage and trees, for instance. Lights shining up onto the side of the building from a short ways away will make it brighter at night and help it stand out, but they’ll also likely create a stark contrast between areas that are and are not shaded by plants, casting large, dark shadows onto the wall. 

Similarly, lights set in the ground, even ones against the base of the building’s walls, are more likely to become obstructed, either by something growing nearby, leaves or dirt, or any number of things that could end up on the ground. Downlighting fixtures avoid both of those potential problems by shining down onto a wall, usually set into the roof or overhang above the wall or installed as small protrusions near its top. These lights will not end up covered in fallen leaves every Autumn, and they won’t be competing with trees and branches for lighting opportunities. They’re right on the wall already, and shining directly onto it, creating a uniform brightness that will make the building stand out when it’s dark outside.


Why LED?

For many reasons, LED lights are an excellent choice for almost any lighting situation. For example, LEDs use less energy and therefore less money than traditional bulbs. Additionally, LED lights don’t run nearly as hot as traditional bulbs, meaning that they are typically safer (when installed and powered properly) because they are much less likely to cause fires through overheating. Both their cheaper cost and safer running temperature make LED lights a great choice for lighting systems that will remain active for long periods of time or even nearly constantly. 

When it comes to exterior downlights specifically, those same benefits are very useful. Downlights will normally be used during the night, sometimes extending into dusk or dawn; depending on the season and where you live, this could mean they’ll be turned on for many hours at a time, and mostly during hours when people will either not be awake (at home) or will not be present (at a business). The safer and cheaper nature of LED lights makes this longer operation period much more doable, with less need to worry about the lighting systems. Many LED lighting fixtures only need replacement after several years (commonly around 5 or 6 years), even with frequent or constant use, which makes them even more convenient for outdoor settings where changing out lights is more difficult.


The ideal spacing for exterior downlights

The ideal spacing for downlighting fixtures will depend on a few factors: first, what kind of lighting fixtures you’re using; second, how bright you want the illuminated area to be; finally, whether or not you want gaps between the lit areas, and how wide those gaps can be.

When it comes to the lighting fixtures, downlighting comes in many different shapes and brightnesses. Some are long strips of multiple bulbs which all shine downwards in a row, covering a couple of feet of a building’s exterior fairly uniformly. Others are more like spotlights and will focus on a specific area of the ground or walk to which they’re pointing.

The brightness of the area you’re illuminating will depend on how close together the lights are as well as how bright each fixture is individually. You might want the entire wall of your building lit up consistently, or you might want a regular pattern of lights that shows enough of the wall to make it clear without making it quite as bright as day. The distance between lights also affects how the ground near your building or light fixture will be illuminated and whether you’ll have an effect more like periodic streetlights or more like an interior with uniform lighting.

In short, there isn’t just one ideal spacing that works for your lights. You’ll want to consider your options carefully and see what effect it might create to have the lights at different distances from each other, and go with a solution that gives you the look you want.


How to create a specific ambiance

Downlighting doesn’t have to just apply to a structure! It can also be used on exterior landscape lighting to highlight key features of your property or to illuminate darker zones of the space. 

The ambiance of your lighting will depend greatly on the temperature of the lights, for one thing. Warmer or more yellow and orange lights have a very different feeling than cooler or blueish and whitish lights. Warm lights tend to be more relaxing, while cool lights are more focused. Warm exterior lights can make your home or business look more inviting, while cool exterior lights might make it look more impressive (or even imposing, in extreme cases). 

Lights that are more strongly colored (reds, greens, blues, and so on) will have a different feeling still, and might be more suitable for a festive or party setting where you can match the colors to the occasion.  


No matter what kind of lights you’re looking for, you can get help from JellyFish Lighting today! Our lighting experts can work with you to plan and install your ideal home lighting system. Get started today with your free quote.