Tips for Planning your Exterior Landscape Lighting
Use the light to showcase your home, yard, and foliage by concealing the light source itself so that attention is focused on the parts of your yard that are illuminated. The light fixture itself, and particularly the bulp, generally should not be visible. In some cases, the lighting fixtures are decorative and should be visible, but even then the bulb should not be visible.
Be careful not to overdo it. Your yard shouldn't be lit up like like a shopping mall during the holidays. Rather, you should strive to mimic a moonlight effect with diffuse, softly glowing lights. Make exceptions for specific reasons, such as lighting the path to your front door, or providing a well-lit area for outdoor barbecuing.
Use backlighting, uplighting, and downlighting for dramatic effects. Sticking with plain old boring conventional lamp-style lights will give you a plain old boring illuminated yard. Experiment with different types of lights in different parts of your yard or garden, and select specific focal points to highlight.
The hood on this walkway light will aim a pool of soft light downward toward the path, not upward into people's eyes.
For walkways and paths, make sure the light is aimed toward the ground, to light up the path for visitors. The light should not be aimed upward, because it can impair night vision and make the path less safe rather than more safe.
Consider the paths that people take through your yard and how it gets used. When you're entertaining, where do people congregate? When guests are visiting, how do they approach your home, and from what angle? Are there any steps, drop-offs, rocks, low fences, or other structures that might pose a danger? When you and your spouse relax on your patio or deck, in what direction are you usually facing? Use the answers to these questions to decide how and where to light your exterior.
Don't hesitate to seek the services of an exterior lighting specialist. Like interior designers, professionals keep up with industry trends, new products, and evolving technology. A exterior lighting consultant may be able to save you money as well as time, while providing you with a vastly improved exterior lighting plan for your home.
If you're having your yard professionally landscaped, be sure to have the landscaping and the exterior lighting plans integrated so that you end up with a cohesive whole.
Check your electrical system to be sure it will be sufficient to handle the additional power draw, and upgrade it if necessary.
Run all the wiring at the same time, even if you're adding your exterior lighting in stages. This way you only have to dig up your yard once, and you'll save money by having the wiring done all at once. It's a good idea to bury the wiring inside steel or PVC conduits to protect it from lawnmowers, digging, and water damage. In areas where the wires don't need to be buried, be sure to cover them with mulch or hide them behind fencing or shrubbery.
If you plan to use high-voltage lights, consider hiring a licensed electrical contractor deal with the power and wiring, unless you have significant experience and knowledge yourself. Do not hire an unlicensed "handyman" or have your gardener do it.
Because exterior yard lighting can attract insects, you should generally locate the light fixtures away from the main entertaining and gathering areas where you and your family and friends will be spending time. Also, avoid aiming the lights directly at the areas in which you will be gathering.
Using a timer for your exterior lighting can be very convenient. Timers that turn your outside lights on and off at pre-set times can make it appear that you're home even when you're not, and make it easy for you to enjoy your yard without having to manually turn on the lights.
Be a good neighbor and make sure your lights, particularly spotlights and floodlights, aren't positioned in such a way that they'll shine into nearby yards or houses and bother your neighbors.
Consider installing low-voltage lights — both to create the right ambience for your yard, and to conserve energy.