Smart Outdoor Lighting: Options for Every Situation

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As our homes continue to get smarter, you may have begun to look outside the house at opportunities to smarten up your entertaining areas and security. Smart lighting systems create the opportunity to tailor the mood of any space to the occasion, and outdoor spaces can benefit just as much.

For this to be effective you’ll likely need a selection of products to suit your particular landscape design, and these need to be able to work together. Tying them to a smart home platform is the best way to do this rather than relying on individual remote controls for each brand.

Finding outdoor smart lights that meet this requirement can be more difficult, but we’re starting to see a wider range of options hitting the market for outdoor use. I’ve put together a selection of the best outdoor smart lights in each category taking into account their integration potential, extra features, and build quality.

Types of Outdoor Smart Lights

When anyone thinks of outdoor lighting, they’re probably going to zero on in one of several distinct types. Everyone sees this differently, so I’ve gone ahead and broken this down into a few distinct categories to make sure we cover all the bases and perhaps give you some ideas you may have overlooked.

Smart Bulbs

The most basic type of smart lighting is the smart bulb. While most of these are intended for indoor use, there are a few smart bulbs that are outdoor rated as well. These weather resistant models can be used in outdoor light sockets as normal, while being sure the smarts don’t get fried by dust and moisture.

Outdoor Lighting Fixtures

These are the typical decorative, hard wired lighting fixtures attached to the outside of buildings and other structures. Typically using standard light bulbs internally, they offer an appealing enclosure that protects the light socket from the elements. While you can use any standard fixture and simply insert a smart bulb, there are also some bespoke outdoor options that integrate LED lighting to create form factors that bulbs can’t do.

Flood Lights

This type of lighting is typically mains powered, although may still be low voltage. These lights are intended to provide wide angle, bright lighting over a large area and can be found in white or colored, wall mounted or garden varieties.

Path Lights

Also called pedestal or bollard lights, these freestanding devices are designed to be placed around paved areas and walkways to provide a minimum lighting level for moving around at night. Naturally some of these have gone a step further and offer color and brightness adjustment as well.

Feature Spotlights

These lights are the opposite of floods, in that they put out a narrower light throw for highlighting garden features and adding ambiance to your outdoor space. They vary in brightness and may be battery powered or hard wired. While typically placed in the garden, some can be optionally wall mounted to act like down lights.

String/Strip lights

This one is a bit more open, as these decorative lighting options can come in various forms such as rope lights, light strips, or strings of individual lights. These have been the last to gain some degree of smarts, but we’re starting to get a few options now.

Benefits of Smart Outdoor Lighting

As with indoor smart lighting, there are various benefits to be had by integrating your outdoor lighting with a smart home platform. Be it Apple’s HomeKit, Samsung’s Smart Things, or even just connecting a popular digital assistant like Alexa or Google Assistant for app or voice commands, you can gain convenience, remote control, and automation capabilities that can enhance your home entertaining and your home security.

A nice benefit that most integration options will give you is some sort of scene control. This enables you to set up a range of smart lights and appliances to activate with a single command or button press. You could, for example, set a bunch of smart outdoor lights to various preset colors, turn on a water feature and start a playlist on your outdoor speakers.

At the other end of the spectrum, you can leverage other smart devices in automation rules. Security cameras, motion sensors, or contact sensors on gates or doors can trigger certain smart lights automatically, and then turn them off again when not needed. This can both act as a deterrent to intruders and provide better lighting for capturing nighttime activity on security cameras. Similar smart features can help save on energy usage as well.

Some of the smart landscape lighting options below will include a built-in motion detector, which is a nice bonus, where others will require a separate device. Depending on your smart home platform you may be able to integrate third party motion sensors to control your lights, use security cameras themselves as motion triggers, or you’ll need to stick with the same brand if they offer a sensor, such as Philips Hue or Ring.

