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Are Wraparound Lights Suitable for Outdoor Use?

My wife is looking into wraparound lights for our garage and her studio, but I thought they were just for offices?

Wraparound lights have a single-piece lens that wraps around the feature. This diffuses the light, as it’s coming from three sides of the light fitting, not a single point. Wraparound lights are ceiling-mounted rather than stem-mounted, so having diffused light is a real bonus.

Let’s dive down into the topic of wraparound lights in more detail, and discover what exactly they are, what type of light they create and how to install them…

What Is a Wraparound LED?

A wraparound LED light is designed to replace the old fluorescent light (the common “shop light”). For example, you can install a wraparound LED instead of those energy-hungry fluorescent tubes.

For example, a 3,600 Lumens, 4-foot ceiling light is perfect for outbuildings like a garage or studio, or areas such as a kitchen or a laundry room, and uses just 40 watts of electricity. The bulbs are typically integrated, but with long working lives (around 50,000 to 60,000 hours), you won’t have to ditch the unit too quickly.

They’re called wraparound because the lens is in a single piece that wraps around the feature. This diffuses the light, as it’s coming from three sides of the light fitting, not a single point. Because this type of light is generally ceiling-mounted rather than stem-mounted, having diffused light is a real bonus.

There are several things to take into account when choosing a wraparound LED light. How long does the fitting need to be? How bright do you want it? The lights tend to range from 3,600 lumens to 8,000 lumens (although by the time you reach that level, you’re talking factory rather than kitchen).

The color tends to be bright white: look out for the kelvin rating, shown by a K after a number. The higher the number, the cooler the light. So, a 4000K light will be a whiter white than a 3000K model. Certain types produce a more diffused light than others for a gentler effect.

There’s also wattage, and how much energy it will use. However, as an LED, it’ll be more energy-efficient than a traditional fluorescent shop light.

You also need to think whether the light is suitable for an environment such as a bathroom, which may be humid. Check to see if the model you like can be used in moist environments. 

Finally, do you want the light to be dimmable? You can get wraparound LED fixtures that work with a dimmer switch, and we’ll look at these in a moment. 

Are LED Wraparound Lights Dimmable?

You can get dimmable wraparound lights, as well as non-dimmable versions. You’ll need to have a 0-10V compatible dimmer switch.

Dimming LED wraparound lights can be a good idea. They’re designed for areas that need bright lights, like kitchens, hallways, garages, and laundry rooms. This means that they can have a dazzlingly high Lumens rating.

However, sometimes you just want to tone that bright white light down a little. 4,000 Lumens is great when you’re cooking, but can feel too much on occasion.

Can You Get Fluorescent Wraparound Lights?

Yes, you can still get fluorescent wraparound lights. The main difference between fluorescent and LED is that the former uses replaceable tubes. 

With LED wraparound lights, the bulbs are integrated, and when they go you need to replace the entire unit. However, a fluorescent wraparound uses replaceable T8 tubes. The LED option has lower running costs, but will cost more upfront.

Another benefit of fluorescent lights is that they’re easier to have stem mounted. LED wraparounds tend to be ceiling mounted. If you have a high ceiling, you may prefer the fluorescent option for this reason., otherwise your lighting source may seem a long way away.

How Do You Install a Wraparound Light?

A wraparound LED fight fixture is straightforward to install, and is really low maintenance once it’s in place. 

Here’s a film from popular brand Lithonia Lighting® showing how to install a wraparound light. The product they’re using is the BLWP LED Low Profile Wraparound. This is a versatile option, as it can be used for ceilings and walls, and can also have a suspended mounting. 

This film takes you through how to ceiling mount the fixture, which is how the majority of LED wraparound lights are fitted.

Watch the film to learn more and to see the installation in action; however, we’ve summarized the main points for you. Please also read the instruction manual or your specific light fixture before you begin.

  • Turn the power off (just make sure you can still see what you’re doing! This is a job best done in daylight…)
  • Open the fixture to access the wiring
  • Hold the fixture up to the ceiling, and gently push the incoming power wires from the ceiling into the center point of the fixture 
  • When it’s in the right place, secure the fixture to the ceiling using the screw holes provided in the fixture
  • Make the wiring connections to the incoming power wires. Use the diagram provided by the manufacturer to make sure this is carried out correctly
  • Close the fixture, making sure that none of the wires are trapped or pinched 
  • Clean any fingerprints or marks on the outside of the diffuser using a soft cloth
  • Turn the power on again
  • Admire your work

Many wraparound lights are direct wire install like this one, which means you’ll need to be able to wire yours in yourself. Most wraparound light fixtures come with knock-outs and screw holes to help you attach them securely to the ceiling.

What Is a Prismatic Wrap Light?

A prismatic wrap light is a type of LED wraparound light. This type uses a specific prismatic diffuser that gives you a more ambient light. 

They’re called prismatic because the diffuser has a pattern of prism-like shapes. These disperse the light, distributing it over a large surface area and reducing the glare. Prismatic wrap lights are a good solution if you want a bright light but need it to diffuse further.

However, in the process, this means that the light can seem uneven compared with normal LED wrap lights. So, these are a good choice for something like a garage ceiling or a utility room, but less good for a kitchen or workbench where you need bright task lighting.

What Is a Prismatic Wrap Light?
What Is a Prismatic Wrap Light?

What Is a Parabolic Light Fixture?

Like the prismatic diffusers, parabolic lights are designed to reduce glare and so create a more comfortable environment. You often see parabolic louvers in offices and other workspaces.

Parabolic lights are so-called because their pattern is made up from parabolae, which are the conic sections created when light intersects with a conical surface. This shape in a grid design diffuses the light while cutting down on glare. 

The parabolic louver light is usually recessed into the ceiling. Look up in any large workplace space, or somewhere like a hospital waiting room or even a shopping mall, and you’ll notice their distinctive grid-like appearance.

Parabolic lights are thought to reduce eye strain because they provide a bright, clear light while still preventing glare. They are loved by store merchandisers because they help colors stand out. 

Their design also helps to keep the fixture cooler by allowing airflow; although, as modern parabolic fixtures can take a range of bulbs like the cooler LEDs, this isn’t so much of a major issue anymore.

Could you install parabolic lighting in your home? To be honest, this type of lighting is not so popular in domestic settings, as it can have a rather clinical appearance. If you want bright but diffused lighting, this is where the prismatic design wins out.

Are Wraparound Lights Suitable for Backyard And Garage Use?

Wraparound lights can be suitable for backyard and garage use, depending on the specific needs and requirements of the space. Again, wraparound lights are designed to provide bright and even illumination over a larger area. They typically feature a wraparound lens or diffuser that helps distribute the light more evenly and reduces shadows.

For backyard use, wraparound lights can be a good choice if you want to illuminate a larger outdoor area such as a patio, deck, or backyard seating area. They can provide ample lighting for activities such as outdoor gatherings, barbecues, or playing games after dark. Wraparound lights are often designed to be weather-resistant, making them suitable for outdoor use.

In a garage, wraparound lights can also be a suitable option. They can provide bright and uniform lighting, making it easier to work on projects, find tools or equipment, and navigate the space safely.

Final Words on Wraparound Lights

Wraparound lights give off a glowing hue of diffuse light that I think will look just fine in our garage and my wife’s studio.

We may even put them in my office too, as a couple in there will do the trick really well.

However, outbuildings aside, when it comes to other rooms in the house such as the lounge, kitchen, and bedrooms – I still think wraparound lights are a bit too industrial to be considered.

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >