What You Need to Know About Beam Angles

In this blog, we will be discussing beam angle best practices as they relate to landscape ligting design. We will share what beam spreads are best used for the most common outdoor lighting applications, and why a versatile fixture is of utmost importance for precision and creating a thoughtful outdoor lighting design.

Why Adjustable Beam Spread Fixtures Matter

As you’ve learned from our previous blog, landscape lighting design is a synergy of using LED lights at the right light level and fine tuning the design at night to adjust not only the light level, but the beam spread. Having the right beam angle makes all the difference in the world when it comes to lighting a property correctly.

The ability to dial in the desired mood and aesthetic is arguably one of the most important aspects of landscape lighting design; thus, having capable, versatile lighting fixtures are an absolute must. For instance, our Impressionist Series offers 20 light levels, five beam spreads, two color temperatures, quick change optics, and an adjustable glare shield equalling 200 different lighting effects. This makes a contractor or lighting designer’s job incredibly simple, giving them full control of every project.

When to Use Wash Lighting or Extra-Wide Beam Angles

A wall wash beam angle is considered 85 to 120 degrees. Typical landscape lighting fixtures used for washing are well lights, spotlights, and rectangular wash lights. (For us, this includes our Wash Light Series and Craftsman Series.)

Wash lighting is  used for all Level 1 lighting tasks. Wide beam spreads are best used to light big, wide, low-to-the-ground hedgerows and bushes, retaining walls, cultured walls, stone walls with a texture to them—anything that is incredibly wide (let’s say 80 feet) or has a wide base that you wish to illuminate immediately at ground level.

Wall washing is  also the best bang for your buck because you can light more with less fixtures. For instance, if you are lighting an 80-foot-wide white stone wall, you can place a fixture every 12 feet. If you were to use a medium or narrow beam spread, fixtures would need to be even closer together, which could result in hot spots—something you always want to avoid.

When to Use Wide Beam Angles

A wide beam angle is considered 50 to 65 degrees and is usually used for Level 1 moonlighting. Moonlighting is an outdoor lighting effect that mimics the light of a full moon spilling onto a property or whatever subjects intended to be lit. The moonlighting effect is created with the use of tree lights. For example, the best CAST fixtures to use to create moonlighting include the Impressionist LED Tree Light (CIT164) with provide dimming capabilities, and the Classic Series LED Tree Light (CTLED141).

When to Use Narrow Beam Angles

A narrow beam angle is considered 12 to 24 degrees and is generally used to illuminate formal stones columns, chimney tops, top peaks, and gables. This effect can create big beautiful beams on wrap-around porches, or lovely posts along country porches—straight up to the soffit of three-story homes. A narrow beam spread is also used to illuminate grand trees 80 feet tall, especially palm trees!

Spot lights and well lights (also known as ground lights) are most typically used for narrow beam spreads using a 200 to 600 lumen output, or Light Level 4.

When to Use Medium Beam Angles

Medium beam angles are considered 28 to 45 degrees and are the most common beam spreads of the bunch. Medium beam angles are generally used to light two-story homes to project light 20 to 40 feet high into the soffits and tops of similar sized trees. The most commonly used lighting techniques for medium beam spreads are uplighting, downlighting, and moonlighting with an output of 120 to 250 lumens, or Light Level 3. (Any one of CAST’s fixture series will do the job here—the Impressionist Series, Classic Series and its 141 Bullet, or the Craftsman Series and it’s well lights, ground lights, and spot lights.)

Conclusion: Mixing & Matching Beam Spreads

One thing we’d like you to walk away with after reading this blog (in addition to the wealth of information above), is that it takes a symphony of mixing and matching light levels and beam angles and nighttime adjustments to achieve beauty, symmetry, cohesion, and depth.

The human eye needs to move seamlessly throughout the landscape without spotting “black holes,” or dark areas in a scene. Using light levels and beam angles, you can easily create depth and focal points that direct the homeowner and their family and friends through the property in a beautiful, symmetrical, cohesive way; thus, it’s important to be using versatile fixtures to mix and match light effects easily and efficiently as well as to make quick and painless night time adjustments.  

We hope this gives you a lot to think about when planning your next outdoor lighting project, and make sure to check back more for tips from the CAST Lighting team!