Outdoor lighting is a great way to enhance the appearance and safety of your home. It can create a magical atmosphere, bathing your residence in a soft glow and setting the mood for festivities. It can also highlight walkways, eliminate dangerous dark patches, provide a welcoming entrance and ward off intruders.
Outdoor lighting is affordable, simple and safe, especially now that LEDs and low-voltage systems are so readily available. LEDs produce a bright light at a low cost and without much heat, reducing the risk of fire. Low-voltage systems are less hazardous and less likely to be subject to regulations than standard voltage systems.
This allows for greater flexibility in the design, and makes it possible to do more of the installation on your own. Of course, contractors and lighting specialists can install your lighting solution for you. This will add to your costs, but may be the best option if you’re interested in an ambitious project.
Here, we explore some of the possibilities for outdoor lighting, as well as provide a few guidelines for installation.
General Lighting Considerations
In selecting and installing outdoor lighting, you’ll need to find a solution that meets your needs without annoying the neighbors or violating local lighting and electrical codes.
To begin, consider what function(s) your lighting solution will serve, as that will most certainly influence what you buy and where you place it:
- Entertainment lighting focuses on barbecue pits, patios, and pools to enhance outdoor evening activities.
- Landscape lighting highlights features around your house, garden and grounds.
- Safety lighting brightens pathways and access areas used at night, to help eliminate low-visibility hazards.
- Security lighting illuminates critical entry points, and may act as a silent alarm should anyone approach your home.
Once you’ve assessed this, determine what areas need to be illuminated, how bright the lamps need to be and what your budget is. Cost can vary greatly. Simple pathway lighting using solar units is very inexpensive and can easily be installed by the homeowner; extending conduits to distant locations for high-power fixtures can be very expensive and will likely require a contractor.
Finally, you’ll need to decide whether to handle the installation yourself or to hire a contractor. If you are planning for a DIY job, make sure that:
- You know and abide by the local lighting and electrical codes.
- All components are UL listed.
- All components are intended for outdoor use.
Low voltage systems are generally easier to install than standard voltage systems, and guidelines for their installation may be available at your local hardware store, or from online sources such as the Home Depot.
If you’re not hiring a contractor, begin to develop a more detailed plan for your location, mapping out where you’d like to place individual lights. You may be able to see a topside view of your house and its surroundings using Google Maps. You can print the satellite image and use it to pinpoint important spaces.
Safety & Security Lighting
Outside illumination can greatly contribute to your safety and security, particularly as you age. Older individuals can have decreased night vision, and as a result, can be more susceptible to falling. Because a fall can be more detrimental as you age, it is very important that outside areas used in the evenings have sufficient illumination, particularly in areas with stone flooring (e.g., walkways) or multiple levels (e.g., decks).
See Also: Simple Home Design Solutions
In addition to allowing those who live in the home to navigate more safely, outdoor lighting can be a deterrent to intruders. Well-lit yards offer few places to hide and provide a clear signal to would-be burglars that their activities may be watched.
A common security tactic is to link bright lights to motion detectors to impede potential break-ins. The lights and motion detectors may be linked to other security measures, such as alarms and cameras.
Entertainment & Landscape Lighting
Although safety and security are prominent considerations when selecting an outdoor lighting solution, aesthetics are important too. Entertainment and landscape lighting can increase the beauty of your home and its surroundings by adding a gentle glow to your house’s exterior and highlighting unique features that would be lost in the dark.
Even if it isn’t in use at all times, its availability can be a boon to celebrations of all types. Imagine a summer barbecue illuminated by string lighting that brightens your backyard under a twilight sky and path lighting that casts a soft glow over garden footpaths. Or imagine a projection system that displays an ever-changing array of holiday silhouettes on the exterior of your home, signaling to all who drive by that yours is the most festive house on the block.
Achieving a harmonious effect demands careful planning, as there are many techniques that you can draw from. You can illuminate from above or below, bathe everything in a soft light or spotlight specific features. You can mix bright lighting with dim. And you can even mix low voltage and standard voltage options.
In determining brightness and placement, remember that lights should not be overly bright or jarring, neither should they shine into a neighbor’s windows or intrude on their space.
What Are You Waiting For?
The possibilities for outdoor lighting designs and layouts are endless. Where can you go for inspiration? Draw upon your creative instincts and the characteristics of your location to help shape your vision. There are also plenty of books, magazines and websites dedicated to residential lighting solutions.
An external contractor may be necessary for an ambitious design, but there are a lot of DIY possibilities—provided that you understand local regulations, buy UL listed components and possess the appropriate knowledge and skills for the task.
And don’t forget to talk to your neighbors if there is a chance of light pollution. Even if a particular lighting application is not specifically forbidden, good relations with neighbors are always rewarded.
It’s time to let your lights shine!
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