Any property owner knows that landscape lighting can make a huge impact on the property’s aesthetic. Outdoor landscape lighting can be the sole asset of your home that transforms its outdoor space. Whether you just moved into a new home or you’re looking to make improvements to your current LED landscape lighting setup, you’re in the right place!
In this guide to landscape lighting, our experts will outline the areas of your yard that you should light, the different types of landscape lighting, how to use landscape lighting, and so much more. Before you run to your nearest home improvement store and buy every light you see, consider that less is sometimes more. This is especially the case when it comes to your lighting preferences.
What makes outdoor lighting so effective is that it highlights certain features and areas, using contrast to bring the eye to certain areas. Use our landscape lighting design guide to create a space that makes you proud.
Let’s Put the Obvious Things On the Table: What Is the Best Landscape Lighting?
So what is the best landscape lighting? The majority of today’s most beautiful landscapes use low-voltage landscape lighting. Not only are these safer to work with compared to 120-volt systems but they are less expensive to install. Low-voltage lights receive one-tenth the power, but there is a step-down transformer that allows these lights to achieve nearly any look. These lights can provide a subtle glow over a garden wall or mimic a moonlight beam coming from a tree canopy. The options are endless!
What Does a Typical Landscape Lighting System Include?
Today’s landscape lighting systems usually rely on stepped-down power that comes from your house. Here’s what you can expect to see:
- Transformer: It reduces the household’s 120-volt current to a safer 12 volts.
- Bulb: This dictates the brightness, beam width, and color in addition to how much electricity is used.
- Fixture housing: This helps to protect the lightbulbs from the elements and shapes the beam.
- Stake: Works to keep the fixture in place.
- Cable: Brings the current to the light fixture through lead wires. If you have underlit trees and accent lights that are aimed at the facade of your house, it can create an inviting and warm post-sunset glow using low voltage.
Make a Landscape Lighting Plan!
Are you ready to create your very own landscape lighting plan? These tips can be applied to both homes and commercial businesses to create the ambiance you’ve always wanted. Here are our tips for planning outdoor lighting.
- Start with a sketch: A rough sketch of the property is helpful in determining where different light fixtures should be placed. If you have a larger property, such as a commercial building, consider using a different sheet of paper for each region. These sketches will help you estimate the distance of wire runs. Walk around the property and make notes as you go.
- Set the transformer location: Now, locate where to put the transformer. Ideally, you’ll place the low-voltage transformer next to the house in a discreet location. Consider putting it behind a garden bed or next to an air conditioning unit. The transformer should be as close as possible to the location of the fixture. In the case that you need to use multiple transformers, make a separate plan for each.
- Determine the fixture locations: Before you move forward with fixture installation, be sure to write down their approximate locations on your sketch. You can take measurements between fixtures and the transformer as you walk around the property.
- Determine the wire runs: Finally, you’ll be able to plan out the wiring method you’ll use.
Where to Place Landscape Lighting?
Of course, where to place landscape lighting depends on the specifics of your outdoor spaces and landscape elements. Here are some considerations for you to keep in mind when shopping for exterior lights.
- Look at your yard and identify the features that you like the most. For example, maybe you have a small pond or a beautiful tree that you want to highlight with the right lights.
- Consider adding drama to areas that don’t necessarily stand out in the daylight. If you have a stone wall or pathway that doesn’t make an impact during the day, it could completely transform with the right lighting and shadows at night.
- Think about functionality on your property to determine where the lighting should go. If you have stairs or a deck that can be tough to navigate in low levels of light, this is an excellent place to add lighting to reduce the risk of injury.
- Entryways should always be inviting and well-lit.
Remember, landscape lighting is all about seeing the lighting effects rather than the light fixture itself.
What Else Can Be Lit?
From lighting your landscape elements to installing hardscape lights, there are endless possibilities on how to light up your property.
- Deck lights and step lights can be used to highlight noteworthy architectural details on your property while providing a safe passageway to your outdoor step lights. These types of lights may also be used to provide light down stone walls or brightening entertainment areas in your yard.
- Pond lights are similar to spotlights but they’re designed to be submerged in water. This is an easy way to add drama to your outdoor water features.
- Hardscape lights are on the newer side of landscape lighting options and they use LED technology. They are small lights with flanges or brackets that hook onto structures. These lights are commonly used to graze and wash walls with light.
What Are the Types of Landscape Lighting?
There are many types of landscape lighting to consider before you start to make your lighting plan. Here are some of the most common types of exterior lighting to incorporate into your home.
From outdoor flood lights to LED flood lights, there are countless options to consider. The main difference between a spotlight and a floodlight is the spread of the beam. While spotlights project a focused beam of light around 45 degrees, floodlights have a wider beam spread as wide as 120 degrees. Spotlights are easier to aim and adjust, making them ideal for highlighting certain areas on your property such as landscape features or architectural features.
Flood lights are ideal for casting light over main areas such as a lot or a driveway. It also helps to improve the safety and visibility of the space. Make sure that you know the ideal beamwidth in feet as it will help you choose the right flood lights. This measurement will be significantly more important than knowing the width of the beam spread.
- To calculate the beam width, take the angle of the beam x 0.018 x distance from the light bulb.
- Let’s say you have an 80-degree floodlight and you install it from 10 feet away. This means your formula will be as follows: 80 degrees x 0.018 x 10 = 14.4 feet wide.
Inground Landscape Lighting
Inground landscape lighting is an integral part of any glowing property. The majority of inground lights usually have a circle-shaped fixture that sticks directly into the ground. When planning outdoor lighting, consider installing these types of lights to illuminate your walkway or your driveway. These types of lighting are a simple way to increase the sophistication of your property and highlight your yard. Consider using inground landscape lighting to highlight different areas of the yard that don’t stand out during the day. You can also mix these lights with spotlights to create a warm ambiance.
