5 Things You Should Know Before Choosing Step Lights

Step lights are both attractive and functional, as they illuminate stairs, paths, and hallways, in indoor and outdoor applications. Step lights are universally brilliant, but there are so many kinds of step lights, we figured we would help clarify your options in order to help you make an informed decision for your home, garden, or other space.

1. Light Source

When it comes to step lights, there are several light sources to consider. LED step lights have become a very popular choice. This is largely because LED step lights use small amounts of electricity to provide the perfect amount of light for stairs and hallways at night. They do not give off as much heat as some other sources, have attractive and varied appearances, and can go indoors or outdoors.

While LED is a very popular choice, there are also incandescent, halogen, xenon, and even fluorescent step lights out there. Here’s an infographic you can use to brush up your light bulb identification and selection skills. If you want to see how LED compares to other common light sources, use the infographic as you choose your step lights. Knowing what light source you prefer will make your decision easier.

2. Type of Installation

The kind of installation you want to perform will also determine the kind of step lights you buy. If you simply want to retrofit a step light into a hallway power outlet, for example, your choice will be limited to step lights that fit into wall boxes. If you want recessed step lights where there were none before, you can find plenty of lights to fit that bill, indoors or outdoors. If you want outdoor step lights with minimal installation effort, there are battery operated and solar options that are a breeze to install – no wiring required. You can even get creative with LED tape or rope (or tape-rope hybrid!). The important thing is to determine what kind of installations you are able to perform in your space. This will also make your decision making process simpler.

3. Size and Shape 

Step lights come in lots of shapes and sizes! Many step lights are designed to fit perfectly in a standard power outlet gang box and so are the size of a power outlet cover plate. Retrofit step lights often come with alternate face plates to allow the user to install them either vertically or horizontally, according to the gang box. Another common shape is the brick-sized step light. These are common outdoors but work inside as well. Some other interesting options are small, circular step lights, LED tape or rope (often used to run under railings), and path lights that get staked into the ground. Heck, if you want to get funky with it, you can even use solar LED party torches to illuminate outdoor steps! Now that you have a sense of the various shapes and sizes, think about what might work best for you.

4. Indoor or Outdoor?

The decision you make about the shape and size of your step lights will likely be related to whether or not you are planning to illuminate steps indoors or outdoors. Outdoor lighting applications open up some exciting possibilities, like using remote controlled path lights to illuminate stairs or running LED tape down the underside of railings. LED tape is especially neat for illuminating outdoor steps, and it comes in a variety of colors. And we’ve already mentioned flickering LED party torches. The cool thing is that many nice-looking step lights are perfect and safe for both indoor and outdoor applications. Don’t limit your search to fixtures that look like they could ONLY be used inside.

5. Louvers or Lenses?

If you are shopping for indoor step lights, you should be prepared to decide between either louvers or lenses to diffuse the light and hide the light source. Choosing between these two is mostly an aesthetic decision related to the over all style of the space you are enhancing. Some people like the way lenses look when the light isn’t on. And some people like the way louvers cast unfiltered light. You may want to research step lights with lenses and louvers before shopping because this is a choice you may very well have to make. The good thing is that with high quality step lights, you can’t go wrong with lenses or louvers, as long as they match!

Do you have any experience with step lights you’d like to share? Leave a comment below!

Tom Sowders

After majoring in creative writing at NC State, I worked in the home remodeling industry. Then, I attended graduate school for a really long time and gained experience as a writer and writing instructor. I live in the Raleigh-Durham area with my wife and baby boy, and you can find me around the Triangle anywhere there's good music and/or NC-style BBQ.

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