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Outdoor lighting doesn't just allow you to see your yard in the dark. The right lights can set the mood, create a sense of ambiance, enhance your security, and even help repel bugs. "Smart lighting is quickly becoming the preferred way to light your garden and rightly so," says Jeroen Dalderop, co-founder of Innr. "With smart lighting, it is easy to create the perfect mood for every occasion. It is also a more energy-effective solution, easy to install and control, wherever you are."
After speaking with Dalderop and Sam Levene, Director at LLI Design, about what to look for when buying outdoor lights, we researched and judged dozens of bulbs on their cost, brightness, smart capabilities, and energy efficiency to find the best outdoor light bulbs to suit your needs.
Our best overall pick is the Philips Hue White Outdoor, a smart, affordable, bright, and energy-efficient light bulb that ticks almost every box you could want from safe and effective outdoor lighting.
Here are the best outdoor light bulbs.
Best Overall: Philips Hue White Outdoor
Offers a range of white tones
Can be controlled via voice
Requires a Philips Hue hub
Philips Hue hub sold separately
Who else recommends it? CNET also picked the Philips Hue White Outdoor.
What do buyers say? 85% of 1,500+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 5 stars.
Many regard the Philips Hue outdoor light bulbs as some of the best on the market, and, within this range, its White Outdoor light bulb is a top seller. The dimmable LED bulb combines smart features, including remote controls and automation, with durability for an affordable price.
Once connected to your network, you can control the Philips bulb using your voice when used alongside any Amazon Alexa, Google Nest, or Samsung SmartThings hub. There is a dedicated Philips Hub app where you can manage these connections. This app is also where you can set up automations. The bulb is bright—offering up to 1300 lumens—and it’s great for ambient lighting when dimmed and floodlighting when on full beam. It also offers a range of tones from cool to warm white, depending on your mood. These options bring versatility to the bulb in ways that non-smart and non-dimmable bulbs often fail to do.
Elsewhere, it has a weatherproof design, and Philips claims it will last up to 25,000 hours. The one downside to the Philips White Outdoor bulb, and it’s quite a substantial one, is that the light’s smart features won’t work without a Philips Hue hub. The Hue hub is available separately, and purchasing one can more than double the initial outlay. The lower starting price of the bulb softens this blow, and if you can afford the hub, it’s worth the extra money, but this may not be for everyone’s budget.
Best Budget: Sengled Dusk to Dawn Light Bulbs Outdoor
Great value for money
Natural light is easier on the eye
Design isn’t waterproof
Not many smart features
The Sengled Dusk to Dawn Outdoor light bulb offers standout features for a low price if you're on a budget. It doesn't have the smart capabilities of other lights on this list, but it contains sensors that elevate it above a standard, non-smart bulb. Namely, a photocell sensor that detects light intensity at dusk and dawn. As light levels drop in the evening, the light turns on. As the sun rises, the light goes off.
The bulb offers 1200 lumens but doesn't have a dimmer function. The light's color more closely resembles daylight to soften the brightness and make it easier on the eyes. The output is softer and more appealing than the artificial white light used on other bulbs, making this option suitable for indoor and outdoor use. While marketed as an outdoor light, be aware that this bulb is water-resistant but not waterproof. For example, it won't work as an exposed floodlight, but you can use it under a cover or similar.
Best Smart: GE CYNC Smart Outdoor Flood Light Bulb
Smart features without hub
Millions of colors
Control via voice or app
Scheduling and remote access
Occasional connection issues
Incompatible with Siri
There are an increasing number of light bulbs offering smart features, yet few do it as well as GE’s CYNC range. The most significant plus point is that you don’t need a hub to access these features; they’re all controlled on the CYNC app. These 1300-lumen bulbs also work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, which means you can control them using your voice via any Alexa and Nest device.
The GE CYNC bulbs we’ve selected for this list are the Smart Outdoor Flood Light bulbs because they offer millions of color options, including a tunable white spectrum. Besides using the app to change the lighting and set the mood, you can schedule the bulbs to turn on and off. They can also be remotely accessed. Previous CYNC lights we’ve tested often dropped the connection. GE appears to have solved this with this latest version, where the issue was much less prevalent.
