The Best Outdoor Light Bulbs of 2021

Illuminate your property efficiently with one of these top outdoor light bulbs.  

By Tony Carrick | Published Oct 26, 2021 12:45 PM

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Best Outdoor Light Bulbs

Photo: depositphotos.com

Outdoor light bulbs provide extra security and crucial visibility for those coming and going after dark while enhancing the look of the home’s exterior in the process. A surprisingly broad range of outdoor light bulb types are available, from high-efficiency LEDs to high-performance halogen floodlights that produce hues ranging from warm yellows to bright whites. There are even smart bulbs that can automatically turn on at dusk and turn off at daybreak, or be controlled and programmed via a smartphone. This guide will shed some light on what to consider when shopping for these outdoor essentials and review some of the best options on the market in a variety of categories.



  1. BEST OVERALL: Cree 120W Equivalent Bright White LED Spot Light Bulb
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: GE Classic 120-Watt Flood Halogen Light Bulb (6-Pack)
  3. BEST FOR STRING LIGHTS: Sunco Lighting LED Edison Bulb
  4. BEST FOR ENTRY LIGHTS: Sunco Lighting 4 Pack A19 LED Bulb
  5. BEST UTILITY: Auzilar 40W LED Corn Light Bulb
  6. BEST WI-FI: Geeni LUX Smart Floodlight
  7. BEST BUG LIGHT: TCP 5 Watt LED Yellow Bug Light Bulbs
  8. BEST DECORATIVE: CPPSLEE Halloween Decorations Led Flame Light Bulb
Best Outdoor Light Bulbs

Photo: depositphotos.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Outdoor Light Bulbs

When looking for the right light bulb to suit an outdoor fixture, it’s crucial to consider the bulb type along with characteristics like water resistance, base size, brightness, and energy efficiency. Ahead, learn more about these and other important attributes of the best light bulbs for outdoor use.

Types of Outdoor Light Bulbs

Understanding the five different types of outdoor light bulbs is the first step to making the right choice.

  • LED: LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs are among the most expensive options, but they last considerably longer and use significantly less energy. They also produce less heat than incandescent bulbs and are 90 percent more efficient. And unlike energy-efficient CFL bulbs, they have the same shape and look as an incandescent bulb.
  • Halogen: Halogen bulbs aren’t as energy efficient as LED bulbs; however, they burn much brighter, making them ideal for floodlights and security lighting.
  • Incandescent: This outdated light bulb technology is by far the cheapest option, but incandescent bulbs are highly inefficient; the money you save up front is soon lost to energy consumption. These bulbs can be used outside as long as they are not exposed to rain and snow.
  • HID: Though more commonly found in vehicle headlights, high-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs are also an option for outdoor lighting. HID lights are extremely bright and can therefore cover a larger area than LED or incandescent bulbs, making them useful for spotlights or floodlights that shoot large swaths of light onto the facade of a home or large trees.
  • CFL: Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs are popular for certain types of landscape lighting. CFL bulbs last a long time and are energy efficient; however, their odd shape can make them unsuitable for fixtures in which the bulbs are visible. CFL bulbs have a slight delay before illuminating once the switch is flipped on and take about a minute to reach full brightness. They also contain mercury, which can be hazardous should the bulb break.

Weather Resistance

When shopping for an outdoor light bulb, it’s vital to check its weather rating to determine just what the bulb can handle without shorting out. Some outdoor light bulbs are not water resistant and therefore are only rated for use in a fixture with a protective housing. Bulbs that are weatherproof are suitable for use in light fixtures that leave the bulb exposed to rain and snow.

Bulb Base

Bulbs have different base sizes to fit different light fixtures. Most floodlight, spotlight, and entryway light fixtures are compatible with bulbs that have E26 bases. This is the same base size that most lamps and light fixtures in the home use. Some string lights and outdoor ceiling fans will likely require bulbs that have smaller E12 or E17 bases. The easiest way to determine the size of the base the fixture requires is to look at the old bulb. Some fixtures will also have a sticker near the socket that denotes the base size as well as its maximum wattage.

