Decrease maintenance costs and improve the physical appearance of your property by adding or upgrading your exterior lighting.
To most property owners, outdoor lighting means a pair of decorative wall sconces by the front door, a few lights along the walkway and perhaps floodlights for security. Exterior lighting can do much more. It can make even a modest property look very attractive at night, increasing the property's visual appeal and making it more salable in this buyer's market.
Also, outdoor lighting can make your outdoor space more enjoyable place to spend time. And surprisingly, exterior lights even can make the interior of a property seem larger and more pleasant. Here's why: When there's little or no exterior lighting, windows become black mirrors at night for people inside, making the interior seem smaller and more closed in. By illuminating outdoor areas beyond the windows and glass doors, people see past their own reflections into the outside landscaping. Outdoor lighting can make your property a bit safer too, by deterring burglars.
Types of Exterior Lighting
Also known as backlighting, silhouetting is a dramatic uplighting technique appropriate when shrubs or trees with strong sculptural shapes, such as magnolias or evergreens, are located in front of a wall or fence.
Path lighting makes strolling on walkways safer after dark, but handled improperly, path lights can make a yard look like an airport runway. To help mitigate this effect, vary the side of the walkway that path lights are placed on, and vary the distance between lights. This creates visual interest and breaks up the runway effect. For safety, place a path light at any point in the walkway where there is a step or change in surface.
These accent lights are positioned on or in the ground and pointed up to dramatically illuminate lawn features such as trees, sculpture or gazebos. Uplights that are recessed into the ground are known as well lights. Ones that are mounted above grade are called ground-mounted directional fixtures.
Most properties already have one or two fixtures mounted beside the front door. Many property owners put uncomfortably bright bulbs inside these fixtures, thinking that more light is better. It really just creates more glare and causes the decorative fixtures to take over visually. Instead, install 25W or 40W bulbs to illuminate entryways while minimizing harsh glare and shadows. LED bulbs are now available in traditional shapes, including flame tip. You can get the light output of the 25W to 40W bulb, while only consuming 4W to 6W worth of power. They also last 25,000 hours, as compared to a traditional incandescent bulb, which has a life of 750-2,000 hours. There are even LED bulbs that create the effect of gas flame.
Downlighting is a good way to light outdoor activity areas, such as outdoor dining tables or cooking areas. They are also very good at lighting planting areas and for projecting a wash of light across grassy areas. Downlights can be mounted on eaves, trellises, gazebos or the branches of mature trees.
Moonlighting is a special downlighting technique. Downlights are hung on tree branches above the lowest branches so that the light filters through the leaves of those low branches, creating a dappled, natural-looking light-and-shadow effect. Other lights might be mounted in these trees, pointed up to highlight the foliage canopy.
Halogen bulbs traditionally have been used in landscape lighting, but recent advances in LED lights make them the best alternative. LED fixtures are comparable in cost of the old halogens, and they're more energy-efficient, more reliable in cold weather and can last more than 10 times as long.
Outdoor lighting is available in 120V or 12V systems. The 12V systems are the best choice for most homeowners because they usually can be installed without hiring an electrician and without adding additional circuits to your electrical panel. The cords typically are buried, but if you use a 12V system they don't pose a safety risk and need not be buried very deep. Transformers are about the size of a half-gallon milk carton. They can be placed in garages or basements, attached to exterior walls or located discreetly in the yard. Lights positioned more than 75 feet from a transformer sometimes are dimmer than those located closer.