Garden glow: The best landscape lighting for your garden and yard
Want a yard and garden that brightens up your disposition and spotlights safety? Consider landscape lighting at your home that adds instant aesthetic appeal and valuable illumination to deter trespassers.
"Proper outdoor lighting is a good idea to protect your home against theft while also creating an ambience that radiates warmth and joy for the people living inside," says Andre Kazimierski, CEO of Chicago-headquartered Improovy. "Studies suggest mental health benefits can be gained when you have a good yard design, and lighting can make a huge difference in your yard's appearance."
Joe Raboine, director of Residential Hardscapes for Belgard in Atlanta, subscribes to that theory.
"Lighting has become a staple of outdoor living spaces nowadays. Homeowners often utilize outdoor spaces for guests and entertaining, which is why having a properly lighted outdoor area is important; it increases the functionality of the space and adds value to the home," he says. "Outdoor lighting can also help prevent accidents, especially around features like pools and fire pits."
Outdoor areas ideally suited for landscape lighting include gardens, home entrance areas, the sides of paths and driveways, yard sitting areas and near swimming pools and steps, says Kristina Matthew, a landscape designer and the co-founder of Gardeningit.com based in Austin, Texas.
Landscape lighting includes path lights, spotlights, accent lights, floodlights, up/downlights, step lights, garden lights and bollard lights.
"Path lights are typically used to line walkways or driveways. They can provide a gentle light that helps guide people through your yard at night. Spotlights can highlight features in your yard, like sculptures, trees or the home, itself. Accent lights are smaller and can be used to highlight specific areas or objects, such as fountains, ponds or benches. Floodlights are powerful lights that can illuminate a large area or walkways and are often used for security purposes or for lighting up a backyard for outdoor parties," Matthew says.
Up/downlights, meanwhile, can be utilized to create a sense of depth and dimension in your outdoor space. When placing them, "be sure to take things like the height of the fixture and the light beam angle into account," Matthew adds.
Step lights are integrated into and around steps leading to a home entrance or deck/porch steps, helping users avoid slips, trips and falls in these areas.
"Garden lights are generally installed to add character to a garden during the evening," says Joanna VonBergen, owner of GinghamGardens.com. They can be employed to illuminate particular plants, shrubs or flowers or provide general ambient lighting.
Bollard lights, often set upon a particular kind of post, are typically used to line driveways, walkways, and other areas where it's essential to see more clearly.
Homeowners can choose from two types of powered lights: solar or low-voltage wired. The former are inexpensive, wireless and more easily found in home improvement stores today, while the latter is more reliable.
"Wired low-voltage landscape lighting is definitely worth the extra expense and time of installing them, especially in places where security and safety are the primary goals," says VonBergen. "Wired landscape lighting doesn't depend on obtaining energy from the sun as solar lights do."
The downsides of wired lighting are that it takes longer to install, these lights require running hidden cables through your lawn or garden that are connected to a transformer, and you'll need to plug the transformer into an electrical outlet. But they tend to last much longer than solar lights and are often brighter.
Raboine points out that low-voltage lighting doesn't require a licensed electrician for installation.
"Any handy do-it-yourselfer should be able to safely install these wired lights," he says.
When choosing outdoor lights, pay attention to the lumens listed on the box.
"Lumens, or the amount of light you get from a bulb, will depend on the purpose of your landscape lights. If you are going for safety or security, higher lumens are better. If you use landscape lighting as a decorative feature, a lower lumen light will suffice," VonBergen recommends.
Count on paying as little as a few dollars for an individual solar pathway light to several hundreds of dollars for a wired light kit.