How To Develop Lighting Plans For Outbuildings

Property owners who live in the country have to worry a lot more about outdoor lighting than their city-dwelling counterparts. In the city, an entry light to illuminate the steps and door is often enough to provide light and ensure safety.

In the country, most families also have to worry about lighting plans for outbuildings. They can read on to find out how to select the perfect fixtures and figure out where to install them for maximum effect.

Step One: Determine Goals

The best place to start isn’t with a comparison of individual lighting fixtures. First, property owners should sit down and figure out why they want to illuminate their outbuildings, to begin with.

Finding the right lighting for your barn interior will require a very different set of considerations than choosing security lights for the outside of a garage, for example. Starting with a written statement of goals will make it easier to find light fixtures that form a perfect fit.

Step Two: Take Measurements

Once property owners know what outbuildings need illumination and where the extra light will be most useful, it’s time to take some measurements. Different light fixtures require varying amounts of space.

Most traditional barn lights, for example, are gooseneck lamps, which extend further out from the wall than other types of lights. That’s just fine for actual, full-sized barns since there should be more than enough room to go around, but it won’t do for illuminating a small shed where space is in high demand.

Getting accurate measurements may require heading up on a ladder to reach the area where the new fixture will be placed. Use a measuring tape to measure the length and width of the available wall space, then estimate the distance that the fixture will stand out from the wall.

If there are low-hanging eaves, follow the Pythagorean Theorem to determine the length of the final leg of the triangle and its angles. All that measuring may take some extra time, but it will save some serious hassles when it comes time to check out particular light fixtures.

Step Three: Learn About Options

Technically, property owners can put whatever kinds of lights they want up in their barns, sheds, and other outbuildings. However, it would make little sense to install chandeliers or wall sconces in these environments. It makes far more sense to stick with proven lighting types such as the ones described below.

1. Gooseneck Lights

Gooseneck lights are sturdy fixtures that feature a curved arm and a wide head that casts downward light. They get their name from the shape of the arm, which looks a little like a goose’s neck.

These fixtures are so popular among rural homeowners that they’re sometimes referred to as “barn lights.” Gooseneck lamps provide strong lighting for space directly beneath the wall-mounted fixture, and if they’re installed high enough on the wall, they provide substantial illumination.

2. Canopy Lights

Canopy lights are rated for outdoor locations, which can give property owners with wet or dusty barns some extra peace of mind. They’re installed on ceilings instead of walls and come in all kinds of styles and lumen outputs.

3. Wall Pack Lights

Wall pack lights are more common in commercial spaces, but they’re also suitable for barns. Wall pack lights are mounted closer to the ground than gooseneck lamps and are especially helpful for illuminating walkways. Many horse breeders place them on the walls of their stables to supplement the illumination from canopy lights in the aisles, to give just one real-world example.

Step Four: Think About Output

Fixtures designed for illuminating outbuildings can usually accommodate high-wattage light bulbs that provide plenty of light. It’s still a good idea to consider factors like lumen output, though. Bright lights come with the advantage of illuminating larger spaces, but they also draw more power.

Sometimes that’s an absolute necessity, such as when property owners want to provide general illumination for large barns or garages. When this is the case, make sure to buy fixtures that are able to accommodate high-wattage bulbs.

There’s also a good compromise for property owners who need to provide a ton of illumination on a relatively low monthly budget: LED lights. Most LEDs are measured in watt equivalents to make it easier to compare them to incandescent and compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. They draw just 10 watts of power for every 14 watts drawn by CFLs and are six times more energy-efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.

Step Five: Find the Right Vendor

Don’t head to a big-box store to buy lights for outbuildings. It’s far wiser, and often more economical in the long run, to find a reputable vendor that specializes in crafting durable lighting for both indoor and outdoor use. Garages, sheds, barns, greenhouses, and other outbuildings almost always experience greater temperature and humidity fluctuations than residential homes.

Plus, buying fixtures from a company that focuses on quality will ensure that they will last a long time without causing property owners unnecessary problems.

Step Six: Hire an Electrician for Complex Installations

Unless they have dedicated industry experience, property owners shouldn’t try to run wires for new light fixtures at home. It’s much safer to hire a commercial electrician, especially in situations like the ones being discussed here.

Most outbuilding lights, whether they’re inside or outside the buildings, are installed far above head height. If there’s anything worse than attempting DIY electrical installations, it’s trying to do so at height.

The Bottom Line

If property owners follow the steps outlined above, they’ll wind up with beautiful, practical lighting for barns, sheds, workshops, or any other space outside their homes. Residents and guests will feel safer and more secure when they’re working outdoors at night, and intruders will think twice about attempting a break-in if they know they’ll be seen doing it.

Plus, the entire complex will make a much better impression when neighbors or newcomers are driving down the road. It’s worth taking the time to come up with a solid plan and spending the money on high-quality fixtures.