Build Your Oakville Outdoor Lighting Vocabulary

When working on the design and planning of an Oakville outdoor lighting project, we strive to make the process as transparent and easy to understand for our clients as possible. Sometimes jargon is tough to avoid when explaining why and how our Oakville outdoor lighting services achieve various lighting techniques. We’ve pulled together this selective glossary of common landscape lighting terms so that our designers and our Oakville outdoor lighting clients are always on the same page.

Accent Lighting: Focused, directional light that is intended to draw attention to a specific part of the landscape or design feature.

Ambient Lighting: General illumination of an area with no discernable or obvious light source.

Amperage (AMP): The strength of an electrical current measured in amperes.

Area Lighting: While all landscape lighting could be referred to as area lighting, this usually refers to the lighting of large areas.

Axis: The lines of sight in a landscape design. Usually mentioned when considering where lights should be placed to avoid shinning directly into the eyes.

Background Lighting: Lighting of vertical structures or foliage to indirectly define a nearby area. Sometimes used as a path lighting technique if walls, bushes or trees border the path.

Brightness: The perceived output of a light source, as opposed to the actual measure of luminance. The level of contrast of the surrounding darkness affects the perception of brightness.

Candela: The measure of the intensity of a light source, or luminance, in a given direction.

Color Temperature: A measure of the warmth or whiteness of a light source, and expressed in degrees Kelvin. Warmer light has a lower temperature while cooler or whiter light approaches the higher end of the scale.

Direct or Directional Lighting: Where more than 90 percent of a light source is aimed specifically at the object to be illuminated. Usually referred to in downlighting techniques.

Downlighting: Lighting of an object or surface from above.

Efficacy: The measure of a light source’s efficiency in contrast to the number of watts required to produce the light.

Footcandle: A unit expressing the amount of illuminance, or the amount of light on a surface. One footcandle is the amount of light on a one-foot square surface from one foot away.

Glare: When the amount of light produced is at too high a contrast to surrounding light levels to allow for comfortable sight. Glare can either be direct or reflected.

Grazing (sometimes Strafing): Lighting, typically at a horizontal angle with the intention of highlighting the texture or dimension of architectural details.

Illuminance: The measure of the amount of light on a surface, expressed in footcandles.

Indirect Lighting: Lighting where more than 90 percent of the light is focused near but not directly upon a close surface.

Lamp: The general industry term for a light emitting object or bulb.

Life (Average Rated): The median rated time of a lamp’s usefulness. In product testing, the amount of time is determined when half of the test lamps have burnt out while the other half continue to glow.

Low-voltage Lighting System: A system that operates on 12-volt electrical current instead of the once-typical 120 volts.

Lumen: The measure of the amount of light output by a lamp.

Luminance: The degree of brightness of a surface or a light source. The intensity is divided by the projected area of the light source at a given angle, and expressed in candelas.

Quality: The characteristics of the lighting design that have a positive effect on the usability, ambience, safety and security of an area.

Reflectance: The amount of light that hits a surface and is reflected onto the surrounding environment. Lighter surfaces have a lower level of absorption, which creates more reflection, while darker-coloured surfaces have higher levels of light absorption and thus a lower level of reflectance.

Shadowing: Lighting that produces shadows on nearby landscaping or structures to enhance the perceived dimensions, or to add visual interest.

Transformer: The equipment used to convert a 120-volt current to 12-volt low-voltage lighting systems current.

Uplighting: Lighting of an object or surface from below.

Are there other Oakville outdoor lighting terms that need clarification? Contact us now and we’ll light the way.