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Bright ideas for outdoor lighting

Your ultimate guide to the perfect outdoor lighting for summer parties

Memorial Day is around the corner, with summer hot on its heels–and that means it’s time to head outside to the deck, patio, or yard for parties, barbecues, and outdoor games.

As you prepare for a summer of backyard entertaining, the right lighting can provide a warm, intimate atmosphere — and the wrong choices can leave everyone squinting from the brightness or tripping because they can’t see.

“Outdoor lighting is an afterthought for most people,” says Lucy Dearborn, owner of Lucia Lighting & Design in Lynn. “But it really can make a dramatic difference in a yard.”

ENERGY STAR-certified LED lights make the most sense for outdoor areas because they are attractive, long lasting, and energy efficient. And because they are 90 percent more efficient than incandescent light bulbs, LED bulbs save money. A single bulb can save as much as $100 in energy costs over its lifetime — that’s more than a few burgers worth.

And because LED bulbs last 15 to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, they can save you time and effort as well as money. “You can screw in an LED light and forget it,” says Joyce Gravel, store manager at Wolfers Lighting in Waltham. “That’s especially handy outdoors, because you don’t have to be getting the ladder out all the time to change bulbs.”

One last thing: Forget about LED bulbs being too bright and harsh. Those days are long gone. You want warmth? No problem.

Outdoor options:

There are a few different ways you can use lighting outdoors to create a vibe and also provide practical light. Click the lightbulbs below to illuminate and learn more.

Time to go shopping

If you’ve ever stood in a light bulb aisle at a big box store, you know how overwhelming and bewildering it can be. Shapes. Watts. Lumens. Kelvins. Floods. Indoor. Outdoor. Dimmable. Two-pack. Six-pack. Twelve-pack! Dizzy yet? Next time you go, keep these handy tips in mind.

Outdoor use
Make sure the light bulbs you’re buying for outdoor use are actually designed to be used outdoors. “Damp-rated” bulbs can be used in fixtures that shield them from the rain; “wet-rated” bulbs are recommended when the bulb is fully exposed to the elements.

LED light bulbs come in different “color temperatures,” which work well for different uses. Warmer colors, such as “soft white,” are a good choice for places where you’re trying to create a cozy mood—think firelight. Cooler colors, such as “bright white” or “daylight,” work well for security lighting or task lighting. Bright white lights and accent lights are also a nice way to illuminate greenery. “People think of outdoor LED lights as always being bright and white, but now they come in softer colors, too,” Dearborn says. Check light bulb packages for light color, which is expressed in brightness levels or with a measure known as kelvins. With kelvins, the lower the number, the warmer the light—for example, 2,700 kelvins gives you a warmer golden light, and 6,500 kelvins creates a brighter, blue-white light.

ENERGY STAR certification
Be sure to choose LED light bulbs that are certified by ENERGY STAR. To earn the ENERGY STAR label, products must meet certain requirements for energy efficiency, quality, and performance. Although bulbs that are not ENERGY STAR-certified may cost less, there’s a reason: They often have shorter lifetimes.

A final thought: You don’t need a large number of lights to create a comfortable ambiance outdoors. “Lighting in your yard should not be overpowering,” Dearborn says. “A little light goes a long way at night.” Now get grilling.

Save even more with ENERGY STAR certified LEDs.

Eversource supports price discounts on ENERGY STAR-certified LED bulbs online and in stores throughout Massachusetts through the Mass Save program.

This content was produced by Boston GlobeMedia's BG BrandLab in collaboration with the advertiser. The news and editorial departments of The Boston Globe had no role in its production or display.