With careful planning, homeowners can create a vacation destination in their own yards, implementing high end improvements over time, if necessary.
That is the advice of Jennifer Jensen, residential lighting manager, and Thomas Reindl, commercial lighting manager, for NorthWest Lighting and Accents in Mount Prospect and McHenry.
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"Today's homeowner is able to create the full outdoor experience throughout their outdoor living area, complete with lighting, audio and fans and heaters for temperature control," Reindl said. "They just need to plan in advance so they can put in the correct size transformer, which is the backbone of any system. After that, they can implement their plan gradually.
"You don't want to become pigeonholed in what you can do because you didn't install a big enough transformer in the first place."
Reindl and Jensen agreed that with the correct lighting and controls, homeowners can bring the indoors outside, making it cozy and aesthetically-pleasing so that people want to go outside.
"With planning, you can gradually upgrade from those outdoor security lights that wash the whole yard with light, to landscape lighting, deck or patio lighting, pathway lighting, architectural lighting, focal point lighting and even decorative lighting with chandeliers and grounded lamps, made for the outdoors," Reindl said.
"It is a shame to only use your beautiful outdoor space during the day. With the correct lighting, you can entertain with the same beautiful ambience at night," he said.
In fact, high-end LED lighting systems are now available that allow homeowners to even dim their outdoor lights if they wish.
"When you are sitting inside your home and looking out, you might want your exterior lights to look brighter because your eyes are already adjusted to the brighter lights indoors," Reindl said. "But when you are sitting around your table outside, your eyes are more accustomed to moonlight. So then you might not want those outdoor lights so bright.
"The new Hunza light systems from New Zealand allow you to change light intensities and they are made so solidly that they are practically invincible. You will only be buying this system once."
The Hunza system also allows you to zone your outdoor music so that teens noisily splashing in the pool can be listening to totally different music at a different volume than parents talking quietly on the patio, he said.
Sound systems for the yard have also progressed, in general. Not only has their clarity and sound quality improved, but they are now harder to spot in a yard and the technology has improved so that music is directed back toward the house instead of out into the neighborhood, making those living nearby much less likely to complain, Jensen said.
"Some systems are attached to the bottom of an outdoor fan that is mounted on an overhang or pergola," she said. "Others use small satellite speakers hidden in the landscaping and subwoofers that are buried so that the ground can be used as a resonator.
"They give incredible, directional sound that really cuts down on noise pollution. Most can also be hooked into an iPad or iPhone so that you are playing your preferred music and there are many apps that allow you to control the system remotely," Jensen said.
Special lighting is also available to illuminate grills, pools and outdoor kitchens. NorthWest Lighting and Accents can even illuminate the insides of drawers in outdoor kitchens to facilitate finding stored items at night, as well as backlit countertops that add to aesthetics and usability of those popular outdoor cooking spaces.
The use of oscillating fans and heaters to control the outdoor environment has also evolved. Fans move the air on sweltering days and nights and also tend to drive away pesky bugs that avoid air currents, Jensen said. The increased use of LED lighting also cuts down on insect invasions because they generate less heat than conventional lights and bugs are drawn to heat.
Homeowners who like to cook outdoors, even in the middle of winter, can also invest in sub-patio heating elements that keep the grilling area (or driveway or walkways) free of snow, Jensen said, extending the useful life of their patio each year.
NorthWest Lighting and Accents is a family-owned business that has operated in Mount Prospect since 1956. Its 16,000-square-foot, two-story lighting showroom features all of the newest offerings from the most popular manufacturers, as well as from boutique suppliers not found in area stores.
NorthWest Lighting and Accents has two locations: at 600 E. Rand Road, Mount Prospect, and at 2414 W. Route 120, McHenry. It also offers a full line of design services to help with any homeowner's interior or exterior design needs.
For more information, call (847) 255-3700 or (815) 363-1800, or visit www.northwestelectricalsupply.com.