Up Front Considerations

While many smart outdoor lighting products do use plain Wi-Fi for remote control, there are some which use other wireless protocols like Zigbee. ZigBee in particular is the endorsed protocol of choice by major global lighting brands as it offers a number of benefits for whole home lighting installations. In order to connect a ZigBee system to your home network so it can be controlled, you’ll need a compatible smart hub of some kind.

Each smart lighting brand obviously has their own smart hub which can offer some value-added features but, as it’s a recognized standard, you can use certified ZigBee devices together with other brands. Generic hubs like the Smart Things Hub, Wink Hub, and Amazon’s Echo Plus can handle this or you can choose the one that goes with the lights you are looking at.

Other proprietary systems, like Ring’s security platform, also need a smart hub specific to their system which does a similar job. In these cases you’d be looking at them if you had, or are planning to have, a greater investment in that system.

Finally, when looking at the smart outdoor lighting options below, keep in mind that the systems they can integrate with will greatly affect the functionality and benefits you can get from them.

Whether you just want to control them with your voice assistant of choice or want to leverage the power of a more comprehensive smart home platform, I’ve taken care to note the available options for each product.

Smart Outdoor Lighting Bulbs

If you’re looking to smarten up existing outdoor light sockets and fixtures, simply swapping in a smart light bulb is an obvious answer. Depending on the location of the socket, you may get away with any brand of comparable indoor lights, and I’ve certainly done this with Philips Hue lights where the socket is under cover without any issues, cobwebs and all.

The build quality of the light bulb you select will impact how reliable this is, so your mileage may vary, but worst case you’ll have a dead bulb and can just replace it. Placement is not usually a huge issue as the sockets will be on the outside of the house and probably well within your Wi-Fi range, unlike some of the other smart outdoor lighting categories. But what if you need something a little more weatherproof?

#1 - LIFX Nightvision

#2 - Cree Outdoor PAR38

#3 - Sengled Smart LED

Best Overall

The best candidates here are from LIFX with their LIFX Nightvision smart bulbs (there’s a BR30 down light version as well). Not only are these specifically outdoor rated but have the added bonus of being able to put out infrared light in the appropriate frequency for night vision security cameras when they are ‘off’.

Unlike traditional bulbs that you might put in a ‘can’ fixture, these LIFX models are designed so that the lit part protrudes neatly outside the can to give much better horizontal light throw without sticking out too far. This might seem like it would look odd but it’s quite handy, especially if you’re making use of the infra-red capability.

This means you can set the lights up to switch to IR mode when not in use at night, providing much improved night vision capabilities for any outdoor security cameras you may have. They are available globally, they work on Wi-Fi so there’s no hub, and there’s pretty good smart home integration included with support for Alexa, HomeKit, and Google Assistant.

Best Value

For a more affordable smart bulbs, you can look at the Cree Outdoor PAR38 bulb. It’s a full color 120V PAR38 dimmable flood light that supports Alexa and Google Assistant. You’ll get an impressive 1200 lumens of light output, and it runs on WiFi, so you won’t need a hub. It’s simple, but gets the job done for a bargain price.

Standalone Option

If you’re looking for something with some in-built smarts without the fuss, the Sengled Smart LED Light Blub is a good option. It’s relatively inexpensive and includes its own built-in motion sensor and ambient light sensors. It only comes in a 120V version, and doesn’t do color, but you can set it up to turn on automatically for 90 seconds when it’s dark enough outside. That’s pretty much what you want in a security light, and you can still use it as an ordinary light by double flicking the switch to keep it on.

Smart Outdoor Lighting Fixtures

While you can use a smart bulb with any standard outdoor lighting fixtures, there are some options with integrated lighting that offer some advantages in terms of weather resistance and different aesthetics. These options do tend to be more expensive, but it’s worth looking at what these devices offer over and above the standard light bulb option.

While they do need a smart hub, Philips Hue lights offer a wide range of these types of fixtures, and I rank these highly because of their extensive platform integration options, reliability, and the powerful and slick Hue app. If you want quality smart outdoor lighting that works with Siri/HomeKit, Wink, Nest, Smart Things, Logitech or just about any other platform, then you can’t go wrong with Hue.

