Can You Use Indoor Lighting Fixtures Outdoors?

While it’s generally safe to use an exterior light fixture indoors, the reverse isn’t true. You should not use an indoor light fixture outdoors in wet locations. They aren’t sealed against moisture and will stop working during the first heavy rain. Moreover, they aren’t corrosion resistant and could become an electrocution hazard if the parts that cover the electrical connections deteriorate. However, you may be able to use certain interior fixtures, which are UL-rated as “damp,” in covered porches or other covered outdoor areas that are shielded from the elements.

Here is how to know what is what – All lamps and lighting fixtures sold in the United States are required to be tested and rated by an independent product safety certification organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and carry a product safety approval mark for dry, damp, or wet locations.

UL Listed (for Dry Locations)

Often noted just as “UL Listed.” A dry location is an indoor area that is not normally subject to dampness. It may include a location subject to temporary dampness provided ventilation is adequate to prevent any accumulation of moisture.

Dry Locations include kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, foyers and hallways.

 UL Listed for Damp Locations

Only lighting fixtures “Suitable for Damp Locations” or “Suitable for Wet Locations” can be used in damp locations. A damp location is an exterior or interior location that is normally or periodically subject to condensation of moisture in, on or adjacent to the electrical components of a lighting fixture.

Indoor Damp Locations include bathrooms, indoor pools and utility rooms.

Outdoor Damp Locations include covered patios and covered porches that are fully protected from water, even during storms.

 UL Listed for Wet Locations

Only lighting marked “Suitable for Wet Locations” can be used in wet locations, both indoors and outdoors. A wet location is an interior or exterior location in which water or other liquids may drip, splash or flow on or against the electrical components of a lighting fixture or ceiling fan.

Outdoor Wet Locations include open-air decks and patios, uncovered porches, outdoor dining areas, exterior walls, gazebos, pergolas and walkways.

Wall Lantern Size Matters

For exercise, I often go for a run near our store in picturesque Upper Montclair NJ. The street I run on is architecturally eclectic and provides excellent views of the New York City skyline about 12 miles away. It’s a hilly 5K jaunt that regularly provides inspiration for topics I want to blog about. Yesterday was no different.

For all the breathtaking homes that dot the century-old tree lined street, I can’t help but notice some outdoor lighting blunders that could have easily been prevented. The biggest mistake consumers make when shopping for new outdoor lighting is choosing fixtures that are too small. Here are a few examples of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

First the Good…

This might be my favorite fixture.The house itself is gorgeous – but every time I pass it, my eyes are drawn straight to the antique hanging lantern gracing the entrance way to an expansive covered porch. You really need to see it in person to appreciate its size and grandeur.

Love the scale of this single wall lantern that greets guests at the beautiful front entrance of this fine tudor home.

This turn of the century stone mansion has appropriately sized newer fixtures (one hanging lantern and two pier mounts) to illuminate the front entrance.

A pair of white wall lanterns on each side of the front door gives this home a warm, welcoming look, allowing the owners properly greet guests coming or going at night.They could have gone slightly larger, but overall a good job.

This hanging lantern is appropriately sized for this modest covered porch and increases the number of pleasurable hours spent outdoors.

On to the Bad and the Ugly…

This lighting design is a mixed bag. There is a large antique fixture sitting atop metal scroll work that spans the stone pillars which is very nice and been there for probably 100 years. The recent addition of ten (10) tiny pier mount fixtures atop the stone wall were the wrong choice (i.e. style, size, & quantity). Reminds me of those people who purchase a 10-pack low voltage lighting kit for an 8 foot walkway and feel compelled to use them all.

This is a good example of wall lanterns being undersized for both the door and the grand entrance.

REALLY!?!  What could they have possibly been thinking? They should sharpen the post to a point, paint it yellow and stencil No. 2 up the side.

A well-lighted front entrance enables you to greet guests and identify visitors. Wall lanterns on each side of the door will give your home a warm, welcoming look, while assuring the safety of those who enter. Under a porch or other overhang, you can use recessed, chain-hung, or close-to-ceiling fixtures. A separate rear or side entrance can be lighted with a single wall lantern installed on the keyhole side of the door.

When choosing lighting for a door or entryway, a simple rule-of-thumb to keep in mind is that the height of your lantern or outdoor fixture should be based on the height of the door or opening.

  • When only one lantern will be used, it should be placed on the keyhole side of the door. The overall height of the lantern should measure one-third the height of the door.
  • When two lanterns are used, they should each measure approximately one-fourth the height of the door.
  • The center of the bulb should rest 66″ above the threshold of the door. If the outlet box location has already been established, different mounting arms (on the top or bottom) can be selected to place the bulb properly.

Keep in mind these simple tips when selecting your outdoor fixtures, and you’ll greatly enhance the beauty of your property, make it safer & more secure, and increase the value of your home.

Remember: When in doubt, always go larger. Don’t undersize your lanterns.