If you want to transform your yard from something plain and simple into a breathtaking scenery, landscape lighting is just what you are looking for. A simple light trick can change even a dull bush into an eye-pleasing object. Unfortunately, the world of landscape lighting is a vast place that might intimidate newcomers. That’s why we’ve created this quick guide that’ll help you learn all the basics and take your first steps on this fascinating journey.
What to light up in your garden?
When you’re new to landscape lighting, your first thought (or even an instinct) might be to illuminate everything from trees, through the whole yard, to even the smallest detail. But that’s the quickest way to just wash out the yard and run your electricity bills higher than the ceiling.
What you really need to make your outdoor lighting look special is the subtle play of light and dark – highlighting certain detail or creating shadows and contrast can work wonders while still keeping your space well-lit.
So how to choose the right elements to light up? There are three general guidelines you should consider:
1. Identify the yard’s features you like or are proud of – be it a particularly nice tree or a small pond, highlighting it will show it off.
2. Add drama to an area that doesn’t stand out in daylight. Even a plain wall can look stunning while grazed with delicate light and shadow at night.
3. Consider the function. For example, a path (especially a meandering one) or a stairway needs to be lit for safety reasons.
Besides that, a well-lit, and thus inviting, entryway is almost a must. It will not only create a warm and welcoming atmosphere (and increase your property’s curb appeal), but also guide your family members or guests safely into your home.
Types of landscape LED lights
Why choose LED lights? It’s quite simple – they’re the most energy efficient option currently available and, due to their low wattage, will cost you far less to run than traditional light sources. They also provide many color options – different temperature white light is just the tip of an iceberg for them. Moreover, despite their low voltage, their light output is impressive – 10 Watt LED bulbs are in general brighter than 60 W incandescent ones and last at least ten times longer. While browsing for LED bulbs, more important than their watts are their Lumens which inform about the total amount of visible light being emitted.
After that small detour, let’s get back to the subject. Here’s a tally of currently available types of landscape lighting fixtures:
It’s one of the most basic fixtures that should have its place in every yard. Path lamps create light marks which run down a line. They’re rather short and work great for making paths safer and improving the yard’s curb appeal. Their design varies from simple poles to eye-catching shapes.
While choosing path fixtures, you should pay attention to their height. If you want to achieve an even, nice glow along your path, you should pick up models about 35-40 cm high.
How far from the path should they be installed? To avoid tripping on them, they should be placed within 30 cm from the sides of the pathway/walkway. While considering their placement’s density, you should take note of the light radius of a given fixture – to avoid overcrowding, you should install them outside those areas.
When choosing path fixtures, you should pick the sturdy ones, made from wear and corrosion resistant materials. Powder-coated finishes and soda lime glass is highly preferable here.
This type of lighting fixtures (also known as well lights) are designed to be installed directly in the ground. Typical inground LED lamps are circle-shaped and are most often used for illumination of driveways or walkways, but also work great for drama and atmosphere upward light effects, as an example, for illuminating trees or silhouetting elements standing around the yard. They work great at their own, but they can also be used in conjunction with spotlights for light-blending effects.
Designed for not to be seen much, inground fixtures don’t stand out much themselves, and you should focus on their lighting effects. Just remember not to use them for illuminating small details like gnomes – leave them for strong presences, like a splendid tree or surrounding walls.
While planning on using them for your driveway, make sure to choose models with proper vehicular weight ratings.
Floodlights and spotlights
The thing that distinguishes them is the beam spread. Floodlights are far wider, covering up to 120 degrees, while spotlights emit narrow beams that rarely go over 45 degrees. Floodlight works best for illuminating general areas (like parking lots or driveways) or as safety light, whereas spotlight should be used for highlighting specific points of interest, like landscape features or architectural details. With LED lamps of this kind you can create an interesting lighting design, especially if you choose one of many color options. Some RGB models even allow you to change the color practically on the spot.
Post and bollard fixtures are more robust cousins of path garden lights. In general their role is quite similar, but due to their bigger size, they work better on long stretches of space or as lighting for small alcoves. The posts themselves can be very decorative, as some designs are really stylish and add a lot to the yard’s overall tone.
When it comes to accent outdoor lighting, there’s really a lot to choose from. Here are a few options:
● Hardscape lights – a fresh addition to the landscape fixture family (courtesy of LED lighting). They are tiny lamps with flanges or brackets that can be installed into or onto structures, that work especially great for grazing or washing walls with light.
● Deck lights – mostly used for accenting architectural details or lighting stairs, this type of fixture can be installed directly into decking or hardscapes. They also work well as illumination for entertainment spaces or as a wall washing lighting system.
● Pond lights – a type of spotlights that can be safely submerged in water. Great for adding drama to all kinds of ponds.
What effects can you get with LED landscape lighting?
To be honest, the only real limit here is your own imagination, as LEDs allow you to get your outdoor lighting just the way you like it. You’re not really sure what exactly will work for your particular case? You can get a rough idea by experimenting with a high-powered torch with a dimming optic. Just take it outside at night and see what would work around the house.
Here are some popular effects that you might want to try out:
An option well-suited for hardscape-heavy yards. This lighting method requires placing the light/lamp close to a flat surface and aiming it directly down or upward on that surface. This can create dramatic light and shadow play, depending on the surface’s texture. The more irregular or uneven the pattern, the better the effect can get. This landscaping trick is often displayed in restaurant or hotel designs.
If there’s a point of interest close to a wall or other flat surface, you may consider using LED fixtures aimed at it to cast its shadow on said surface. Of course the light source should be placed between the main vantage point and the object.
This can be considered as a reversal of shadowing. This technique allows you to highlight shapes that might not be properly displayed in daylight. Simply place the light source behind the object and aim it in the direction of the vantage point. The tricky part is keeping the lamp itself hidden from the observer’s sight.
This technique works best with a large, open-branched tree. Simply mount a lamp high in the tree and aim it downwards. This will wash the tree with light, creating an impressive effect.
One of the most basic outdoor lighting maneuvers that involves placing a lamp at the bottom of an object and aiming it at it in an upward angle. This works best with tall structures and trees, especially evergreens.
If you want to create a lot of light in a particular space, try flooding a large hedge or a wall with a wide-beamed fixture placed between the vantage point and said surface. This will “wash” the whole area with gentle, even light.
LED lighting – best solution for landscape light
LED fixtures are the most versatile light sources currently available on the market. They’re great for both indoor and outdoor lighting projects and have very long lifespans. Thanks to being energy efficient, LED lights don’t require much power to run while giving off brighter light than their incandescent or halogen counterparts. So if you want to illuminate your home and its surroundings, they’re the best thing you can currently find.