#1 - Philips Hue Econic

#2 - Philips Hue Lucca

#3 - Novostella Smart Security

Best Overall

Philips Hue have added a number of stylish fixture options to their range of outdoor smart lights, with versions for just about every market. Styles can vary a bit between countries, but for me the best option is the Philips Hue Econic. This light fixture offers a form factor that provide a uniform light across the entire surface rather than the more centralized glow of typical fixtures.

The Econic uses a metal and glass construction that will go the distance and are fully outdoor rated. It has a fairly low profile and can be either wall or ceiling mounted which offers a good level of flexibility, and it’s a full color light source as well, configurable with the Hue app or through the impressive and industry leading range of smart home integrations via the Hue Bridge.

Best Value

I’m keeping an eye on the market for other smart fixtures, but the competition that existed a year ago has dried up. As such I’ve picked another Hue light fixture, the Philips Hue Lucca. The Lucca offers a classic wall sconce style with a tune-able white color temperature, but not full color options. This keep the cost down and could well be fine if you're only interested in illumination over flair. With broad international availability, extensive smart home integration, and solid build quality, it’s a good deal for the price.

Best Security

Another form of smart outdoor fixture is the security light. Novostella has a great smart option with their new 45W Smart Security Light which features 3 adjustable LED light panels with a whopping 4500 lumen light output. The lights themselves output a bright white light with a tunable color temperature between 2700K and 6500K, and the built-in motion sensor can turn the lights on for a configurable period between 5 seconds and 1 hour.

You can control the lights via the Novostella app, Alexa, or Google Assistant, and you won’t need a hub as the work over WiFi. They have a solid rating of IP65 for weather resistance but are only available in North America at this stage. Use the code SECURITY to get 20% off from the Novostella store.

Smart Outdoor FloodLights

Flood lights have two key purposes, lighting an area for use, and lighting and area for security. There are options focused on each specifically, but there’s no reason you can’t use one for the other, depending on how you control them.

A good color smart outdoor floodlight can easily create a vibrant color wash across your yard or house, and you can configure them through your smart home platform to deliver different scenes for different purposes, all without having to set up individual light colors every time. Only one of these picks works on Wi-Fi, with the others using more IoT focused protocols via a hub. For other Wi-Fi options see our WiFi Flood Light buyers guide.

#1 - Novostella 60W Floodlight

#2 - Ring Solar Floodlight

#3 - Hue Discover

Best Overall

For me, Novostella is the go-to brand for Wi-Fi compatible outdoor washer floods. The Novostella 60W Blaze LED Floodlights are a great starting point. They come in a 2-pack offering good value and deliver the goods when it comes to area lighting. With a wide throw at a huge 6000 lumens light output and full RGB colored light they are a great outdoor floodlight. They’re made of die cast aluminum and IP66 rated so easily able to handle the elements and be placed in the garden or wall mounted as required.

Novostella has used Wi-Fi and compensated for possible distance issues by including a built-in external antenna for greater signal strength. While they have their own app for remote control, they also integrate with Alexa and Google Assistant, which opens up the automation capabilities nicely.

Best Security

Another good option is the Ring Solar Floodlight. It pairs two 1200 lumen LED flood lights (for adjustable positioning) with a built-in motion sensor. These are just white lights with a purely security focus and great for lighting up the yard or driveway. The lights are powered from an internal rechargeable battery pack that is kept topped up by the included solar panel, so these are easy to install wherever you need them.

These integrate with Ring’s smart security platform, which requires a Ring bridge. While not a good option on its own, it does open up other Ring smart outdoor lighting options and enable Alexa control. With the Ring bridge you can integrate the floodlight with other Ring devices, including other Ring lights, if you are interested in building a more comprehensive security system.

