Lighting

With Outdoor Lighting You Can Enjoy Your Garden Into The Evening Hours

It is a beautiful evening and you are relaxing on your patio, enjoying the cool summer air. The flowers are blooming, the lawn is green and lush, everything is perfect, if only you could see! We spend so much time and money on our backyards, decks and patios, and then the sun goes down and we must abandon these beautiful oases. However, it does not have to be that way if you have outdoor lighting.

There are so many choices on the market these days for outdoor lighting that you can find something for every budget and something to fit into any outdoor design. Whether you are looking to brightly light a patio or deck, or simply add some atmospheric lighting in your garden, there are endless options with outdoor lighting.

What Are My Choices?

There are a few different options when it comes to lighting your backyard environment. The first thing that you need to decide is what your primary goal is with the lights. What do you want to achieve? Do you want a subtle effect or bright lights that will extend your living area? Do you want to display plants or trees? Alternatively, do you simply want to light up your walkway?

Once you decide, what you want to achieve you can examine the options that are available. The most common types of outdoor lights are:

1) Low voltage

2) Solar

There are more options, however these two are generally the most common and each option has its advantages and disadvantages.

Solar Lighting

Solar lights have become quite popular in recent years, and this is primarily because they are relatively inexpensive. These lights are also very easy to install and use, and they do not require a professional installation.

Each light works by having a solar panel on top of the light fixture. The sun light charges the solar panels during the day, and when the sun goes down, the solar cells, which should be fully charged illuminate the lights.

The obvious disadvantages to this type of light are that they do not stay brightly lit for long. There is only a limited time that the light will shine, until the solar cells run out of charge and the light fades out. The other disadvantage to a solar light is that the light is not very bright. If you are relying on solar lights to illuminate a pathway in your garden, it will not do a very good job. The light that it puts out is simply not bright enough for illumination.

However, solar lights are very useful if you are simply looking for a bit of ambience. These lights are very good if you want to provide some subtle atmospheric lighting in your garden or around a pond or water feature. Because you do not have to worry about any electrical wiring, you do not have a safety hazard if you want to use this type of light around a water feature in your garden.

Low Voltage Lighting

Low voltage lighting is the way to go if you are looking to cast a little bit more light on the situation. If you choose low voltage, you will have many more options than with solar lights however the lights are likely to cost you more.

Low voltage lights are an excellent choice if you are looking to illuminate a pathway or walkway in your yard or garden. These lights will provide enough light so that you will be able to see your way, however it will not be over lit either.

The downside to low voltage lights are that you will likely need to have them professionally installed. Depending on the type that you choose and the set up that you require, you may be able to do it yourself.

What Kinds Of Lights Can I Get?

When you start shopping for outdoor light fixtures, you may become overwhelmed. There are more and more types of lights out on the market every day, so there is definitely something for everyone.

A popular type of light is the natural looking one. This type of light is made to look like a rock so that it blends into the landscape. These types of lights are available in different sizes and shapes. In addition, you can even get them in a spotlight as well, if you want o showcase a tree, statue or even your home.

Kitchen Lighting: Kitchen Islands

The kitchen island is an important part of many modern kitchens today. It’s a place where we cook, prep food and gather with friends and family over bottles of wine and snacks. It’s also a place where we serve breakfast or do homework. With so many different activities going on, many wonder if their light fixtures are properly lighting the space. Here are a few tips and tricks for lighting a kitchen island.

Types of Light Fixtures

There are a number of different fixtures that can work for a kitchen island space. For starters, depending on the size of your kitchen and your island, you may be able to get away with a single flush mount or semi-flush mount ceiling fixture. These are typically used for general overhead lighting. If you don’t actually use your kitchen island for many tasks, this may be a good option as it will give a clean, uncluttered and classy look to your space.

Pendant lights are a popular option and for good reason. You can hang these lights just about anywhere above the island and as long as you have them at the right height, you won’t knock your head into them while you’re working. Pendant lights also come in a wide array of colors, sizes and styles to choose from, so it’s easy to find the right pendant lights for any kitchen style.

Another option is the use of a specially designed kitchen island light. These fixtures typically use two or more lights all suspended from a single light, similar in fashion to a chandelier. (They also make great light fixtures for billiards tables!) These can be great for larger kitchen islands where you don’t want to have a number of different pendant lights hanging, which can create visual clutter.

Finally, recessed lights are a great choice for those who want more of a classy, elegant look in their space. They’re also a great choice for those working with an ultra modern space or a shabby cottage style space. In fact, recessed lights work for just about any style, despite the fact that they all tend to look relatively the same. These fixtures are flush with the ceiling, creating a clean look with ample lighting.

Placement for Light Fixtures Over Kitchen Islands

Once you know what type of light fixtures you’re going to use, you’ll need to find the right placement. If you’re using a single light fixture, such as a flush or semi-flush mount ceiling fixture, or a specialized kitchen island light, then you’ll want to center the fixture over the island.

For other fixtures, such as pendant lights or recessed lights, you’ll want to center the lights over the areas that you’ll be working most at. For example, if you have a stove top on your kitchen island, you’ll want to have a light over that. If you have a designated prep space, you’ll want to have a light for that, as well. Remember to keep spacing in mind, as you don’t want any of these light fixtures to be too close or too far apart.

Lighting a kitchen island is a surprisingly easy task, despite the wide variety of choices out there. Once you narrow down your type of lighting, you’ll find that placement comes naturally and before you know it, your kitchen island will be a functional, well-lit space. You can find simple spherical crystal ball bases for lamps, crystal encrusted chandeliers, ceiling fixtures with crystal shades and much, much more.

Landscape Lighting Benefits and Options

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.

Business signs

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.

Lighting Glossary

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.