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The exterior lighting makes it possible to highlight the house and its surroundings. Review of its multiple roles and different ways of lighting a garden without breaking the bank

choose garden lighting

Long reduced to its simplest expression (a wall above the front door, a projector near the garage, terminals defining an alley...), the outdoor lighting was yesterday still subject to dimensions and constraints of supply (230 V) incandescent lamps.
This is no longer the case today. Halogen lamps and LEDs gave birth to more compact luminaires, and more numerous. A large part being powered by very low voltage, or even by solar energy, their location enjoys greater freedom. And lighting needs are finding a more qualitative answer than ever.

Define your needs

In most cases, outdoor lighting has three functions:

  • to welcome,
  • report
  • and showcase.
Other roles may be added, such as identifying, dissuading, producing an aesthetic effect, etc. But, technically, marking an alley or a terrace has nothing to do with illuminating a large tree or a facade.
Similarly, the operating time can vary: from a few tens of seconds, the time to enter home, to several hours in the case of a lighting of approval. All of which affect the type of lamp to be provided or its mode of release. The reception of the occupants of the house as visitors is the main function of outdoor lighting.
Depending on the distance to be traveled and the configuration of the premises, it is usually relied on the terminals and appliques and much less on the halogen projectors, which dazzle easily.

Sensitively detect

These various luminaires can integrate presence detectors or be slaved to a remote detector, placed appropriately.
It is also possible to power terminals and projectors via a gate operator. They are triggered at the opening of it, so also in broad daylight.
This is not the case of luminaires controlled by a detector: it is able to take into account the ambient brightness (thanks to a sensitivity adjustment). It also has a duration setting. As for the detection field, it can be reduced (to limit parasitic triggering) using a mobile cache.

Mark discreetly

A series of conventional terminals equipped with compact fluorescent lamps can perfectly mark an alley or a staircase. But they tend to give way to other types of lighting, more personalized: standing lanterns, large pebbles or forms of animals that restore at dusk solar energy received in the day.
Other models, often minimalist, are embedded in a wall or a wall that borders the path. They are well suited to contemporary architecture. Like most recessed floor lights.
These have long existed in the form of relatively large products, because of the size of the lamps, mounted in a waterproof housing to be buried.
Today, these are primarily small spots, designed through the massive arrival of LEDs in home lighting. Their success also stems from the popularity of patio decking, which is particularly suitable for integration. Thanks to their low consumption, LED spots are also indicated for long-lasting lighting, for example around a swimming pool.
At the antipodes of more or less contemporary style luminaries that are multiplying, there are wall sconces and lamps that do everything to remind their ancestors: lanterns hanging or worn eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Even extinct, their decorative value is real. Most are no longer made of iron or brass as in the past, but cast aluminum, a material (molded) cheaper to work and able to receive a durable finish (powder coated). All these luminaires can receive halogen lamps, fluocompactes or LEDs of substitution.

Outdoor luminaire safety: IP and IK ratings

Mandatory in the new as in renovation, standard NF C 15-100 governs the whole of a low-voltage domestic electrical installation, inside and outside a house.
Its purpose is to prevent the risk of electrocution by imposing strict conditions in the implementation of 230 V outdoor luminaires.
These products must meet minimum requirements for electrical safety.
They are defined by IP indices (NF EN 60598-2-1: Outdoor lighting) and IK (NF EN 50-102: Shock resistance of device envelopes). Their values ​​are ranked in order of increasing performance.
Those of the IP index consist of two independent digits: one for the resistance to the penetration of foreign bodies (from 0 to 6); the other for watertightness (from 0 to 8).
The values ​​of the IK index range from 1 to 10. It sometimes happens that the IP and IK indices are associated. Example: IP 55-9 (IP 55 and IK 09).
The standard (NF C 15-100) recommends choose at least IP 24 or 25 and IK luminaires from 2 to 7.

How to install a 230 v line?
To power garden lighting in low voltage (230 V), the standard NF C 15-100 requires drawing a line from the main board (or a secondary board). Protected by a switch or high-sensitivity differential circuit breaker (30 mA) and a 10 A branch circuit breaker, this line consists of a type U 1000 R2V or FRN 05 VV-U cable. The section of its three conductors (rigid core) can be limited to 1.5 mm2 up to 20 or 30 m. Beyond, better to choose 2.5 mm2, especially if you plan one or two outlets for the tools (mower, hedge trimmer...). The standard requires the cables to be circulated in a red corrugated sleeve of TPC type Ø 40 or 50 mm (NF EN 50086-2-4). Buried under at least 50 cm of soil (85 cm under a walkway), it is first embedded in 20 cm of sand and then covered with a red plastic warning grid (NF T 54-080). Each luminaire is connected in a waterproof terminal block integrated into its base, which ideally will be fixed on the ground by a masonry anchor.

