When considering outdoor lighting, consult a lighting/landscaping professional for designing and expertise. It’s important to choose the proper type of light and the appropriate placement for maximum effect. With outdoor lighting, you must consider the goal you wish to attain by way of beautifying your space. Reasons may be: added security; to enhance special features in a garden; to illuminate steps, decking edges, or walkways; to provide proper lighting in a cooking area; to spotlight individual trees or areas of activity, etc.
There are multiple types of lighting on the market today. Quality fixtures will become part of your home so choose by design and energy costs, not just price. Consider adding timers and motion sensors to help reduce energy costs. With these, you don’t have to remember to turn the lights on and off, which will help you save on your electric bill. Motion sensor lights turn on when they sense movement near them; therefore the light is not burning the entire night.
White lights are often the popular choice for most homeowners. But colored hues are considered “en vogue” today as well. Carefully placed, warm hues such as yellows, reds and greens can create a stunning display in your landscaping.
Types of Lighting
Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) are pricier than regular light bulbs and well worth the difference. One draw back in our region, they may not work well outdoors below 40 degrees. The major advantage to these swirled light bulbs is their life expectancy of 10,000 hours. A standard bulb will only last about 750 hours. Energy effectiveness is phenomenal with a CFL bulb.
Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are trendy and energy efficient. A LED light uses about 1 watt vs. standard floodlights that may use 40 watts or more. LEDs are mainly used for design, style and effect in outdoor landscaping. They are not overpowering but more of an accent.
Reflector lights are made to cast a lot of light in a central location. These use a standard 35 watt lamp and are used mainly for safety/security and highlighting certain areas.
Low-voltage lighting is rising into fashion and becoming the most popular choice. This type uses 12 volts, which means it is more energy efficient than standard lighting. It is good advice to hire an electrician to implement any changes required to your 120v circuits beforehand.
Solar lighting is the most cost efficient because it uses little or no electricity. Sunlight charges the panels in the daytime to make energy to power the lights at night for up to eight hours. Keep in mind, this is a low light source compared to others.
Pay particular interest to the different lenses that accompany many lighting systems. You can change the contour or effect and customize your lighting design with them.
Low voltage, LEDs and solar lights should cause minimal disruption to your environment and can be added after the landscaping is complete. This also makes it easier to move lighting to a different position if you change your landscaping. The exposed wire is easily covered by mulch, hidden in ground cover, or inserted into a small slit in the ground. Your contractor should use ground staples before covering the wiring to hold it in place.
If your home is a new construction or you are planning on installing a driveway, sidewalk or patio, consult a professional before proceeding. It is possible that you may need to place wiring conduits under the paving before completion. This will save costs and prevent needless excavation at a later date.
Homeowners should remember that the landscaping and shrubs/trees will continue to change and grow. You will need to move and reposition your lighting with the growing changes of your plants. So be aware and plan for your future needs. Remember, planning for now also means planning for later.
When considering where to place your lighting, be sure not to over-light the area. Your desire should be to create the look and charm of moonlight settling in the surroundings, not floodlights blinding you or your guests. In addition, homeowners should become familiar with the lighting professionals “lingo” while designing their landscape. There are numerous styles of lighting that create different effects on the landscape or hardscape areas of your property. Lighting professionals may not use the same names for each type of lighting so here is a brief description of some popular styles: Accent lights cast a subtle light, similar to moonlight, on your garden or surroundings and is soft enough not to disturb your nearby neighbors.
Indirect lighting is placed under a structure, such as steps or decking and reveals a shadowy effect.
Well lights are considered “uplighting” and can be placed behind shrubs for a natural look. Uplights are also popular for accenting a beautiful tree. Well lights are installed into the ground and can be mowed right over and are not an impediment in active areas of your yard.
Pathway lighting is supposed to be seen and is installed for safety. You don’t want it to cast shadows into the walkway and distress your guests because they cannot see where to step in the shadow.
Floodlights are also considered uplighting on a more grand scale. These are usually used to accent a front door, decorations on a house, a spectacular tree or installed hardscaping. Floodlights create a beautiful shadowy effect against the surface of your home.
Tiered lights illuminate the areas to the sides of the light fixtures. They have a solid top and usually two to three tiers to radiate the lighting out, not up.
Spotlights are considered “downlighting” and attach high on your home or in trees. This type of lighting is for major activities, such as basketball in the driveway, cooking in your outdoor kitchen, or shining into the yard to a volleyball net, or the like. Spotlights are also installed above garage doors or on the corner of the home for added security.
If placing lights into trees, make sure not to damage the tree trunk itself. If injured, the tree will attempt to heal itself and begin to grow around the object inserted into the bark. Always attach lighting to your trees using an expandable strap that can be enlarged as the tree grows, so as not to cause permanent damage.
You literally have an infinite number of possibilities for installing landscape lighting in your surroundings. Consider your families needs. Is the lighting for safety reasons? Or is your motive to enhance your deck or patio? To shed light onto an activity area? Highlight a special tree? Focus on a fountain or statue in your flower garden? Accent your lovely flowerbeds? A professional lighting designer will lead you down the proper path and show you different options to enhance the beauty of your property.
Installing lighting at the entrances of your home gives not only added security; it sends an inviting message to visitors. Added motion sensors to these lights will deter burglars because your doorways will illuminate when movement is detected a set distance from your stoop or porch.
Adding a spotlight above your garage doors provides added security when entering or exiting your garage. This is a good light to add a motion sensor to or a dusk till dawn timer to save energy.
Another excellent placement of a spotlight for added security is on the corner or side of your house that is always in a shadow. This will eliminate hiding places for burglars or uninvited visitors. This too is a good light to install a motion sensor or timer.
Driveways are another area to provide lighting as a safety measure, as well as steps, sidewalks and pathways. Unknown shadows are a hazard while parking and walking. Lighting should illuminate these areas after dark, so that you and your guests may move about safely in the night. You can place a light on the side of your house to light the area, or install lanterns or ground lights.
Adding a soft glow to patios, decking or outdoor living spaces with indirect lighting or mini-lights creates an inviting area to relax and enjoy. This will provide added hours of enjoyment, safety and convenience for you and your guests.
To ensure safety and ease while cooking outdoors, install additional lighting above your grilling station or outdoor BBQ pit. Add lighting to your eating and serving area to prevent accidents and to ensure the safety of everyone, including the chef.
If you have an outdoor pond or fountain, it is a lovely accent to add underwater lighting to these features. If that is not in your design you can create a breathtaking effect by highlighting these features with several different types of lighting. For that special sculpture, install a spotlight to move the eye to that special focal point.
To define the outline of your garden, install ground lighting around the perimeter. To highlight shrubs, add uplighting behind them that will create beautiful shadows in your flowerbeds.
If you have a rock garden or use rocks in your landscaping, consider hiding a light fixture in them. Install a light on the ground and stack rocks all around it for a magical illumination at night. Seeing the light peek out from between the rocks will offer a stunning light feature.
You may also bring lighting up above the ground. You can do this by simply installing strings or tubes of light along a structure. Or, add a string of brightly colored or solid white Chinese lanterns or sheer globe lights above your space for an enchanting evening.
When you decide to install lighting into your environment, it will enrich your outdoor living experience for your family and guests. Carefully placed lighting will divert intruders, create a comfortable environment and boost safety in the process. It’s a win win situation.
—By Melissa Cleaton Shearwood