A group of friends toasts one another in an outdoor dinner lit with LED Exterior Smart Lights
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Make Your Yard Safer and Entertain Better with Smart Exterior Lighting

Steve Hansen
October 9, 2023

As within, so without. That saying wasn’t originally meant for your home’s lighting, but it applies nonetheless. Just as the internet of things (IoT) has upgraded your home’s interior lighting with enhanced functionality and security, your exterior lighting can benefit from the same types of upgrades with smart exterior lighting. Whether you’re going for greater home security, a better party vibe, or both, smart exterior lighting can help!

What Is Smart Exterior Lighting?

What does that term mean, anyway? In this context, we’re talking about just a few lighting options:

  • Smart exterior bulbs: you can plug a smart bulb into a standard exterior fixture and gain a lot of functionality.
  • Path lights: forget about those junky little sticks from the home center. Smart path lights are a major upgrade in functionality and quality.
  • String lights: Party time, baby! Put up some high-quality smart string lighting and enjoy a more festive atmosphere anytime.
  • Spotlights: Motion-activated lighting can add both security and convenience along walkways and at doorways. Or you can point them anywhere you want.
  • Landscape lighting: Add aesthetic appeal, such as uplighting specimen trees and highlighting planting beds with smart spotlights.

Let’s take a look at these options.

Smart Exterior Bulbs

Sometimes you don’t need to make a major change with a light fixture; you just want a greater level of control of the light it puts out. A smart bulb will do that. This one from Feit is only $18, has good ratings, and is compatible with Alexa and Google Home Assistant. You can use the app to program a schedule for this and other Feit bulbs to turn on and shut off. You can also use the app or voice control to change the light color for a different mood! The bulb itself is 11 watts, which is a 90-watt equivalent with 1000-lumen output. More on smart light bulbs here.

Path Lighting

This type of lighting is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. These solar-powered lights don’t put out a lot of light—just 80 lumens for Amazon’s pick—but that’s enough to illuminate a walkway for greater safety. They also have a motion sensor so you’ll know that they’ve detected motion. You can control this system through the app and also through Alexa. And because they’re solar powered, you don’t have to run wires or fuss with batteries. Just place them where they will get enough daytime sun to recharge the internal battery.

Solar powered path lighting
Adobe Stock

String Lights

Get ready for parties and holidays with some string lighting! This set from Feit is 24 feet long and has 12 color-changing, dimmable bulbs. As you would expect, you can control the lights using the app, Alexa, or Google Assistant. Made from heavy 18/5 cable, you can plug up to 23 sets together!

Philips also makes popular string lights with their Hue line. This one packs 100 mini-LEDs onto 26 feet of cable. You can program the lights to coordinate with music and arrange the colors in different gradients. You can control the lights with the app, and use voice control with Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.  


If you have dark areas around your property that you’d like to light up, a motion-activated spotlight is perfect for the job. This unit from Ring, one of the top brands, is battery powered so you don’t have to fuss with running wires to multiple lights. With 400 lumens, they’re moderately bright, but not like a floodlight. These lights can go anywhere within communication range, including in trees in your yard. They use four D-cell batteries, so that could be a maintenance issue for you from time to time. If you place the spotlights in high-traffic areas where motion is activating them often, you’ll need to replace the batteries more often. The manufacturer states that the battery life is “1 year under normal use (8-10 light activations a day, 30 second duration).”

Some brands like Ring and Philips also use a “bridge,” which is sort of like a router for all the devices from that brand. It connects wirelessly to each device and lets them communicate with each other. That’s how you integrate these spotlights with a Ring doorbell or camera, for example.

Another type of spotlight is designed for landscape lighting. This light from Philips is hardwired, so you will have to run wiring to an outlet to power each light. The light itself offers all the features you would expect from smart lighting, such as the choice of changing colors, and you can control all the spotlights from the app, or from Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant. It’s handy to schedule on/off times for landscape lighting, as those lights are really only effective from dusk to dawn. You might also want them to turn off at bedtime to save energy (and save wildlife like birds.)

A beautiful garden lit up at night
Adobe Stock

Landscape spotlights can provide myriad beautiful effects. You can use one spotlight for uplighting a specimen tree, for example, such as a Japanese maple or magnolia. You can also wash a wall behind your planting beds with light, whether it’s one color or more. These lights from Philips can be placed in the ground on a stake, or they can be mounted on your home, pergola, and so on for downlighting. You can also connect a motion sensor so your landscape lights come on when you enter your garden.

Other Things to Consider

If you choose a system that doesn’t use a bridge, you’ll have to find out how far your wifi signal reaches. You can do that with your phone and just check to see if you get a signal everywhere on your property. If not, you can look into repeaters or range extenders.

Finally, who is going to install all this? Some people enjoy technology and keeping their homes up to date. Plenty of other people want the latest but don’t have the time to learn the intricacies of the components. For some folks, the nitty-gritty details just make them drowsy. If that’s you, get some help! These devices are wicked useful, but you don’t need to be an expert when you can hire an expert. The same pros who handle security systems will most likely handle smart lighting systems. Good luck!

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