Tips for a Perfectly Lit Landscape
When it comes to landscape lighting, a little does a lot. Use these tips to put the finishing touch on your exterior spaces.
This might seem obvious, but how light is seen during the daytime is much different than how it is seen after dark. That being said, there are certain lighting principles that remain true to both scenarios.
To begin, it’s important to know that light contains intensity and color. A lightbulb’s particular color is found on the packaging in the form of a number ranging from 1800 kelvins (K), which is a very red tone, to 7500 K, which manifests in a bluish-white hue.
Also, whether indoors or outdoors, lighting is typically divided into three layers, based on how it functions.
- Overall — Illuminates an entire room or space.
- Task — Has a specific purpose, like lighting a path.
- Accent — Highlights an object or area. Spotlights or floodlights are often used for this purpose.
When it comes to lightbulbs, there are a variety suitable for outdoor fixtures. Incandescent bulbs put out light that is pleasing, but they have a relatively short lifespan and tend to consume more energy. Halogen bulbs are a step better than incandescent, generally having a longer life and less energy consumption. Fluorescents have made up a lot of ground in the last decade or so and now come in a more pleasant color range, last a lot longer, and consume less electricity. LED bulbs, while more expensive up front, feature an extremely long life and very low energy consumption.
Also keep in mind that landscape lights in close proximity to a building with electricity can be integrated into its wiring system rather easily. Solar landscape lighting options are available as well.
Outdoor Lighting Issues
Outdoor and indoor lighting issues tend to be quite different. For example, reflection is less of a problem outdoors due to dark surfaces not being good reflectors of light. What is important to outdoor lighting? Positioning and shielding to prevent glare. Glare is the result of an oversized or over-bright light source. Because it reflects directly in people’s eyes, it can be blinding.
Another sensitive issue to be aware of when dealing with exterior landscape lighting is direct versus indirect light. Direct light, like a downlight outside your back entry door, brightens the object it is directed at and little else. Indirect light creates a soft wash of illumination by reflecting on surrounding surfaces.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to outdoor lighting placement — just about anything goes. However, there are some spots that are an absolute must:
- Paths — A well-lit path is welcoming, hospitable and safety-conscious. High illumination is not necessary — a little goes a long way. Downlights can prevent dangerous glare. Another good option is individually lit pavers.
- Entries — You have the option of placing lights overhead or to each side of the door.
- Driveway — Low-voltage landscape lighting is a great option along the driveway.
- Stairs — An important safety precaution, illuminate either the risers or the treads of outdoor steps.
- Decks and Patios — Light specific task areas, like a cooking space, as well as steps, railings and seating spaces. For a more advanced lighting option, try uplighting an umbrella or deck “ceiling” for a moody, indirect effect.
- Gazebos, Pergolas or Trellises — Highlight an interesting structure in your outdoor landscape.
- Architectural Features — Use landscape lighting to showcase a wall or unusual structural feature on your home by washing it or grazing it with light. This effect casts highlights and shadows, making an interesting night time display.
Exterior Light Pollution
When you install too much light or a poorly planned lighting display, you run the risk of creating light pollution. The result is unwanted light invading indoor rooms, washing out the view of the night sky, blinding glare, and wasted energy and money. Here’s how to avoid light pollution:
- Carefully aim lights. Position your exterior lighting at night and check on it frequently.
- Shield light bulbs. Be sure to use fixtures with reflectors and shielding so that the light goes where you want it.
- Minimize wattage. Higher wattage equals harsher light, so go with lower wattage bulbs. They are often enough to provide adequate outdoor illumination.
- Control the light. Use today’s advanced technology to your advantage by employing timers, dimmers, controls, and motion sensors so that lights will only be used as necessary.