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7-step guide to effective landscape lighting design

Residential landscape lighting design can add flair to a façade, safely light a dim garden walkway or highlight a focal tree in the front yard. Whether you want to illuminate pathways and patios to prevent slips and falls or light up a backyard space for weekend entertaining, here are seven outside lighting ideas and tips for your residential space.

1. Imagine how the outdoor space will be used.

Establishing goals for your landscape or exterior lighting design will allow you more freedom to safely think outside of the box; it will also ensure you cover all of your basic elements. Do the residents like to entertain guests? Do they have small children? What is the local climate? How can outdoor lighting complement the home’s architectural style? How can lighting improve safety, such as with outdoor pathway lighting or outdoor deck lighting?

When determining your landscape lighting objectives, consider the following elements of the yard:

  • Pathways and entryways
  • Driveways
  • Steps
  • Patios
  • Trees
  • Water features
  • Unique architectural elements

2. Consider LED lighting.

LEDs are designed to withstand shock, vibrations and all kinds of inclement weather, which makes them a great choice for landscape lighting. When the wind is howling or the ground is buried under ice and snow, LEDs outshine the storm.

Long lifespan is another advantage of LED lighting. LEDs can last approximately 50,000 hours depending on use. That equals almost six years of continuous use. LEDs are also extremely efficient, which means lower operating and maintenance costs. Over time, that can equal a huge savings compared to halogen systems.

If you want to do something unique with your landscape lighting, LEDs are the perfect choice. This flexible light source can be dimmed or brightened, giving you the ability to create complex lighting effects and extra layers of subtlety.

3. Choose the right fixture design.

There are many different types of landscape lighting fixtures. Some accent a focal point with precision, while others create a soft, downlit glow on a garden bed. Understanding the different types of fixtures you can use in a design will impact the final outcome. Here is a breakdown of several types of fixtures and how they illuminate outdoor spaces:

  • Garden fixtures create a downlight perfect for planting beds or pathway markers.
  • Wash fixtures create a soft, diffused light ideal for illuminating flat façades, privacy fences and garden walls.
  • Bullet fixtures are versatile and compact. They project a narrow beam to precisely light unique architectural features, garden statues and other focal points.
  • Well light fixtures hide inside a waterproof housing buried in the ground. They can be used to brighten the underside of plant foliage or graze the base of a façade or wall.
  • Flood light fixtures typically cast a wider beam than a bullet fixture and are brighter than a wash light fixture. They should be used sparingly to light up tall trees or wide house façades.

5. Imagine your exterior lighting design at night.

Positioning your landscape lighting during the day won’t provide a full picture of how trees, shrubs, bushes and other yard elements cast shadows. You also run the risk of misplacing a fixture and shining light into a window or door of the home or surrounding homes.

6. Stay mindful of light pollution.

Light pollution can ruin the effect of a landscape lighting project; sources include:

  • Light that shines directly into someone’s eyes
  • Light that shines directly on a neighbor’s home or windows
  • Over lighting, which creates glare or washes out the night sky

Consider using lighting shields or glare guards. Careful positioning can also help you avoid outdoor light pollution.

7. Utilize lighting controls and timers.

The last thing most busy homeowners want to do is spend valuable time remembering to turn landscape lighting on at night and off in the morning. Setting landscape lighting to timers or dimmers helps make the home look beautiful 24 hours a day with minimal effort.

From choosing the right fixtures to incorporating controls, careful planning and attention to detail can create a stunning residential landscape design that keeps functionality and safety in mind.