Best Outdoor Lighting For Salt Air: Which lights perform best in coastal areas?

If you live in coastal areas you will understand the importance of picking your outdoor fixtures carefully, as the salt air can cause havoc with standard-grade outdoor fittings, leading to premature rusting and failure. The best outdoor lighting for salt air in coastal areas will have their housings made of noncorrosive materials such as bronze, copper, stainless steel, or plastic.

The best outdoor lighting for salt air

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Why is salt air so corrosive?

The issue of corrosion becomes even more important when working with fittings that require a watertight, electric housing – such as lighting. If you are within 50 miles of the coast you will experience elevated corrosion due to the hygroscopic (the attraction of water) action of salt in the air, this results in the formation of a corrosive electrolyte solution which causes havoc with standard-grade fittings.

Which materials should the lights be made from?

The recommended materials to have outdoor lights made from in coastal areas are bronze, copper, stainless steel, or plastic (polycarbonate). The reason why these materials work best is due to their high resistance to corrosion. Painted steel and aluminum will both corrode under the paint and eventually disintegrate.

Ordinary stainless steel will stain so unless the light manufacturer is using grade 316 or 2205 (both quite expensive grades) you will find they will stain and degrade over time.

Bronze is one of the best choices as it produces a superficial oxidation layer (verdigris patina- the black/brown color you see on statues) which protects the metal from the elements. Beware of bronze plated as they will most likely not be suitable and may degrade quickly.

Copper can be treated with a protective paint/lacquer or left as it is – in which case it produces the weather-resistant green patina – copper carbonate.

Plastic – polycarbonates are usually used in security lights where function takes precedence over design. This material may not look as attractive as the others but it will perform every bit as well. Lights made from polycarbonate are usually the most competitively priced also.

Maintenance of coastal lights

As the materials listed above are very good at withstanding the elements on their own – the only maintenance required will be to wash the housing and glass ever so often with a soap solution to remove built-up salt deposits. Take care not to scrub the light housing too much as you could remove the built-up patina which may remove the protection the patina naturally provides- in which case you would be doing more harm than good.

Choosing the correct bulb

We have covered the correct type of housing your outdoor light should be in, now we need to decide what type of bulb it should have. There are many bulbs you can choose from- incandescent (standard bulb which has been around since the beginning) halogen, fluorescent, compact fluorescent (CFL), parabolic reflector (PAR), High-Intensity Discharge, Xenon and Light Emitting Diode (LED).

It is most likely that an outdoor light will be either halogen or LED. In this day and age, I can think of no reason why you should specify a halogen bulb in your outdoor light. LED lights offer endless advantages to any other bulb- but to name a few – lower running costs, longer lifespan, almost no heat created, more durable, more suitable to enclosed housings, brighter light, better color choice and they are now comparable in price to any other bulb.

What is an IP rating?

IP rating or Ingress Protection rating is a figure given to electric enclosures to standardize how good they are at keeping foreign bodies out of the enclosure – this can be dirt, dust, and water.

The IP ratings you should be aware of are as follows..

IP65 dustproof and water jets

IP66 dustproof/ strong jets of water /pressure washer safe/ rough seas/ rain storms

IP67 dustproof and full immersion in water

IP68 dustproof and complete continuous immersion in water


Usually, an IP65 or IP66 is sufficient for outdoor waterproof lights IP67 and IP68 would be overkill for outdoor lights unless they were installed on the deck of a fishing boat or in a swimming pool.