How to choose exterior lights?
February 3, 2007 8:41 AM   Subscribe

I need to choose new exterior lights for my home. Will the bright (get it?) minds of Mefi help me?

I am having the exterior of my home redone (new siding, windows, gutters, etc.) and need to replace the 30-year-old sodium floodlights (there are no streetlights in my township, so exterior lighting is both a safety and security issue). Questions:

How much light (wattage? candles? lumens?) do I need? I have 4 60-watt sodium fixtures now (2 in front and 2 in back) and I like the amount of light I get but not the color.

What kind of light should I get? I'm thinking the choice is between halogen and flourescent, right? I am tempted by FloureX lights, but it looks like I could only buy bulbs from them, which worries me.

Things that might help in answering:
I have a good-sized split level house on about 7/8s of an acre.
I'm pretty well isolated from my neighbors' houses so I don't think the lights will impact them.
The lights will go under the eaves on the two-story part of the house and I'm afraid of heights, so duration is a prime consideration.

Thanks. (also, first time poster, so please be gentle. I did look through the other lighting filter questions and didn't think they got to what I'm asking)
posted by qldaddy to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure I have a lot of info to offer, other than to say that Halogen bulbs will probably give the nicest color, but they will be the most expensive to operate.

Sodium lights are one variety of high intensity discharge (HID) lamp, which are much more efficient than halogens, and can generate a lot more light than most fluorescents for a given sized fixture. You probably have low pressure sodium lights, which are the most efficient, but also throw ugly monochromatic light. I'd look at the other HID options, you can probably find something you like.
posted by Good Brain at 10:44 AM on February 3, 2007

Another advantage of HID lamps is that the bulbs last decades. Why are you changing your sodium lamps?
posted by stereo at 1:44 PM on February 3, 2007

Of all the lamp types available, discharge lamps give you easily the most illumination bang for your electricity buck, and have the longest service lives.

If the light you're presently hating is that baleful sodium yellow, do look into High Pressure Sodium discharge lamps. The light is still yellowish, but contains many more colour components than the monochromatic LPS yellow, and is certainly not unpleasant.
posted by flabdablet at 3:45 PM on February 3, 2007

The sodium lamps are big, ugly, old and give off a "baleful sodium yellow" (I love Mefi b/c the folks here throw around "baleful" and "High Pressure Sodium" in the same sentence).

I've heard that if you touch the High Pressure Sodium bulbs with your hand they won't work. True? Not true?
posted by qldaddy at 5:17 PM on February 3, 2007

qldaddy writes "High Pressure Sodium bulbs with your hand they won't work. True? Not true?"

Oils on your hands can cause uneven heating of the envelop which can cause the bulb to explode.
posted by Mitheral at 8:21 PM on February 3, 2007

Compact fluorescent floodlights are quite efficient and long lasting. They are probably your best choice. Put them on motion and daylight sensors to save even more money.
posted by publius at 8:49 PM on February 3, 2007

maybe the info i've read is outdated, but i recall halogen lights labeled as potentially dangerous and susceptible to fires. fires are the number one cause of home loss/damage in the u.s., so, you know. maybe not those.
posted by boygirlparty at 12:11 AM on February 4, 2007

boygirlparty, halogen lamps are fine if they are in proper housings with proper clearances.

stereo, replacing 30 year old fixtures propably makes sense. HID lamps use a ballast, and ballasts have definitely become more efficient in the last 30 years.

Publius, HID generate more light per watt than a CFL bulb. They are also easily available in the 100+ W range. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a CFL flood light above 60-70W.
posted by Good Brain at 12:26 PM on February 4, 2007

Please make sure they point down and not in anybody's window.
Light pollution and light trespass are ugly, ugly things.
posted by bink at 4:53 PM on February 4, 2007

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