Low voltage lighting can be found under many names: low voltage outdoor lighting, landscape lighting, outdoor garden lighting, garden lighting, outdoor lighting, solar lights, and path lights. You can capture nature’s nightlife with low-voltage landscape lighting, and turn on your property’s after-five appeal. Landscape lighting extends the usability of outdoor spaces, and its benefits are threefold: aesthetics, value, and safety. Low-voltage lighting can accent your home’s architectural character and highlight favorite landscape features. It pumps up curb appeal, and lighting dark areas will discourage unwanted visitors from invading your privacy.
Most of all, lighting creates drama, the contrast between light and shadow introduces new shapes and angles at night. This offers a much different prospective from daytime views. Also, lighting truly allows you to capitalize on your landscape investment because you can enjoy outdoor features year-round, from the view of a window, or while relaxing on your deck.
Installing low-voltage lighting in your landscape is safe and simple, thanks to today’s packaged kits and widely available architectural-grade fixtures.
Why should I choose low-voltage lighting?
Low-voltage lighting fixtures will illuminate outdoor features with just the right amount of light. If it done in excess, it can be a real mistake. Remember, less is more. Instead, you should gradually add lights, then step back and see whether your fixture arrangement illuminates dark spots. Don’t place lights too closely together, but allow the beam to fill in space between each fixture. You don’t want to light up your property like a ballpark, and your neighbors probably wouldn’t appreciate that either.
How to achieve natural night-lighting
Natural night lighting is achieved by layering lights, and installing the right fixtures in the right places. For this type of outdoor yard lighting, you should choose spotlights for intense, specific uplighting and path lights to illuminate walkways and feature plants. Think in tiers: spotlight focal points, softly illuminate paths, and shine surface lights on porches or landings.
Be sure that the fixtures you purchase are rated as water-resistant and are approved by the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) for outdoor use. Never use interior lights outdoors. Also, if you plan to add lights to a water feature, ensure that the fixtures are labeled for this application.
You can purchase lighting sets or separate fixtures from retail home outlets and select garden stores. Kits generally include fixtures, a wire, a controller (to turn lights off and on), and a transformer. Fixtures sold a la carte are convenient for adding onto an existing lighting project or if you want to illuminate a single feature. Also available are higher-end architectural grade fixtures, which come in a variety of contemporary finishes such as brushed copper. These luminaries are built to last, and you can expect them to light your landscape for 10 to 15 years. Kits generally fizzle after a few years. With lighting, you get what you pay for.
Mainly, your fixture choices will depend on your experience and comfort level with low-voltage lighting, and also your expectations for the results. Architectural-grade fixtures generally contain halogen bulbs that cast a white, more focused beam for a natural look.
On the other hand, lighting sets provide a quick-and-easy solution for homeowners who want to install path lighting. Both are easy to install as long as you avoid common low-voltage traps (explained below). When purchasing any fixture at a retail store, discuss your plans with an in-house specialist to determine your project.
The following fixtures serve specific lighting purposes.
Low-voltage PATH lights
Path lights are available in a variety of styles and finishes: Tall bollard lights add height; shorter yard lights highlight low plants, while decorative lights in bronze,black and die-cast metal finishes can complement a landscape. Lighting professionals suggest mushroom-capped lights as opposed to pagoda-style path lights often sold in kits. Capped lights direct light downward so you will avoid the airport runway effect. Fixtures should not exceed 2 ft. In height.
Low-voltage SPOT lights
Spotlights are designed to accent specific features, such as trees and sculpture. The beam is direct and the fixture can be adjusted to accommodate the height of the desired feature. Use discretion with spotlights. Choose a couple of priority features to highlight, and apply shields to lights to avoid glares if they are visible.
Solar lights, as well as all solar garden lights, and solar deck lights, are a low maintenance way to light a path, but don’t expect the high-impact results you get from low-voltage lighting. The actual fixture looks no different than its cousin, the path light, but the beam from solar lights is not as intense. Because their brightness depends on how much sunlight solar panels soak in during the day, but you can expect consistent light with these fixtures. Their soft glow is appealing to homeowners who want a quick fix to light a path or low-growing plants. Garden lights can solve most of your lighting needs in your landscape. this do great around gazebos, pergolas, and outdoor benches that you may have in your yard.
There is a great variety of speciality lighting available on the market today. They can provide practical and whimsical ways to add some character to your patio or deck. For function purposes, mounted lights installed on deck posts illuminate eating and grilling areas. For fun, string nylon lantern lights around a patio or in low-hanging tree branches to create a party atmosphere. If you have water features in your yard, add some water lights to add sparkle to ponds and fountains.