Pool Heating & Solar
Hot Tubs & Swim Spas
Hot Tubs & Spas
Green & Eco-Friendly
Health & Fitness
Entertainment & Recreation
Outdoor Kitchens, Grills & Appliances
Water Features & Waterslides
Hardscaping & Stonework
Outdoor Heaters & Firepits
Add drama, security, and beauty to your backyard with outdoor lighting.
By Kendall Green
Once you have a beautiful landscape, you don’t want it to all disappear when the sun goes down. Landscapes can take on a remarkably different look at night when strategically lit, adding a touch of drama while also being functional. Outdoor lighting is a great investment because it allows you to enjoy your outdoor space well into the evening. Explore your options to decide which type of lighting is best for your backyard.
High vs. Low Voltage
Outdoor lighting systems come in two different configurations: low voltage (12 V) or high/line voltage (110 V). Most residential outdoor lighting is low voltage because it offers the widest variety of fixtures, is less expensive, and does not have to be professionally installed. Low-voltage systems use a transformer to reduce the line voltage to 12 V. If fixtures are installed far away from the house, multiple transformers may be needed to maintain effective lighting.
High-voltage systems use larger and brighter fixtures. They are used on commercial applications and on residences where a significant amount of bright uplighting is required, such as a large group of trees. High-voltage systems require a licensed electrician because the installation is more complex: Your yard must be trenched so the cables can be buried 18 inches underground and connected to a conduit.
Even if you don’t plan to install lighting right away, keep it in mind as your yard is being landscaped or renovated. When doing surface installations—such as paved walkways, stone pavers, and patios—have a bunch of sleeves (conduits) installed anywhere that you may need electricity or plumbing. In addition to lighting, you may want to add water features, a sound system, irrigation system, or even an invisible fence—all of which require electricity to run (excluding solar-powered lights).
Using a variety of lighting techniques, you can determine the best way to illuminate your backyard landscape.
, also called
, focuses attention on a particular object, such as a tree, statue, arbor, or fountain. By uplighting a wall or another broad surface with a wash light, objects in front become silhouetted. Placing an uplight behind a tree and angling it toward the tree gives it a backlit effect, slightly less dramatic than a silhouette.
, casts soft light downward (like the moon) to create subtle shadows on plant beds, walkways, waterfalls, and other desired areas. Moonlighting is dimmer than uplighting and offers the most natural appearance. You can create many different effects with moonlighting. The higher and deeper the fixture, the more shadows are created as light disperses through foliage. Fixtures angled down toward a smaller tree or shrub emulate a genuine moonlit effect. To broaden the space surrounding a tree, point a fixture toward the back of the tree. To accentuate textures, angle two fixtures in a crisscross pattern, but be sure to space them appropriately to avoid any glare.
aims light downward, helping to outline the path. Path lights are mounted to a 1- to 2-foot-high spike that is placed in the ground. A low-voltage system with ornate fixtures can provide a clear and beautifully lit walkway.
is much dimmer than other types of lighting, but it can be a budget-friendly way to accent a path. Solar lights come in many decorative styles, often designed to look like flowers, butterflies, frogs, and other figurines.
You can also define walkways with
, which can be installed during construction or mounted to the surface of existing steps. Often, mounting lights to the side walls of the steps is more effective than lighting the risers.
Photo courtesy of Troy Landscape Lighting
Find a Dealer
© Copyright 2013. All rights reserved