Designer Landscape Lighting
The Popularity of Outdoor Lighting:
Take a drive around any subdivision at night and you will be guaranteed to see many homes with small lights bordering paths or landscape areas. These low wattage lamps essentially delineate an area, and are often referred to as ‘runway lighting’. The fittings are generally plastic, and the transformer may be rated at 70 watts of power and components are available inexpensively at many retail hardware outlets. This is not the business that we are in.
Now imagine your home and landscape coming alive at night. The Japanese Maple bursting with nighttime color; soft light cascading mysteriously from the canopy of your Silver Birch and casting dappled moonlit shadows, whilst the silver-white trunk stands as a shimmering pillar. The stately pine plays with light and shadow amidst its needled boughs, whilst the dancing waterfall is captured by an oblique cross light from a concealed spot. These are all examples of indirect lighting, where the source light is concealed and the landscape plantings and features are revealed.
Path lights have a place for safety, and function to illuminate pathways, steps, and low-level landscape features. The fixtures themselves can create a statement in the landscape, with a wide variety of styles, fixtures, and finishes, from the rich patina of Verde to a rustic weathered iron, to the cunningly concealed rock light, there is a place in your landscape for these fixtures.
Bulbs and Hardware:
If the fixture is the part of the light that you see, it is the bulb that does the work. Although bulbs are generally referred to by wattage (the power they consume), technology has vastly increased the light output and halogen-filled MR16 bulbs enable precise focusing of light on the desired subject.
Of course, the system needs power, and the smallest transformer (which converts line voltage down to 12 volts) we use is 250 watts. The ‘Cadillac’ of the industry is the Nightscaping Transformer, which has a lifetime warranty, but other quality units are available. The wire to deliver power to your fixtures is important, too small and the voltage drop will dim lights and compromise the whole effect.
Maintenance and Performance:
Outdoor lighting fixtures have to survive in the harshest of environments. Winter cold, summer rain, wind, and the usual wear and tear that comes from standing year-round in the garden. The fixtures that we use are all metal, and have finishes that are baked on or powder coat and are guaranteed to look good for years. Bulb life will vary up to 4000 hours, but an annual service of the bulb and fixtures will keep them shining bright.
How to Get Great Patio Lighting Design
If you own a patio and you don’t have a great patio lighting design you are missing out on what can be a versatile, extra room for your home! The best part about this is that installing great outdoor patio lighting doesn’t have to be hard or require the touch of a landscape architect. Most homeowners can install great lighting on their patio within the space of a weekend. Here are some tips for you so that you can install your patio lights quicker than you can grill a burger!
Choosing How to Power Your Lights
The first decision that you will need to make is what are you going to use to power your lights. You have three main choices, standard voltage lighting, low voltage lighting, and solar lighting. Standard voltage lighting is the hardest to use because it can be dangerous to run new wires and will many times require experience or a licensed electrician to make sure that it is done safely. On the “bright” side, these lights are the most powerful and will light a larger area and scare away criminals easier. However, they are often too bright to set the right mood to entertain.
On the other side of the coin, you have low voltage lights. These lights run on a low voltage circuit from a transformer on the side of your house. The power cords are entirely shockproof so you don’t have to worry about burying the cables, just hiding them so they are not tripped over. These lights are dimmer than the standard voltage lights, which doesn’t make them great for security lighting but makes them great for setting a mood.
Another great way to install lights is by installing solar patio lighting. These lights are very easy to install and come with an included solar panel that charges them during the day so they can give you some great light at night. Unfortunately, the lower-end solar patio lights tend to be more unreliable and give off a weaker light. If you are planning on installing solar lights, make sure you opt for a quality brand.
Choosing Your Light Fixtures
Ideally, your lights should make it easy to navigate your home at night, provide safety and security, and also create a welcoming atmosphere. These are sometimes competing interests, so you need to find flexible light fixtures.
Combining the use of standard voltage light fixtures and either low voltage or solar-powered lights can create some great effects and make sure your patio is well-lit. For example, installing a floodlight such as the Heath Zenith Halogen Motion-Sensing Flood Light pictured on the left above areas where you plan to place a barbeque grill or where there are steps can provide you with the light you need to cook or move around outside at night. Hooking it to a motion sensor can even help to turn the light on and off when you need it. Once you’re on your patio you will want some softer lights to set a better mood. Fixtures like this Intermatic Low Voltage Bollard Light can help provide you with a soft, ambient glow you can entertain guests with. Then, if you still need a little bit more light, you can grab a few of these Smart Solar Solar Dragonfly Light, pictured below, to place on your tables where they will cast a nice glow with dragonflies as part of the shadows. Solar umbrella lights are another great option to add some quick and easy light.
Installing the Lights
The most important part of installing your patio lights is making sure that they provide the illumination that you want, but they don’t blind people by shining into their eyes. For this reason, always install any lights that you are placing on the side of your house over seven feet up. Lights installed on the ground should all be below two off the ground and should not shine directly up if they are a spotlight.
Another great tool you can use in your lighting plans is light shields. These are simply fittings around a light that directs the light. However, they are very powerful because they put the light right where you want it, so you can install lights in more locations without having to worry about it blinding people.
Finding and installing outdoor patio lighting is a great way that you can increase the safety, security, and appeal of your backyard. The greatest part about it is almost any homeowner can install some kind of patio lighting over a simple weekend if they put their mind to it!
Check out these products featured in this article and a few other top picks to start installing some patio lighting on your property today.
Patio Garden Lighting For Outdoor Living
Patio garden lighting is one aspect of the design of a house that is sometimes overlooked. The right lighting in a patio or garden can help to create a sense of peace and security for the individual that is accenting their home.