Best Floodlight Bulb: GE LED+ Outdoor Security Flood Light Bulb
Easy to install
Can connect to multiple GE LED+ bulbs
Warm white light softens the brightness
These 1300-lumen LED+ outdoor light bulbs from GE tick many boxes. They are the same size and shape as PAR38 Halogen Floodlight bulbs, meaning they easily replace existing setups. They’re also more energy-efficient—offering the equivalent of 90-watts for just 15-watts. While 1300 lumens is bright enough for floodlights, the warm white light from these bulbs is soft, which dulls the impact somewhat.
Fitted into each bulb are a motion sensor and a photocell sensor. Once the motion sensor activates, the light will stay on for five minutes. The light will then turn off and disable the motion-sensing features at dawn before turning them back on at dusk. These bulbs are the easiest outdoor light bulbs to install and set up on this list. Our one complaint is that the motion sensor's sensitivity can be temperamental.
Best Dimmable: Sunco Lighting Vintage LED Edison Bulbs
Range of color options
10-100 percent dimmable range
Vintage, Edison shape
Requires an LED-suitable dimmer switch
Dimmable bulbs are great if you’re looking to quickly and simply change the ambiance of your yard. You can dial down Sunco’s Vintage LED Edison bulbs to as low as 10 percent of their full 800-lumen brightness. They're available in various color temperatures, including cool, soft or warm white, daylight, or daylight deluxe. They’re also waterproof.
Edison bulbs get their name because they look like the early bulbs invented by Thomas Edison. They are typically incandescent bulbs with filaments, but Sunco’s version uses LED technology instead. This tech makes them longer-lasting—Sunco promises 15,000 hours—and more energy-efficient, offering the equivalent of 60-watts for just 8.5. One downside is that these bulbs are on the large side, and you’ll need to have a dimmer switch fitted to use their dimmable features.
Best Bug Repelling: Hansang A19 LED Bug Light Bulb
Suitable for indoor and outdoor use
Keeps bugs at bay
Soft lighting suits smaller yard
No smart features
Having outdoor light bulbs is great until bugs get drawn to their moon-like hue. To prevent this from happening, you can buy yellow bulbs, such as the LED Bug Light Bulb from Hansang. The bulb doesn’t repel the bugs. Instead, the yellow light is less bright than standard outdoor lights—at 600 lumens, equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb, which means the bugs won’t mistake it for the moon and use it to plot their path. Yellow also sits outside the visible wavelengths for some insects.
The softer lighting emitted from these Hansang bulbs makes them less suited to large outdoor parties or for particularly dark yards. However, they are great for more cozy, intimate gatherings. These bulbs are also suitable for indoor use and might be particularly beneficial in the bedroom because of the warm color temperature.
Best 360-degree: GTAREN Corn LED Light Bulb
Bright, 360-degree light
Long, 50,000-hour shelf-life
May be too bright for smaller spaces
If your yard, garage, or workshop is dark, or you want more illumination than standard bulbs, we recommend the GTAREN Corn LED outdoor bulb. It gets its name from its resemblance to an ear of corn. Its design emits 360 degrees of 6,500-lumen light, and this bulb’s brightness is equivalent to a 400-watt incandescent bulb. It achieves this all while consuming just one-tenth of the energy.
GTAREN promises that the bulb will last 50,000 hours, which is the equivalent of 23 years when used for an average of four hours a day. There is a very slight delay (around a second) between flicking the switch and the lights reaching full brightness, but this is a minor complaint, as is the fact that these bulbs are large. They’re not suitable for small spaces because of this size and just how bright they are.
Best Motion Sensor: Sengled Motion Sensor Light Bulbs
Multiple lighting modes
Sensitive motion sensor
Fully waterproof design
100-degree field of view
Few compatible third-party devices
No smart features
These motion sensor bulbs are the latest generation of Sengled’s outdoor lights, and each contains a passive infrared (PIR) sensor. This sensor measures the infrared (IR) light coming from objects passing across its 100-degree field of view. When in Auto ON/OFF mode, the PIR sensor detects motion and triggers the 1050-lumen bulb to turn on. If it detects no further movement, the light automatically turns itself off after 90 seconds.
In this mode, the light will automatically turn off at sunrise, too, thanks to its built-in photocell sensor. Alternatively, when in Always On mode, you manually turn the bulb on and off, disabling the motion-sensing features. This bulb is sensitive and might respond to blowing leaves. We like this feature, but it could be distracting if the light is outside a window or similar. Unfortunately, the motion sensitivity isn't adjustable. The bulb’s light is also on the soft side, especially if you want to use it as a floodlight. On the plus side, the bulb is waterproof, not just water-resistant.