Brightness and Color Temperature

Bulbs vary in brightness as well as the color of light they produce. Brightness is measured in lumens, with outdoor bulbs ranging from as little as 150 lumens for decorative flame bulbs to as much as 1,600 lumens for some floodlights. About 600 lumens provide enough light for visibility without being glaring, making them ideal for porch and exterior garage uses. Security lights, which should provide maximum visibility, produce around 1,300 lumens.

Color temperature is measured on the Kelvin (K) scale and determines how warm or cool the lighting is. Warmer lighting will fall lower on the temperature scale, between 2,700 and 3,000 K. Soft white light bulbs measure around 3,500 K, while bulbs that mimic daylight have a color temperature of around 6,000 K.

Energy Efficiency and Lifespan

The lifespans of outdoor light bulbs vary depending on the bulb type. Incandescent bulbs have the shortest lifespan, lasting only about a year before burning out. Halogen bulbs are a bit better, with a lifespan of 2 to 3 years, while CFL and LED bulbs last the longest at 6 to 10 years and 15 to 25 years, respectively.

LED and CFL bulbs are by far the most efficient as well. An LED bulb uses only 13 watts to achieve the same brightness as a 60-watt incandescent bulb, while a CFL bulb uses 14 watts. A halogen bulb uses 43 watts to achieve the same brightness.

Smart Light Bulbs

Some light bulbs have smart functionality. Those with light sensors automatically turn on at dusk and turn off at dawn. Higher-end smart light bulbs allow the user to control them from a phone or tablet via a smart-home hub or a compatible app. Many of these bulbs will even work with voice-activated digital assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Our Top Picks

The products below represent some of the best light bulbs for outdoor fixtures. There are bulbs best suited for porch lights, floodlights for security lighting, and specialty bulbs for string lights and faux flame effects.

Best Overall

best outdoor light bulbs option: CREE 120W Equivalent Bright White LED Spot Light Bulb
Photo: homedepot.com

With its long lifespan, ample brightness, and excellent durability, this LED floodlight bulb from Cree is an excellent choice. It produces 1,400 lumens, is weatherproof, and should last up to 22 years, making it one of the brightest and most durable options for outdoor lighting.

The bulb uses just 19 watts, which means it uses 86 percent less energy than a standard incandescent floodlight, so users needn’t worry about running up the electric bill if it’s left on all night. This bulb comes with either a 25-degree focus, ideal for spotlights, or a 40-degrees focus, which is better for security floodlights.

Product Specs

  • Type: LED
  • Temperature: 6,000 K
  • Lumens: 1,400

Pros

  • Ample brightness
  • Saves energy
  • Waterproof construction
  • Long lasting

Cons

  • Pricier than incandescent bulbs

Best Bang For The Buck

best outdoor light bulbs option: GE Classic 120-Watt Flood Halogen Light Bulb (6-Pack)
Photo: lowes.com

This value pack of six halogen bulbs from GE costs a fraction of the price of higher-priced LED floodlights while still offering good energy efficiency. The bulbs boast all-weather construction, so they’re suitable for use in light fixtures that see direct exposure to rain.

And although halogens don’t offer the energy savings of LED bulbs, they are brighter, with a 1,600-lumen output. They’re also more efficient than standard incandescent bulbs, as they use only 80 watts to produce the same brightness as a standard 120-watt incandescent floodlight. Each bulb lasts about 1 year at an average daily use of 3 hours.