Along a similar vein, you might want to integrate the security camera with your flood light, and Ring also offers this option with their Ring Floodlight Cam. A hard wired upgrade from the solar model, it includes an HD Wi-Fi security camera as well as the motion sensor, floodlights with 1800 lumen bright white light, and a siren included that can be manually activated from the app. The camera option can integrate with the Ring security system without needing the bridge.

Best HomeKit Option

If you’re looking for HomeKit support your only dedicated outdoor floodlight option is Philips Hue’s Discover LED Floodlight. You can, however, integrate Ring’s products if you’re willing to have a look at setting up Homebridge which has an excellent Ring plugin available.

The Discover is at the pricier end of the spectrum and requires a recessed electrical box as it clamps to the wall itself. This has been a problem for some buyers where that’s not an option, so keep that in mind. Otherwise, you get the broad integration benefits of the Hue bridge and a good amount of light with full color control. Philips claims the output is equivalent to two PAR38 halogen bulbs, but you’ll get a more even saturation due to the flat panel design.

Smart Outdoor Path Lights

The smart light options in the path lights category are limited, but quite varied. While there are plenty of path lighting options, ones with smart home integration are harder to find. Here are my top three picks.

#1 - Philips Hue Calla

#2 - Ring Pathlight Solar

#3 - XMCOSY+ Path Lights

Best Overall

Looking at the top tier path lights, we have the Philips Hue Calla. A full color, low voltage bollard design with easy, flexible, wired installation, and a wide lighting area at up to 600 lumens. Via the Hue Bridge the Hue range offers probably the best integration options of any smart light on the market, so whatever you want to connect it to, there’ll be a way. It’s ZigBee powered, so if you have another compatible bridge, you’ll be good to go with that as well. The cost and need for a bridge is offset by this integration flexibility and a quality fit and finish.

This option is worth a look if you need integration with a platform other than Amazon or Google, or you are an existing Hue user. Notably you can run five of them off one power supply, which simplifies installation of multiple lights in the same area as you’d typically have with this type.

Best Value

For something more targeted, the Ring Pathlight Solar is an interesting option. These small path lights are designed specifically for placement along paths for safety purposes and run on a 3.7V lithium-ion battery charged by a solar panel on top of each light. As with the floodlight above, you need the Ring Bridge to control them, but they also include a little built-in motion sensor so they can turn themselves on as needed.

With the bridge you get Alexa integration and the ability to tie your Ring security lights together with other Ring devices. In a pinch you can also charge the battery in these via a micro-USB cable as well.

Alternative Option

XMCOSY+ has a range of outdoor lighting options and have recently added this dual-head path light set to their range. They’re low voltage path lights with an IP65 weather rating and an output of 400 lumens for each head. The heads themselves can be rotated vertically to double as feature spots or (limited) floodlights which gives a lot of versatility.

The app supports a range of useful features on top of the usual light and color settings, such as schedules and power-on modes and they can be integrated with Alexa for voice control and routines. The transformer is only compatible with North American sockets right now. Each comes with 4 lights, and a 13ft extension for a total run of 48 feet.

Smart Outdoor Feature Lighting

Similar to the path lights, smart outdoor lights in this category are tougher to find, but we now have a few of viable options to look at.

#1 - Philips Hue Lily

#2 - Novostella Blink

#3 - XMCOSY+ Spot Pack

Best Overall

Again at the top tier, we have Hue’s entry with the Philips Hue Lily Spot. This is a feature light specifically focused on ambience and soft highlights. Like other spots, it’s not massively bright at 600 lumens, but is plenty bright enough for the role (just don’t expect it to be a flood light).

It’s a full color, low voltage device that benefits from Hue’s extensive integration options, again through the Hue bridge. This is a good option if you want the integration, a solid fit and finish, plus the ability to run up to five lights off one 24V power supply.

Best Value

Novostella has again offered up the only real alternative to the Philips Hue Lily with their Novostella Blink spotlights. Taking a difference form factor more akin to a floodlight, they nonetheless provide a narrower coverage to fill the feature light category with full color wash lighting. The lights use a unique ‘Bluetooth mesh’ technology along with an external antenna allowing you to control them from the Novostella app up to 80 ft away.