The Philips Hue White Outdoor is our top pick because it offers smart features, affordability, and energy efficiency in various bright white tones. If you’re buying outdoor lighting for security reasons, the GE LED+ Outdoor Security Floodlight Bulb combines brightness with motion sensing and dusk-to-dawn technology for a great price.
What to Look For in an Outdoor Light Bulb
Deciding how bright you'd like an outdoor light to be will make a big difference in the bulb you choose. Lumens measure the brightness of an LED bulb, with 800 lumens being equivalent to a 60-watt bulb. Opt for a softer light bulb with fewer lumens if you want mood lighting. But if you’re looking to light up the night after the sun goes down, a higher-powered bulb will be a better fit.
Motion and Security Features
Some outdoor bulbs are great for security purposes, thanks to built-in motion sensors that will turn the light on if an object passes by. Others will illuminate the night with 360-degree light distribution, making it easier to see shadowy corners or the edge of your yard. Some models can be programmed to turn on automatically at dusk, or you can use an app to turn them on and off from your smartphone. These options for automation can give you more peace of mind and increase the comfort and security of your yard.
If you’re looking for an outdoor light bulb, you may need to think about types of potential weather exposure. While some bulbs are considered weatherproof and can stand up to rain and snow, others need protection from the elements. "From a technical perspective, always make sure that the fitting you are using has the appropriate ingress protection rating (IP rating). This tells you how waterproof the fitting is for the location in which you are going to install the fitting," says Levene.
"Some fittings will need [a] lower IP rating if they are in a sheltered location such as under a soffit or eaves. Whereas other fittings will need more if they are in a more exposed location." Levene also recommends getting help from an electrician "who should be able to advise on requirements and local regulations.”
Are lumens the same as watts?
Lumens are a measurement of brightness, while watts tell you how much energy the bulb consumes as it burns. LEDs—which are much more energy-efficient than incandescents—are labeled with output (lumens) rather than energy usage (watts).
As a guideline for choosing bulbs, here’s how the two compare:
- 40 watts = 450 lumens
- 60 watts = 800 lumens
- 75 watts = 1100 lumens
- 100 watts = 1600 lumens
- 150 watts = 2600 lumens
How many lumens is best for an outdoor bulb?
As with indoor lighting, you might want a range of light intensities for your outdoor bulbs, depending on their intended use. While the final answer depends greatly on your specific outdoor area, the following guidelines can help with determining the best light intensity for outdoor bulbs.
- Steps and walkways: 100 to 200 lumens
- Security lights: 700 lumens
- Hardscape lights, such as outdoor patio lighting: 50 to 200 lumens, depending on the area
- Landscape lights: 50 to 300 lumens, depending on the area or object being lit
- Motion sensor lights: 700 lumens
- Floodlights: 700 to 1300 lumens, depending on the area or object
- Pool lights: 200 to 400 lumens
Are LED bulbs good for outdoor lighting?
As the most common bulb type sold today, you’ll find LED bulbs in a wide selection of sizes, shapes, outputs, and colors. Thanks to their long life and energy efficiency, you won’t have to change burned-out bulbs nearly as often as you did with old-school incandescents, and even leaving the porch light on all night long won’t excessively run up your electric bill. That makes LED bulbs a great choice for all types of outdoor use, including safety lights, patio or landscaping lights, pool lighting, and even string lights or other fanciful mood lighting.
Can all light bulbs be used outdoors?
Standard light bulbs can be used outdoors as long as they are protected from contact with rain or snow. For exposed locations, use an outdoor light bulb that is wet rated for outdoor use.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Victoria Woollaston is a freelance science, technology, and lifestyle editor with more than a decade’s experience testing and reviewing consumer products. She’s had first-hand experience with the majority of outdoor light bulbs in this list, as well as a number of others from different manufacturers and of different types. Her home uses a motion-activated floodlight on the front and pedestal lights combined with dimmable overhead lights in her yard.
To learn what to look for when choosing outdoor light bulbs, Woollaston spoke with Sam Levene, Director at interior design and architecture studio LLI Design, and Jeroen Dalderop, co-founder of Innr. Using these expert insights, she looked for outdoor light bulbs that were easy to set up and that conserved energy without sacrificing brightness and features. She also judged them based on design, price, and smart capabilities. She prioritized outdoor light bulbs that would suit most home and garden setups and which offered more than just light to make them better value for money.