Which electric classes?

Like all other electrical devices, luminaires are distinguished by classes corresponding to their operating voltages and insulation characteristics. In a garden, only class 1, 2 or 3 appliances must be used.
Either because their metal body has a grounding (class 1, marked by a vertical line over three horizontal lines), or because they have double insulation (class 2: two concentric squares) thanks to a non-conductive envelope. Finally, class 3 (three vertical lines in a diamond) are the safest since they are supplied with very low safety voltage (SELV), that is to say at 12 V, via a safety transformer (NF EN 61558).

Lamps: understand the label

energy labels on outdoor lamps

Entered into force in 2001, the labeling of lamps indicates, among other obligatory mentions, the number of ignitions and extinctions (example: on / off 10 000 x), the percentage of luminous flux after a given time (example: 10 s, 60%) and, for compact fluorescents, the color temperature in degrees Kelvin (K). The lower the value, the more the light is "hot". Added to this is the mercury content (mg of Hg) and the service life (indicative since only one in two lamps has the obligation to reach the figure announced by its manufacturer). Labeling also includes the energy efficiency class: from A to G in order of decreasing performance. It results from the ratio between the luminous flux intensity in lumens (lm) and the power required (the consumption in W). This is mentioned as a reference point for fluos and leds, with its equivalent for an incandescent lamp (example: 15 W = 65 W).

The opinion of an expert *
In one to two years, the leds will probably have eclipsed the halogen lamps in outdoor luminaires, including projectors. But a LED light will always be a more complex product... Its reliability depends directly on the quality of its electronic components. "
* Thierry Leroy, marketing director at Theben.

Outdoor lighting: how to choose?: lamps

Some ranges of luminaires display original shapes and a palette of varied or changing colors, with a supply of 12 V (very low voltage) or integrated battery for some models.

Halogen, compact fluorescent, led: which bulb for the garden?

exterior lighting

Even though today's lighting can be high-tech, fixtures do not need to come out of a sci-fi movie. In other words, an old wall lamp can always be equipped with a modern lamp.


How it works?
The halogen gas contained in the quartz envelope of the lamp regenerates its filament. This delays its disintegration, so the blackening of the envelope and the decline in light output.
His advantages
It brings an intense white light and exists in many variants: of small dimension (with base G4 or GY 6,35), very fine ("pencil" with double base R7s), with double envelope and standard base (E14, E27, B22). It can thus replace the old incandescent lamps in any luminaire. The versions for spotlights with screw lamps have a reflective envelope. Others, for small diameter spotlights, are housed in the center of a dichroic or parabolic reflector (Ø 35, 41.5 or 51 mm). Its disadvantages It consumes and heats a lot compared to a compact fluorescent or led, while lasting significantly less (about 2000 hours). Models without reflector or double jacket must be handled with a cloth.

Compact fluorescent

How it works?
Placed against the inner wall of the tube or tubes under the pressure of an inert gas (neon), an electroluminescent powder transforms into light the electric discharges emitted from one end to the other of the tubes by their electrodes. These are fed with very low voltage by an integrated transformer (ballast).
His advantages
It heats little (35 to 40° C) and lasts at least 5,000 hours. Very economical, it offers a chromatic variety that ranges from warm white to cold white with, in the latter case, reduced power to comparable brightness.
Its disadvantages
Some models reach their full light output only after one or several tens of seconds. Except version designed for this purpose, it does not support short-term uses. It contains a small amount of mercury (max. 2.5 mg since 1 January 2013) and must be discarded at collection points for recycling.

