Sometimes our Oakville outdoor lighting specialists are called upon to retrofit or completely redesign an overly bright system that was either installed by a do-it-yourself handyman or by a less experienced designer who spared no expense. Some of us in the business refer to this common lighting mistake as a “shock and awe” installation, where every bit of darkness is blasted away by too many fixtures, and bulbs that are far brighter than necessary.
Bigger is Not Always Better
It’s actually a very common assumption, that more and bigger is always better when it comes to landscape lighting. There are fewer reflective surfaces compared to indoor spaces, so light appears to get sucked into the night. This is why a good outdoor lighting designer will consider whatever surfaces are available to create a subtle but effective reflected glow rather than simply shining spotlights into the darkness. This is also why a good neighbour will consider how much their outdoor lighting is trespassing on the properties next door.
A good rule of thumb for judging overabundant brightness: If your attention is drawn to the light sources (and night-blinding you in the process), you likely have too many lights, ones that are unnecessarily bright or fixtures that are improperly aimed, shaded or concealed.
Let Purpose Guide the Brightness of Your Outdoor Lighting
To gauge how much and how bright your outdoor lighting needs to be, keep in mind that one of its main purposes is to safely light the way for you and your visitors. When moving into darkness from a well-lit space, it takes some time for our ‘night vision’ to kick in. At that time our eyes are especially sensitive to bright or direct light, even in peripheral. This can become very dangerous around obstacles or unexpected changes in path direction.
Follow these general guidelines for managing the brightness of path lighting:
Pathways should be defined by a combination of bright, moderate and low-level lighting.
The beginning of the path, usually at the street or the driveway, should be moderately lit to indicate the starting point.
Since paths generally lead to the front door, the entrance way of your home should be the brightest point of the path. This not only provides a destination point, but also safely illuminates the termination of the path especially if the entrance includes a stairway.
Only staggered, low lighting levels are required in between the two points – just enough to minimize shadow and to suggest safe footing. Any brighter, and the eyes will have a difficult time adjusting. The only exception is if there is a possible obstruction, such as a garden fountain or an unexpected change in path direction, which should be marked with more light.
Don’t Be Too Revealing
Aside from safety and security, you want your outdoor lighting to provide comfortable spaces to relax or to enjoy backyard entertainment. You wouldn’t sit down to a romantic dinner at your front bay window for the entire street to see, so you don’t want to put you and your guests on display when outdoors. To brighten up surfaces for cooking and cocktails, focused task lighting is sufficient. Otherwise, minimizing glare and light intensity on decks and pool areas with shaded fixtures and indirect, ambient lighting will illuminate the area while maintaining a sense of intimacy.
In most cases, achieving the correct amount of outdoor lighting can be done by proper placement and aim and by using shielded fixtures that are specifically designed for outdoor illumination. Describing your outdoor activities to an experienced designer from Nite Time Decor Oakville is also a great way to ensure that the light is just right. Contact us to find out just how much light you need.