We’re always trying to be as helpful as we can with answering customer questions. We do get some good questions about outdoor lighting. There are far too many questions and possible answers to put on this page, but here are some common themes that we get asked.
Why Outdoor Lighting is Important?
Outdoor lighting is important to your landscaping project in several ways.
The security of your home and your loved ones is important. Outdoor lighting can help prevent crime. A major study done by the New York Police Department showed a 36% decrease in expected crimes (including violent and property crimes) just by adding security lighting. As part of your landscaping, adding some good lighting can help accomplish goals related to security. There are many options available these days, including battery and solar power lights that can be placed in areas you wouldn’t normally find lighting. That could include a garden shed or the side of your house. There is such a thing as bad lighting and good lighting. Focused lighting and motion sensors can help provide the light in the right places at the right times. Many experts say that lighting that creates a lot of glare can actually reduce security, so make sure you choose lighting wisely.
Choosing landscape lighting is often about providing a specific look to your yard. We’ll get to that in a minute, but there is another important reason to include lighting in your landscape design. The right lighting is an important safety feature when you are out in your yard at night. You might need pathway lighting to help you find your way safely around your yard. You might want some lighting near doors, to help you be able to see to unlock them. And if you have a retaining wall or other area that drops off, it will help prevent falls if there is good lighting to show people not to venture too close to the edge.
Good landscape lighting is also a great way to create an inviting feeling in your yard. String lights over a patio are becoming more and more common. Low-voltage lighting on trees or planting beds can give your yard extra interest at night when there ordinarily is not a lot to see. Lighting can help set the mood, whether that is relaxing or a party with friends.
Where to Install Landscape Lighting?
Sometimes we are asked where to install landscape lighting. There are a lot of options. Here are just a few places that could use some extra lighting.
- In or around Trees
- Pool Area
- Hot Tub Area
- In shrub or flower beds
- Retaining Wall edges
- Near the house
Placing the right lights in any of these areas will enhance your landscaping at night. Of course you can also add temporary lighting for special occasions like weddings and parties, if you happen to be using your yard for these events.
Along these lines, some people ask about how to place outdoor lighting to help keep bugs away. Bugs do seem to be attracted to light, so sometimes placing the lighting so it illuminates an area from the edges helps keep the bugs out of your face. Some experts recommend a lights with a yellowish hue, but this can be a problem since most of those yellowish lights are compact fluorescent and newer lights are generally always LED. Fortunately, some research has been done on this problem and you can now buy LEDs specifically for keeping bugs away and the newest research suggests that amber tint is actually better than yellow.
You might not need to search for too special of a bulb though. Using an LED with a 3000k rating will likely do the trick because they seem to attract a lot less bugs. 3000k or lower LEDs have other benefits as well. They create less glare and reduce light pollution.
What Voltage is Landscape Lighting?
Landscape lighting comes in two forms, line voltage and low-voltage. Line voltage is the same as if you plug something into the wall, so it is 120 volts in the United States. Low-voltage is generally 12 volts, the same as the battery in most smoke detectors. Low-voltage lighting is the most common type used in modern landscape lighting because it is easier to work with and install. You don’t need to take as many precautions with low-voltage lighting since it is safer.
Interestingly, older landscape lighting systems may have been 12 volts of AC power. Most of us think of AC power as the type that comes out of the wall. DC power is usually thought of as battery power. Now, with LEDs being the common lightbulbs, most landscape lighting installs utilize 12 volt DC power. This is because LEDs work better with DC current.
So how do you get DC current to your landscape lighting that is connected to AC power fed into your home? You have to use a transformer. Transformers are actually more common than you might think. Anytime you have a plug with a big box on it, it is because there is a transformer in there to change the power supply to something the device you are using can work with safely. The same is true for landscape lights. The transformer changes the electrical power being used in the system from 120 volts AC to 12 volts DC. You won’t be able to run any of your low-voltage outdoor lights without a working transformer.
What Type of Outdoor Lighting is Best?
So, what type of outdoor lighting is the best choice? Simply the kind that does what you need it to do. In some applications, solar lights are very useful. They don’t last as long and are not as bright as powered lights though. So in cases where you want brighter lighting or some control over the timing of the lights, you’ll want a powered system. In general the best powered systems being installed today are low-voltage LED systems for landscape lighting. However, you might need a mix of low-voltage and traditional 120 volt lighting to create the best lighting system for your needs. Lighting has a lot of preference built into it. There are a large number of styles and options to choose from.
Choosing can be difficult, which is why it can be helpful to get professional help in designing an outdoor lighting system.
How to Dim Landscape Lighting
Sometimes customers are concerned about landscape lighting becoming too bright. So can you dim landscape lights? Yes, it is possible. There are dimmer switches available for some older 12V AC lighting systems. In some cases you may need a special low-voltage dimmers that uses magnetic transformers. Or you may need to replace the transformer that you currently have with one that is designed to work with dimming. The best solution is to plan the lighting so that is not overly bright in places you don’t want it to be and you won’t have to worry about dimming it.
Who Can Install Outdoor Lighting?
Low-voltage outdoor lighting can be installed by someone who is not an electrician. Otherwise, you’ll need an electrician to install other outdoor lighting safely. So you could install low-voltage lighting yourself. Or you could hire a good landscaping company to plan and install your outdoor lighting.