Product Specs

  • Type: Halogen
  • Temperature: 6,000 K
  • Lumens: 1,600

Pros

  • Exceptional brightness
  • Affordably priced
  • All-weather construction
  • More energy efficient than incandescent bulbs

Cons

  • Only a 1-year lifespan
  • Not as energy efficient as LED bulbs

Best For String Lights

best outdoor light bulbs option: Sunco Lighting 4 Pack ST64 LED Bulb
Photo: amazon.com

A vintage look and durable design combined with 800 lumens of brightness make these bulbs an ideal choice for a patio or deck. With their classic Edison light bulb shape and large 5.5-inch-long profile, these bulbs are well suited for outdoor fixtures with exposed bulbs, such as string lights, pendants, and wall lanterns. Thanks to their weatherproof rating, there’s no worry about the bulbs shorting out in the rain.

The bulbs are dimmable and come in five different color temperatures, ranging from 2,700 K to 6,000 K. And since they use just 8.5 watts, these Energy Star–rated bulbs won’t put a huge bump on the electric bill. Sunco Lighting’s bulbs come in four-count and 16-count packs.

Product Specs

  • Type: LED
  • Temperature: 2,700 to 6,000 K
  • Lumens: 800

Pros

  • Ample brightness
  • Energy Star rated
  • Attractive vintage look

Cons

  • Expensive

Best For Entry Lights

best outdoor light bulbs option: Sunco Lighting 4 Pack A19 LED Bulb
Photo: amazon.com

Porch lights and external garage light fixtures provide essential illumination for folks coming and going at night, as well as basic security. The trouble is, people often forget to turn them on at night or off in the morning. This set of Sunco bulbs does that automatically via a built-in auto on/off sensor.

The LED bulbs come in a variety of temperatures, ranging from soft white for visibility to warm amber for deterring insects. The bulbs produce 800 lumens, are rated for use in damp places, and fit standard Edison sockets. Sunco’s LED bulbs are sold in packs of four.

Product Specs

  • Type: LED
  • Temperature: 2,000 to 5,000 K
  • Lumens: 800

Pros

  • Photocell turns bulbs on and off automatically
  • Multiple temperature options
  • 800-lumen output

Cons

  • No way to override photocell

Best Utility

best outdoor light bulbs option: Auzilar 40W LED Corn Light Bulb
Photo: amazon.com

With its 4,000 lumens of light output (12 times that of a 60-watt incandescent bulb), this corn-style bulb from Auzilar is mighty bright. This makes it ideal for illuminating utility areas, such as a driveway, courtyard, barn, or large shed. And despite its high light output, it’s efficient, using just 40 watts.

The color temperature of 6,000 K simulates natural light, making it easy on the eyes. This high output makes it considerably larger than most bulbs at 6 inches long and more than 3 inches in diameter; however, it still uses a standard E26 base. The corn light bulbs, sold in a two-pack, are not weather resistant and should only be used in protected outdoor fixtures.

Product Specs

  • Type: LED
  • Temperature: 6,000 K
  • Lumens: 4,000

Pros

  • Very bright
  • Energy efficient
  • Long lasting

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Odd shape and large size

Best Wi-Fi

best outdoor light bulbs option: Geeni LUX Smart Floodlight
Photo: amazon.com

Most Wi-Fi light bulbs require a hub to connect to a smart device. This model from Geeni doesn’t, making it an attractive choice for those without a smart-home setup. To use, simply download the app to a smart service and install the bulb. The Geeni app allows the user to create lighting schedules, adjust temperature and brightness, and turn it off and on with ease.

It’s also compatible with modular smart-home services and digital assistants, including Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana. The LED floodlight-style bulb produces 1,000 lumens, about the equivalent of a 75-watt light bulb, but only uses 11 watts.

Product Specs

  • Type: LED
  • Temperature: 6,000 K
  • Lumens: 1,000

Pros

  • Controllable via a smart device
  • Does not require a hub
  • Only uses 11 watts

Cons

  • Not as bright as other floodlights

Best Bug Light

best outdoor light bulbs option: TCP 5 Watt LED Yellow Bug Light Bulbs
Photo: amazon.com

Light that is on the low end of the color spectrum is nearly invisible to bugs, which makes this bulb an excellent option for illuminating an outdoor living space without attracting every pest in the yard. With its 3,000-K temperature, the bulb produces soft, warm yellow light with visibility similar to a 40-watt incandescent bulb, yet it uses just 5 watts to be more energy efficient.