Due to the fact that inground lights are installed directly into the ground, the effects of the light stand out. For inground lights, it’s ideal to create a strong presence in your yard. Instead of focusing on highlighting garden gnomes or flowerbeds, put your focus on the trees and garden walls.
Your landscape lighting plan should also include post lights. It’s common to use outdoor post lights to draw attention to any pathways that you have around your home and to create an ambiance that isn’t too overpowering. If you have a long driveway or other long stretches of space on your property, you can install post lights to catch the eye and ensure the space isn’t lost when it gets dark outside.
General tips to consider:
-You’ll want to purchase the right amount of post lights. To figure out how many you need, pay attention to the diameter that the light encompasses and make sure to set your next fixture outside of that space. The fixture’s height can help determine the proper placement while how well the light functions will let you know if it’s in the right spot.
Path lighting is a staple regardless of the type of the property type. These types of lights help to create markers to draw the eye down a path. They are a simple and cost-effective way to increase the curb appeal of your property and help to improve property safety as well.
Landscape Lighting Design Techniques & Ideas
The possibilities of how you set up your landscape lighting design are seemingly endless. Here are some strategies to consider to help you create the ambiance that you want.
One technique for outdoor landscape lighting is called uplighting. It helps to create different angles of light through spotlights or well-lights nearby the base of an object. If you have trees or statues on your property, you can install uplighting to show off their form.
As the name suggests, highlighting is a landscape lighting technique that shows off the color, shape, and form of an object. You can achieve highlighting by placing either spotlights or floodlights at the base of the feature that you want to highlight. Feel free to adjust the distance and angle of the beam until you achieve the desired effect.
Consider this type of landscape lighting design when you want to create a dramatic silhouette that isn’t present during the day. To achieve silhouetting, you’ll need to place spotlights or well-lights behind an object such as a plant to discreetly light up dramatic shapes on your property. Because the light source is hidden, it helps to create a beautiful silhouette.
Accenting is an effective approach if you want to highlight specific property features such as a tree, planter, statue, or other noteworthy decoration around your property. To achieve accenting, you’ll want to use a narrow spotlight and tilt it either up or down from the object that you’re accenting.
Shadowing is another option for landscape lighting design. Just as the name implies, shadowing uses a hard surface such as a wall or hardscape to create a moody, shadowed effect. You can achieve shadowing by placing a well light, floodlight, or spotlight between the object that you want to illuminate and the vantage point.
If you have a large hedge or a wall on your property that could use more attention, consider washing. This is achieved by using floodlights to cast a subtle, gentle light onto the wall for a pop of brightness.
Your lighting contractor may recommend moonlighting if you have tall trees. This technique uses spotlights and places them in a high location such as a tree to mimic the natural effect of moonlights. The result will be soft and gentle shadows that come from the lower branches of the trees.
If your property has many flat surfaces, grazing can be an ideal lighting solution for you. It’s used to take advantage of the flat surfaces’ texture by creating engaging and dramatic shadows. It’s possible to achieve grazing through good lights or hardscape lights as they graze the surface of different items.
Downlighting is the perfect outdoor landscape lighting if you have garden features or planting beds that aren’t getting much attention. This method consists of attaching outdoor lights to a hardscape, trellis, or eave. It can also help to make your garden area safer.
Some properties simply have that one tree that’s the star of the show. If you have an eye-catching tree that you want to highlight, consider placing a light at the base of the tree and tilting it upward to cast a beautiful spotlight onto the tree.
Your home may have outstanding architectural elements that are otherwise swallowed by the darkness. Use fetching facade lighting by placing upward-facing bullet lights that are placed about one foot from the foundation of the area that you want to highlight. For example, consider fetching facade lighting if you have beautiful porch columns or deep eaves.
Make sure that the hard work that you do in your garden doesn’t go unnoticed. Use this type of landscape lighting to draw attention to a garden bed. The trick is to be sure that the lighting fixture is taller than what’s in the garden so the light can cast down and hit the areas that you want to highlight.
Don’t forget to draw attention to not only the front of your home but the back of your home as well! You can install tree-mounted downlights in addition to good lights that point upward to highlight different structures in your backyard.
If you often use your backyard to host, make sure that there’s plenty of lighting so people can enjoy more time outside. Consider adding tree-mounted lights throughout the backyard to set the mood. It’s helpful to install lighting near your grill as well.
Technical Side Of The Story
The ultimate landscape lighting planning guide is completely subjective and depends on your property and your preferences. Some people wish to brightly illuminate certain elements while others prefer a more subtle approach to their lighting. If possible, always opt for fixtures that have an adjustable lumen outlet. This makes it easy to control the brightness on your own.
In today’s market, LED lighting is becoming standard for lighting landscapes. These types of lights offer lower operating costs and will run for a long time before they need to be replaced. Many new LED lighting options also have impressive features such as adjustable beam spread.
Don’t forget about the color temperature as well! There are different lighting color families; some use warmer lights that mimic oak trees and brown tones while others are more neutral in color. These are ideal for dark exteriors or for drawing attention to darker natural objects such as pine trees.
Our Team Is Here to Help
Now that you know more about landscape accent lights and the different types of landscape lighting, it’s time to transform your space! The right lighting is pivotal to maximizing the potential of your property and can help your space look eye-catching at all hours of the night.
At High Voltage Electric, we are your local lighting contractor with years of knowledge under our belts. We have experience determining which areas of your space could use more attention and we know which lights to use in different scenarios. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help, please contact us today.
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