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What is a Bollard Light?

By M. J. Reed
Updated May 16, 2024
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A bollard light is a type of outdoor lighting encased in a vertical post at ground level. The term bollard refers to the shape of the vertical post in which the light is enclosed. It comes from the nautical term, bollard, which is the name of the post to which ships tie up to on a dock or wharf. In keeping with its sailing origins, bollards are traditionally cylindrical and rounded at the top. However, today's bollard lighting can be cylindrical, square or any other basically vertical shape that is used to house outdoor lights.

In Britain, the word has also come to mean any vertical post used to cordon off an area. Bollard lighting takes its shape and use from both of these definitions. Bollards are commonly used as landscape lights to mark the course of a path or walkway and to designate the borders of any public area, such as an outdoor seating area.

As landscaping requirements for bollard lighting have evolved to provide lighting for varied outdoor settings, bollard lights have become more intricate and varied in shape and design. They can now be purchased with filigree, molding and other common decorative architectural elements. They have also been adopted by the marketing world, and can routinely be seen displaying advertising and trademark decals.

Because bollards are used as outdoor lights, they are designed to withstand seasonal elements. They are constructed from various kinds of metal, concrete and weather-resistant plastics. Bollards can be painted or covered with polyethylene sleeves which provide further protection from rain, sleet and snow.

Lighting elements are positioned near the top of the bollard light behind a lattice of slats or grating to protect them from the elements. Lighting can be electrically wired, battery operated or solar-driven depending on the landscaping design selected for a specific area.

The lighting elements of bollard lighting can be directed to illuminate a path, spread over an area, point directly downward to highlight an architectural feature, or positioned to light a hazard such as a step or curb.

Bollards can be anchored to standing structures, such as decks, or set into the ground. A bollard light can be purchased as a complete unit, or as a kit. Kits include vertical sleeves, top covers, lighting grates, light mounting brackets and either deck mounting attachments or ground stakes.

In addition to providing security lighting, bollard lighting can be used to protect structures from damage by impact. The cylinder below the lighting mount can be filled with an impact dampening material such as sand. In this instance, the lighting serves to alert the driver of the boundaries of the driving area and, if struck, slows the forward motion of the vehicle.

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