Benefits of landscape lighting
Landscape lighting is intended to reveal what the night hides and should enhance the property, extend the hours of enjoyment and provide security and safety for property owners and guests. In addition to the obvious benefit of being able to enjoy your yard in the evening, as well as the day, lighting up your home makes the property more visible and, thus, safer. By lighting walkways and steps, you eliminate the need for flashlights and reduce the potential for slips and falls. Furthermore, landscape lighting deters intruders by giving them less “shadows” in which to hide. A well lit house is the most effective deterrent to intruders but floodlights create pools of light coupled with pockets of darkness, often close to windows, which provide privacy for an intruder to enter your home. By strategically placing landscaping lights to provide even illumination, you eliminate protective cover for any would-be intruder and increase safety and security for your property and family.
Landscape lighting also enhances the aesthetic qualities of your property, which is especially beneficial for those wishing to sell their home. Creative lighting can produce dramatic effects that show off the beauty of your home and accentuate the landscape. Properties with a well designed lighting scheme give the impression of a luxurious estate, which often results in an increased resale value. Potential home buyers often drive by a house at night to determine if it might be a property worth checking out. Ornamental lighting attracts these buyers to your home giving them a great first impression. Those that find the outside of your home to be pleasant will believe the inside must be nice as well. The result is more prospective buyers and an increased perception of the value of your property.
For those not concerned with resale value at the moment, lighted backyards create additional useable space for you and your family at night. Landscape lighting creates a pleasant atmosphere for entertaining on warm summer evenings and around fall fire pits. Not only will you be able to further enjoy your deck or patio, you will enjoy sharing it with your friends.
Where should you light?
When deciding where to place lights, you need to assess the elements on your property such as trees, flower beds, statues and walkways. Which structures should be highlighted and which should be downplayed? You obviously want to make sure pathways are well lit for safety, but you also want to show off that rose bush you painstakingly nurtured or the fountain you couldn’t wait to bring home. Trash cans and other eyesores, you will want to keep hidden. You are painting a picture with light in your yard, just as you painted one when you landscaped. The key is to create a balance, highlighting a few spots and providing lighting transitions between them. While there are no rules, careful thought and planning are required as too much lighting creates a busy panorama and too little leaves an unfinished portrait.
Line voltage lighting systems
Line voltage lighting systems run on the same power which runs your house (120 volts) and, therefore, requires the expertise of an electrical contractor to install. In some cases, local permits may be required for installation. 120v wires must be buried 18 inches underground or placed in a protective conduit and all fixtures and connectors must be completely waterproof. Due to these requirements, 120v systems are relatively permanent once they are installed. Their lamps and fixtures are larger, as well as being higher wattage, and produce high light levels. This is beneficial for brightly lit parking lots but less so in residential gardens. For this reason, line voltage systems are better suited to large-scale commercial and institutional applications.
Low voltage lighting systems
Low voltage lighting systems are more practical in residential areas as they are small, flexible and do not require an electrician for installation. Except for the transformer that is connected to the 120v circuit, all the fixtures run on harmless 12v current. The cables need only be hidden, not buried, which allows for great flexibility as your landscape matures and changes. Furthermore, low voltage systems are designed for wet locations and pose no shock hazard when exposed to moisture. Low watt lamps are available in many beam sizes and colors, allowing for more precise lighting effects with lower energy costs. One drawback to low voltage systems is that dim lights from the voltage drop can occur over long distances. To prevent this, it is important to construct a comprehensive lighting plan in order to install the correctly sized transformer and consult a professional regarding proper engineering and adequately sized cables.
Traditional low voltage versus LED low voltage
LED landscape bulbs are the “green” alternative in landscape lighting but the environment isn’t the only thing you’ll help save. As LED bulbs use approximately 75% less electricity than an incandescent bulb of similar lumens, your pocketbook will benefit as well. LED bulbs can last up to 30 years, where standard bulbs need to be replaced every year or so. Furthermore, because LED fixtures are smaller, they allow for lighting designs which previously may have been impossible due to the limitations of standard systems. For example, they can be moved more easily as a tree matures or if you decide to change the landscape. While the initial cost of LED fixtures may be slightly higher, over the course of a lighting system’s lifetime, LED systems can save you 40-50%.
Solar panel powered outdoor lighting
As solar technology improves, innovative companies are expanding the utilization of solar energy and outdoor lighting is not left behind. By using solar panels to power outdoor lights, homeowners, businesses, neighborhoods and municipalities can save thousands of dollars by eliminating electrical and maintenance costs. Furthermore, solar panels bring the availability of light to areas where the electrical power grid is not accessible, opening up numerous possibilities.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 89% of all businesses that fail, do so because of improper signage. Business signs are the most targeted advertising you can do for your company but if a sign is not visible when the sun goes down the company is losing valuable “advertising time.” 85% of customers to a business come from within a five mile radius and by not continually displaying your availability to those potential customers you open the door for your competition. Solar panel powered outdoor lights effectively light up your business signs and monuments without the hassle of tearing up landscaping and parking lots, laying wires or dealing with electricians and utility companies. A fast, effective way to put a literal spotlight on your company, the investment will quickly pay for itself.
Park, parking lot and street lights
A number of styles of overhead and shelter solar panel lights are available to light up parking lots, streets, campuses, parks and shelters. Designed to provide highly efficient and controlled white lighting, lamp and pole styles are similar to those traditionally used although with much less installation and maintenance hassle. With no wiring, installation is much cheaper than traditional lighting as no concrete or landscaping needs to be torn up and reset and there is no waiting for the utility company to connect the lights. There is also no aged wiring to replace years down the road. With no maintenance or utility bills, municipalities and business owners can save thousands of dollars by implementing these solutions for lighting up public areas.
Monument lighting for subdivisions
Solar panel powered lights can be installed on subdivision monuments and entrances located in more remote areas or on monuments placed in between lanes on a split lane road. This allows previously unlit signs to be illuminated, increasing awareness and safety at road intersections. Having a lighted sign also increases perceived value of a subdivision’s location, which benefits those selling homes in the neighborhood. Prospective buyers are unconsciously influenced by these seemingly minor details.
Accent lighting is used to highlight a particular object or area, such as a spotlight on a statue or flower bed or lighting along a pathway. This type of lighting focuses and commands the viewer’s attention.
Fill-in lighting is background lighting used to draw the viewer’s eye seamlessly from one accented area to another. Used as a transition, fill-in lighting ties the overall landscape picture together. Examples include backlighting a tree, washing a wall or flooding a row of trees with soft light.
Moon lighting, or down lighting, mimics nature by creating the illusion of moon light filtering through the trees. Achieved by mounting lights in trees facing downward and requires special fittings so as not to damage trees.