The led

How it works?
A light emitting diode (LED) consists mainly of a chip (semiconductor) that emits light radiation to a small reflector (cup), which directs it in a direction and at a certain angle. Both are usually protected by an envelope (epoxy resin lens) round, square, rectangular, colorless or tinted, diffusing or not.
His advantages
Very low power consumption, a service life of at least 20,000 hours, a luminous efficiency that continues to grow and a miniature size (less than 1 cm on the side). Hence the possibility of having several on a small surface to obtain a luminous flux comparable to that of a halogen lamp. It is thus in the form of replacement lamps for almost all luminaires and integrated with external projectors.
Its disadvantages
It has hardly since the development of white versions high or very high brightness. But it remains an electronic component whose manufacturing quality (extremely variable depending on the manufacturing area) directly affects the service life and performance.

Outdoor lighting: how to choose?: outdoor

Coming from collective residential housing, recessed luminaires provide a relevant answer to a well-known problem: lack of space! But they do not lack elegance so far.

Outdoor lighting: how to choose?: lamps

In the habitat, it is probably in the form of spots that leds are the most widespread. The ratio size / brightness plays it is true in their favor. And moreover they do not heat: which is always welcome next to the plants!

Solar energy

Solar energy

Wireless and without reproach
Not easy to light a path lined with massive or rockeries with conventional lighting: either their cables run on the ground, or you must break everything to bury... So choose solar lights. These spots, terminals or "pucks" LEDs are sold for some in batches of 3 or 4 GSB and garden centers. You install them wherever you want and they turn on themselves at night, then go off at dawn.

Spots to bury

the spots in the gravels

Even in gravels
It is perfectly possible to light massive and aisles without using terminals (including small). This, thanks to the spots to be buried. Some can be oriented vertically and stuck in the ground thanks to a special foot (supplied). Just bring the floor of the driveway or parterre to the same level as their upper part. And again, with the TBT, no need for power: their cable does not need to be buried deeply.

Submerged spots

underwater spots in the garden

Aquatic staging
During the day, a loving pond will look at it... The night too, if it is lit up! It's simple, with submerged spots or just emerging on the surface. More compact than their elders thanks to LEDs, they see themselves very little in broad daylight... The operation in TBT superfi ciellement bury their cables to make them invisible and to pass the mower without worry. These spots are however quite expensive, better buy them individually and judge the result as and when.


use compact fluorescent bulbs in the garden

Suited to multiple requirements
While the habit has largely imposed the installation of compact fluorescent lamps almost everywhere at home to maximize energy savings, some are reluctant to equip their outdoor lighting: on the grounds that they can not withstand the cold or repeated ignitions and extinctions...
This is indeed the case for a number of them. But others are designed specifically for these uses and withstand temperatures down to -30° C. Naturally, they must be protected and take place in closed and ventilated luminaires.
We are only spoiled for choice with such compact lamps.

Outdoor lighting: how to choose?: choose

Built-in blind

Built-in blind

The ideal lighting for a terrace
Many terraces are lit by spotlights under the overhang of the roof. But given their position, their luminous flux decreases as one moves away from the facade. This handicap can be overcome by means of a awning: some integrate ramps of LEDs under their arms. The result is very successful aesthetically and also, functionally speaking, since the illuminated area extends up to the plumb of the load bar.

LED wall lights

LED wall lights

Illuminated facades
Lighting facades has always produced rather spectacular effects. But it was necessary until now to rely on powerful enough sources, usually halogen, which are not known for their economy... The projectors in question may however give way to LED wall lights: there are now some whose brightness does not need to be large (here: 460 lm) to properly illuminate a facade.

Remote detector

Remote detector

Enslaving multiple sources
The built-in halogen spotlights are still widely used to illuminate large areas, such as those that sometimes extend in front of a garage, shed or barn... Problem: their detectors must be oriented almost horizontally to have a maximum range. The reflector with which they are attached follows the movement, which does not fail to dazzle the newcomers. The solution is therefore to separate sources and detector (s). Remote (s), this or these will be placed at the height of man to trigger sources (without detector) directed, they, down. But it requires to redo the wiring.

Simple garlands

light up the garden with light garlands

Every day a festive air
The solutions are not lacking to give a festive character to a terrace or a space surrounded by trees close enough: just hang some garlands electric. Various lengths, they plug directly into a wall outlet. Some consist of a series of optic luminous globes, others simple sealed cases. These are to be equipped with bulbs designed for the outside, otherwise they would burst in the event of a shower.

terraces with integrated light spots

Spotlights designed to be recessed into wood or composite decking boards are now added with blades provided with integrated lighting. And in addition, these small luminaires work with solar energy!

Video Instruction: How to Buy Outdoor Lighting Buying Guide - Lamps Plus