Functions include the ability to sync with music on your phone, set up control groups, and up to 8 predefined scenes. Alexa and Google Home support is available for voice control, but only with the additional Smart Wireless BT Mesh Hub sold separately.

Budget Option

For a cheaper spotlight option, XMCOSY+ has their new adjustable garden spotlight set. You’ll get six 300 lumen spots with adjustable garden stake mounts, a low voltage transformer and cabling to run to around 64 feet in total. The lights and the transformer are rated to IP65 so they’re safe to place outdoors.

The XMCOSY app provides a good range of control options and scheduling, but you can also integrate with Alexa and Google Assistant over Wi-Fi for more unified control.

Smart Outdoor Lighting Strips

Rope and fairy lights have been an outdoor entertaining staple for a long time, and now we’re starting to get some smart lighting options that can integrate with our scenes and triggers. Some of these are just app controlled via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, so we’ll focus on the more integrated smart outdoor options.

#1 - Philips Hue Outdoor Lightstrip

#2 - Sylsmart Neon Rope

#3 - Rxment Strip Lights

Best Overall

Philips Hue outdoor light strips feature a sealed flexible diffuser design which produces an even, glare-free light along the entire length. They are quite pricey but are backed by a 2-year warranty and offer the best integration options through the Hue Bridge, which is required. These come in two fixed lengths, at 7ft (2m) and 16ft (5m) and can’t be extended due to being watertight (They are rated at IP67). Outside North America this could be your only option.

The design is a bit controversial as it’s quite thick and may not be suitable for all installation scenarios where you would need a thinner profile or tighter curves. But where you can attach it under wall coping or along a path edge, it can be quite striking, providing a solid continuous strip of light (unlike indoor light strips which often have visible individual LEDs and need to be hidden away).

Best Value

The Sylsmart Neon Rope Light has RGB Independent Control, which means each LED can be set to a different color. This allows for a range of cool effects such as moving colors and patterns, which can also by synchronized to your music. It’s cheaper than the Hue option, but only supports Alexa and Google Assistant for smart integration. While you can mount this under railing or something similar to product a nice glow effect underneath, it can also be shaped in full view to create a wide range of cool feature wall designs.

This strip communicates over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so you won’t need a hub. It comes with mounting clips and adhesive pads to make for easy installation, can be cut to length at defined spots, and is IP67 rated. You can get it in 10 ft or 16 ft lengths and, using the app, it can be synchronized to music using one of 9 music modes.

Budget Option

For the budget minded, this simpler light strip from Rxment offers basic color selection via Alexa and Google Assistant with a generous 50ft length. The app provides music sync functions, and it’s rated to IP65 so should be fine if you mount it above ground level. You’ll get two strips in the box, so you’ll have plenty of run to cover any installation scenario you might have. It works over Wi-Fi, so there’s no hub to worry about, and it has great customer feedback ratings.

Non-Light Alternatives

With all these smart lights to choose from, it can be easy to overlook an alternative way of smartening up your existing exterior lighting fixtures; smart switches. You can do this in two ways depending on the light concerned, either replacing the light switch connected to that socket with a smart switch or using a plug-in smart outlet to control low voltage spots or fairy lights.

Smart switches aren’t always an easy option, though, as they will almost always require switch wiring that includes a neutral wire. Some homes don’t have this as a simple switch doesn’t need it to break the circuit to the light socket. If your switches have such a wire (usually white), or if you use one of my recommended no-neutral smart switches, then swapping out the old switch for a smart one is fairly easy, and most can be done DIY.

Aqara Wall Switches

Aqara Wall Switches

Most of these smart switches are very similar, fit standard in-wall junction boxes, and will physically turn the power on and off to the light. An affordable and versatile choice is Aqara’s line of Wall Switches which come in single and double paddle configurations, and both neutral and no neutral options. All support Alexa, Google, and HomeKit, but do need Aqara’s Zigbee hub to connect them to your network.

