One aspect of home design that is often overlooked is outdoor landscape lighting. Many homeowners take pride in their lawn and landscaping, and that effort should be on display both day and night. Long after the sun has set, outdoor landscape lighting provides homeowners with a way to utilize and showcase different design elements of their property.

Types of Lighting Systems

While installing landscape lighting used to require lawn excavation to route wires, two major types of outdoor lighting have emerged due to their convenient installation methods. Both of these popular systems have advantages and drawbacks depending on your needs and preferences.

Solar lighting requires no electricity at all; its energy source is direct sunlight that charges batteries in the light fixtures. It is the least costly option because it does not impact electric bills, but it is less reliable due to its dependence on sunlight. Solar lighting cannot be installed in shaded areas and will be consistently undercharged in particularly cloudy regions. Its light also dims over the course of the night as the energy stored during daylight is depleted.

Low-voltage lighting requires only minor, shallow wiring that connects to an existing outdoor outlet with a transformer to lower its voltage. It will contribute to your home’s energy consumption, but depending on the type of light bulbs chosen and the number of fixtures installed, it will not necessarily cause a drastic spike in electricity costs. Low-voltage systems can be set to turn on and off according to a timer, which gives the homeowner a degree of control over their power usage. Choosing longer-lasting, energy-efficient bulbs will also help control costs associated with the system. Additionally, the different bulb options allow the homeowner greater creativity as far as brightness and color.

Kinds of Light Bulbs

The type of light bulbs utilized in landscape lighting is a major component of the design process. The first point to consider is what the function of the light will be. If the light will preside over large areas, it needs to be bright and powerful. When the light is serving a certain purpose, such as illuminating a doorway, it should be focused only on its intended target. Accent lighting used for aesthetic reasons can be employed more creatively.

Bulbs are available in a variety of colors, sizes, and brightness. Different kinds of bulbs have varying life spans and energy usage levels. Outdoor lighting can be set up with incandescent, halogen, or LED bulbs. LED is generally the most expensive, but it usually lasts the longest and is the most energy efficient. More detailed information regarding light bulb types can be found in another of our recent posts.

Styles of Lighting

Outdoor landscape lighting can be arranged in a multitude of ways in order to highlight a property’s best assets or promote safety. A few of the most commonly used styles include:

Uplights. These lights are aimed up onto the object they are accentuating. They are often used to make signs legible or to display ornate shrubbery.

Downlights. Meant to mimic moonlight or other forms of natural light, they are usually hidden and shine down onto an item to give a spotlighting effect.

Pathlights. As their name suggests, pathlights are placed along paths to illuminate walkways.

Backlights. This style of lighting is used to create a silhouette effect to dramatize landscape features, such as statues or distinctive plants, by shining light onto an area from behind it, causing the structures in front of the light to be cast in shadow.

The Benefits of Installing a System

Regardless of the type of outdoor lighting system chosen, the benefits are numerous. Pathlights around walkways and driveways as well as fixtures over doors will prevent accidents and guide guests safely to your home. Security is also greatly enhanced by the installation of nighttime lighting. Intruders can be deterred from your home if lighting highlights areas they would trespass.

Because many people do not come home from work until it is already dark outside, landscape lighting affords them the ability to enjoy their yards, patios, gardens, and gazebos in the evening. Nighttime parties can be held outside, and children can safely enjoy playgrounds at night if they are well lit and supervised.

Outdoor landscape lighting is a great outlet for homeowners to further personalize their property. It is a highly customizable process, which provides people the opportunity to accentuate features of their home using different colors and styles of light. Undoubtedly, lots of thought went into your home’s construction and landscaping, and putting that same amount of thought into outdoor lighting gives your work a chance to shine 24 hours a day.

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Sources: American National Sprinkler & Lighting; Better Homes and Gardens; HGTV; Outdoor Lighting Perspectives; Popular Mechanics; University of Minnesota Department of Horticultural Sciences.

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