Outdoor Landscape Lighting for Your Homes
For many, summertime means outdoor entertaining at home. And in order to entertain well and keep those sunset parties going, you need to have sufficient outdoor lighting.
“Landscape lighting has increased in the last 10 years. Almost all new landscapes installed today have some sort of accent lighting,” said Chuck Evans of Illuminated Concepts in Laguna Hills, Calif. Evans has been in the lighting business for 25 years starting with stage lighting for bands and orchestras in New York. He is in touch with the many trends in lighting for homeowners this season.
“The trend is to use 12 volt lighting instead of 120 volt lighting. That’s because 12 volt lighting can be very bright and when I show clients samples of illumination that the fixtures produce, they are amazed how bright these low voltage fixtures are,” he said. “Many homeowners however have had bad experiences with the low voltage or 12 volt lighting kits that can be bought at home improvement stores.”
The performance with these kit lighting systems is not adequate to truly accent the necessary landscape features, he said. “Also homeowners buying lighting kits are not aware of the only real problem with low voltage lighting, that is voltage drop, if not wired correctly the lights at the end of the line can be VERY dim,” he said.
If wired correctly with the new multi-tap transformers the 12-volt lighting system can produce a lot of light and be very dramatic, Evans said.
There are numerous other key benefits of the 12-volt lighting systems vs. a 120-volt traditional system:
- It is very safe for children and animals ( almost impossible to get shocked).
- Very flexible in fixture placement and fixtures may be moved very easily to compensate for the changing landscape.
- Fixtures are very compact and easy to fit in small places.
- About 30 to 50 percent more energy efficient than most 120-volt lights is gained.
- Much less evasive installation because you do not have to dig 18-inch trenches and install conduit which can destroy and existing landscape.
Newer developments in lighting
Fiber optics which look like neon and can change color are another idea for outdoor lighting that has caught on recently, Evans said. These lights can be found outlining pool edges and walls.
Lighting using LED (light emitting diodes) is another trend that is also very energy efficient and has 100K-hour lamp life. LED lighting “has limitations on the amount of light it can produce and the cost of lamps are high, but with current lamp improvements it could soon find a big place in the landscape lighting industry,” he said.
Evans recommends that consumers said stay away from solar landscape lighting products that are sold at home improvement stores. These, he said, are a “total waste of money.”
“Many of my clients have bought them, and they were all very disappointed. They do not provide illumination, they only act as markers,” he said.
Why is lighting important in a front yard or backyard?
The philosophy for lighting the front and back are very different, according to Evans.
“The front is the curb appeal. I try to bring out the architectural features of the home. Such as accent columns, highlight stone or brickwork, accent arches over entries, shadow front of house,” he explained. “Also, I try to accent certain landscape features such as trees, colorful bushes and color in the planters. Drawing the eye and leading guests up the front path to the front door is also very important. By artistically illuminating a home, you also achieve two other very important benefits of lighting – security and safety.”
While landscape lighting the front yard is primarily for curb appeal and to make guests feel welcome, once the owner is inside his house he never sees the effects, he said.
“However the back yard is a different story,” he said. “There are two main benefits for lighting in the back yard. These lights are for the homeowner to enjoy the entire evening.”
The back yard is where a lot of entertaining takes place, so, by accenting key outdoor elements such as palms, rockscapes, water features, fountains, and seating areas one can transform the home into a mini resort.’
So, let there be light!