The bulbs, which come in packs of two, may last up to 23 years. They are rated to work in covered fixtures protected from the weather.

Product Specs

  • Type: LED
  • Temperature: 3,000 K
  • Lumens: 400

Pros

  • Yellow light won’t attract bugs
  • Long lifespan
  • Uses just 5 watts of energy

Cons

  • Not as bright as bulbs higher on the temperature scale

Best Decorative

best outdoor light bulbs option: CPPSLEE Halloween Decorations Led Flame Light Bulb
Photo: amazon.com

Those looking to add a bit more flair to their outdoor lighting should consider this pack of four LED light bulbs, which produce lifelike flames. The bulbs have four modes—gravity, emulation, breathing, and general light—allowing the user to fine-tune the appearance of the flames to suit the mood and the fixture.

The bulb uses a mere 1.8 watts, making it one of the most efficient outdoor lighting bulbs available; it uses about 90 percent less electricity than an incandescent bulb. It also has a long lifespan of about 50,000 hours. Just keep in mind that these bulbs are more about form than function; with their 150-lumen output, they won’t provide much visibility for driveways and walkways.

Product Specs

  • Type: LED
  • Temperature: Faux flames
  • Lumens: 150

Pros

  • Four flame modes
  • Shatter resistant
  • Long lifespan
  • Energy efficient

Cons

  • Low brightness

Our Verdict

For brightness, energy efficiency, and long lifespan, the CREE 120W Equivalent Bright White Par 38 LED Spot Light Bulb is one of the best options for outdoor spotlights or floodlights. For those needing bulbs for a porch light fixture or exterior garage lights, consider the Sunco Lighting A19 LED Bulb.

How We Chose the Best Outdoor Light Bulbs

When selecting the light bulbs for this guide, we considered the most important factors: brightness, energy efficiency, and durability. For an outdoor light bulb to be effective, it must be bright enough to provide adequate illumination for the driveway, patio, front porch, or whatever is tasked with lighting. With this in mind, we stuck with bulbs that produced at least 700 lumens for entryway lights and at least 1,200 lumens for floodlights. The one exception was our entry for decorative lighting.

Since energy efficiency is paramount these days, we eschewed incandescent bulbs entirely, instead sticking mainly to highly efficient LED bulbs. LED bulbs also last much longer compared to incandescent bulbs—about 50,000 hours versus 1,200 hours. Although LED bulbs are significantly more expensive, they make up for that cost difference with a lower electric bill (they’re about 90 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs) and longer lifespan, often lasting many years longer than an incandescent bulb.

FAQs

If you’re wondering how bright your porch light should be or what type of bulbs are best for outdoor use, read on for info and answers to other common questions.

Q. Are there special light bulbs for outside lights?

A standard light bulb can be used for any outdoor light fixture as long as it is not exposed to rain or other weather. Otherwise, make sure the bulb is rated for use in wet conditions.

Q. What kind of light bulb should I use for a porch light?

The best bulb to use for a porch light is an LED bulb that produces about 800 lumens. The LED bulb will use the least amount of energy and last much longer than any other bulb type. A brightness of 800 lumens will provide adequate visibility without being overly bright.

Q. What type of lighting is best for outdoors?

The best type of lighting, outdoors and in, is LED. LED lights use far less energy than incandescent or even halogen bulbs, so you can leave them on for long periods without heavily impacting the electric bill. They also last a long time, so you won’t need to replace them very often.

Q. Is soft white or bright white better for outside?

Soft white lights are the best option for mood lighting outdoors, as they simulate the vibe of a cozy open fire. Bright white light is best suited for security or task lighting.

Q. How bright should porch lights be?

A porch light should be around 600 lumens; however, feel free to go high as 800 lumens for more visibility or as low as 400 lumens for a more nuanced vibe.