At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What are the Different Types of Outdoor Lantern Lighting?

Robyn Clark
Robyn Clark

Outdoor lantern lighting is one of the most popular choices for decorative exterior lighting. Lanterns are frequently used to illuminate the entrance of a home, on decks and porches, and along driveways and pathways. There are hundreds of different sizes and styles of lanterns made from different materials and with different decorative finishes. Beyond the aesthetics of the lantern, the main characteristics that distinguish different types of outdoor lantern lighting fixtures are the mounting and installation options, the durability of the materials, and the illumination source. Decorative low lanterns can often be installed by a homeowner who enjoys do-it-yourself projects, although some lighting installations may require the services of an electrician or other qualified lighting professional.

One of the most important considerations when it comes to different mounting and installation options for outdoor lantern lighting is location. Wall-mounted lanterns are often placed next to the main entrance of the home, on one or both sides of the front door. Lanterns installed at ground level or higher up on a post are ideal for illuminating driveways or other pathways. Other options include ceiling mounts for porches, gazebos, covered decks, and covered patio areas, and pier mounts for installing lanterns along fences. Chinese lanterns and other styles of outdoor lantern string or hanging lights are also popular for decks and patio areas.

A street decorated with paper lanterns.
A street decorated with paper lanterns.

Lanterns designed for short-term uses like outdoor parties are often made of paper. Luminarias are paper lanterns that are filled with sand and lit by a candle. Extreme caution should be exercised when candles are used for outdoor lantern lighting, and small light-emitting diode (LED) lights are often used in luminarias as a safer alternative to the traditional candles. Chinese hanging lanterns are also frequently made out of paper. Paper lanterns are not as durable as lanterns made from plastic or metal, and are often used for one season or as decorations for a garden party or for other festive outdoor events.

Paper lanterns may be used as lamps.
Paper lanterns may be used as lamps.

Outdoor lanterns are usually illuminated by low-wattage light bulbs, and it is very important to select a bulb that has been designed for outdoor use. There are a number of different styles of bulbs to choose from, including incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs, and LED bulbs. The type of bulb and the wattage will directly affect the energy usage of the fixture, as well as the amount of illumination it provides. Solar-powered lanterns are popular choices for energy efficiency, and battery-powered options are popular for their ease of installation. It is important to consult local ordinances when selecting outdoor lantern lighting, as regulations may require or prohibit the use of certain types of lights and bulbs.

Discussion Comments


Some of the things you can do to liven up a patio with outdoor hanging lanterns and lanterns on posts are remarkable. There are many design ideas if you are interested in making your patio a showplace.

You might be surprised to find out how you can spend just a little money and make such a big difference. There are plenty of online do it yourself websites that have step by step directions for doing the job yourself, and on a tight budget.


@Laotionne - As the article mentions, the outdoor candle and paper lanterns were designed to be for parties and other short term situations. Hopefully, when they are used, people are going to be near by to keep an eye on them. I have seen them left unattended for long periods, too, but this is not the way they are meant to be used, and there is more of chance that they will cause a fire than will a traditional lamp.

However, when a bulb is used the risk of any problem pretty much disappears.


The article talks about luminaries. I have seen them in my neighborhood along the lawns and walkways, especially around Christmas, but I am wondering how safe they could be. Outdoor candle lanterns can't be very safe. Even the luminaries with the small low wattage bulbs like mentioned in this article seem like they were be a fire hazard because they are so close to the paper and they might be left burning for hours.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • A street decorated with paper lanterns.
      By: TOMO
      A street decorated with paper lanterns.
    • Paper lanterns may be used as lamps.
      By: venusangel
      Paper lanterns may be used as lamps.
    • Outdoor lanterns may use citronella oil to deter mosquitoes.
      By: demarfa
      Outdoor lanterns may use citronella oil to deter mosquitoes.