Many different varieties are available on the retail scene for people to choose from. A person can be whimsical and magical all at the same time with the type of patio garden lighting they choose to accent their outdoor living area.
One of the first places a person can look for the perfect patio garden lighting is at their local retail stores such as Wal-Mart or Lowe’s. Lowe’s website has a variety of perfect lighting for anyone’s patio.
These home decor items can be found in lights that can light the path to the patio or lights that one can use to accent their patio furniture. Very unique outdoor table lamps can be found for a very reasonable price at Lowe’s. Wal-Mart has a very unique patio garden lighting for one’s outdoor space.
The Lights Can Project Images
The lights are luminaries that can project images such as a dragonfly or various contemporary shapes onto one’s patio garden. These affordable lights are definitely art home decor that can make the patio garden feel as if it is an oasis from the everyday hustle and bustle.
Another way that the patio garden can be enhanced with the perfect lighting is to use mounted lighting in the area that is to be enhanced. Kits can be bought that will allow a person to put lighted post caps on the tops of the deck patio fencing.
This is something that can be personalized, and more than likely one will not be able to find these kits in a normal retail store. However, if one does a quick search on the net, then they can find a kit to match what they are looking for.
Patio garden lighting can make a person’s outdoor living area feel like a slice of heaven. If one strategically places the lights correctly, they can enjoy their outdoor living space at any time during the day or night.
Since they are available at a variety of places on the retail market, patio garden lighting can be purchased easily and quickly if one wants to enhance their outdoor home decor.
The head gardener can often be found relaxing on the house patio. This is the perfect spot to read a garden magazine in the sun, or just snooze and enjoy the ambiance.
Do You Make These Garden Lighting Mistakes?
Designing the exterior garden lighting style that you want in your yard can be incredibly exciting. Your garden essentially becomes a blank canvas that you can put any of your ideas on and unleash all of your inner creativity to create any number of effects and moods. However, despite being well-intentioned many people make some very common mistakes when trying to design the lights in the garden.
But with the right research and time spent designing your lighting scheme, you can avoid being subject to this shame. These are but a few of the all-too-common mistakes people make when designing their low voltage garden lighting and how to avoid them.
Design Mistake #1 – Using Too Much Light
Sadly, the most common mistake most people make when lighting their gardens is using too much light. Gardeners will use very high wattage bulbs in many of their light fixtures, washing out the entire area in light. You should not be lighting up your garden in the same way that you would light up your yard to play a game of catch at night. Instead of turning night into day, use the night to create dramatic effects and shadows with your plants.
Avoiding this mistake is easy – just use fewer, lower wattage bulbs. Subtle light is the key. Enjoy the night and the different sides of your garden that it can bring out, don’t try to wash it away with a gigantic light that could double as a spotlight for the local car dealership.
Design Mistake #2 – Using More Than One Type of Material
With so many different outdoor garden lighting fixtures out on the market today, it can be tempting to want to use all of them in your garden – don’t. All of the light fixtures in your garden should have the same general look and theme to create a sense of continuity. All of your lights do not have to be in the same style, but the changes in them should not be too dramatic. Don’t try to do too much at once. Pick a style that you like and stick with it. You can always change fixtures to something else later.
Mistake #3 – Trying to Create More Than One Theme or Mood
Along the same lines as the previous mistake, don’t try to create too many moods in your garden. If you have a huge estate with large botanical gardens that would make Louis XVI of France jealous, then, by all means, feel free to create different sections of your garden with different moods.
However, most of us will be tightly constrained by the property area that we have available. For this reason, creating more than one mood will cause your garden to lack continuity and instead of feeling the emotions that you’re trying to elicit from them, most visitors to your garden will just leave confused to as why you put island-inspired lights right next to an area lit like a Japanese rock garden.
Avoiding this mistake is simple as well. Just pick one general theme and mood that you would like anyone visiting your garden to experience and draw all your lighting around trying to recreate this feeling. If you go this route nine times out of ten you will succeed in setting up the type of mood you would like to establish.
Mistake #4 – Using Low-Quality Materials and Construction Methods
Installing garden lights, especially if you’re planning on having an extensive low voltage system, can be expensive and time-consuming. The temptation may be to use lower-quality materials to save some money so you can light more of your property at once or fudge a little bit in installing the lights by doing things like not burying wires when you should. However, this is one of the biggest mistakes that you can make.
The garden lighting system that you are installing will hopefully last for years without any major maintenance costs other than replacing light bulbs. By using lower-quality materials and construction methods you are setting yourself up for a lot more headaches down the road.
Make sure that you know exactly how much time and money you are willing to put into installing your garden lighting. If you don’t have all the money necessary to install the quality lights you want, either save up until you do or just install some of the lights. You can always come back later and add more. Also, make sure that you have enough time to properly install the lights once you buy them so that you don’t end up with a rushed job. Remember, measure twice cut once.
Whatever system you install for your garden lights should be as low maintenance as you can make it upfront. Make sure that light bulbs or lighting fixtures aren’t going to be an incredible pain to change. Consider making the entire system work on the remote control, an easily accessible switch, or even a timer. After your lights are installed, you should be spending your time enjoying them, not trying to keep them in proper working order.
If you avoid these five common garden lighting mistakes, you should be well on your way to having the perfect plan for lighting your garden in no time. Just make sure to do your research, comparison shop, and spend enough time planning out where you want the lights to go, and soon you will have a system that is the envy of the neighborhood, increases your property value, and allows you and your friends to enjoy your garden is literally a whole new light.
Avoid These Mistakes, And You’ll Be Well on Your Way To an Amazing Nighttime Landscape!