If you’re looking for a no-hub smart switch option, the Treatlife Smart Switch offers a simple WiFi connection and supports Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control, so long as you have a neutral wire.

Smart outlets on the other hand will work fine with any plug-in low voltage lights you have, just be sure to get a weatherproof model. Using an indoor device, even under cover, will probably end in failure as humidity and temperature extremes will adversely affect the electronics. If you’re in a bind, you can try and fit them in a weatherproof enclosure, but heat may still prove an issue.

I have done this with an Eve Energy as I had no other options available for what I needed to do. It works but tends to stop responding on hot days. Switching it off at the wall for a day always brings it back to life, so far at least. The point is, without using a correctly outdoor rated device your mileage will vary, and your warranty won’t cover it.

There are quite a few outdoor smart outlets on the market supporting various combinations of Alexa, Google, and IFTTT, but my pick would be the Meross Outdoor Plug. It supports Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit, and provides two 110V outlets. Simply plug it into an outdoor socket and get smart control of your existing plug-in garden or fairy lights right away.

Frequently asked Questions

How do you install smart outdoor lighting?

This depends on the type of light you're working with. Many garden lighting options will be low voltage. This means they use a 12V or 24V line running from a power pack of some sort. These simply plug into an outdoor outlet, and you run the low voltage cable to wherever you need.

More permanent fixtures will need hard wiring, either in the ground or on the wall, and will probably require some degree of additional work to install mounting brackets or run electrical cable. Of course, if you have an existing socket, you can simply choose outdoor rated smart bulbs and be done with it.

Are there smart downlights?

Yes, absolutely. These come in a variety of sizes, and for outdoors you’ll typically be looking at a PAR38 or BR30 with an outdoor rating. For smaller smart LED down lights like GU10 or below, you’ll need to ensure they are well protected from the elements as none of these are currently rated for outdoor use.

Which smart outdoor lighting is best for a garden?

The two most common forms of smart lights for garden use are the path light and the feature spotlight. These can both provide ambient illumination as well as highlighting features of interest and are best used in combination.

Flood lights can certainly be used, and colored lighting with these can be very striking, but it’s a bit more of a brute force approach. The combinations you use would depend on your layout, objectives, and power outlet availability as you can typically get multiple path lights and spotlights to run off one transformer.

How do smart outdoor lights work?

Smart outdoor lighting generally requires permanent power in order to power the lights themselves and the communication radio they use to talk to your smart home and enable voice control. There are some exceptions that are battery powered, but these are much more limited in both brightness and capability.

Many smart devices, including most smart lights, use Wi-Fi to communicate, but some rely on lower power mesh protocols like ZigBee or Z-Wave to provide fast, reliable control signals over longer ranges. By communicating with a smart home platform, smart features like scenes, schedules, timers, and sensors can be used to automate and improve the efficiency of your home’s lighting.

Conclusion

When looking at smart lights or smart landscape lighting there are quite a few sub-categories with different uses to consider. Some of these categories have little to offer the smart home enthusiast, but we are starting to see some movement in this space. Philips Hue lights, while at the top end of the price scale, has charged full speed ahead into this market with a diverse and rapidly growing array of options across all of these categories.

Their comprehensive smart lighting system, build quality, and integration capabilities tend to make them my first choice for the best smart outdoor lights in each case. While it’s hard to ignore them in favor of lower cost alternatives, they are expensive and we’re starting to get some viable options on the cheaper end.

XMCOSY+ is one such brand trying to cover a similar range now, but of course they have limited integration support and far fewer models on offer. LIFX is dipping their toe in as well, with a different take on outdoor bulbs with their nightvision range. These are a bit more limited as they only cover existing fixtures, but they have the unique feature of boosting infra-red to aid outdoor security cameras when they’re ‘turned off’.

Overall, we do have options in each of the smart outdoor lighting categories, but maybe not with the connectivity you were hoping for. Even so, considering the alternatives may be worth your while and open up more opportunities for other expansion as well.