Planning Well-Designed Outdoor Lighting, Even If You’re Not A Pro
Updated May 30, 2023
Landscape Lighting 101: Planning Outdoor Lighting, Even If You’re Not A Pro
Planning your landscape lighting can be a difficult and daunting experience. You may not know where to start, and the idea of devising a design that will provide an efficient, effective, secure, and visually appealing lighting system can be cause for anxiety. This is particularly true if you’ve never attempted to plan a system before.
As a homeowner, you work hard to make the inside of your home reflect your own unique style and personality. Why stop there! Designing and decorating the outside of your home, including lighting, offers the opportunity to show off your home in the evening and help it stand out in the neighbourhood.
A landscape lighting system can highlight the visually appealing architecture of your home and its natural elements, all while adding valuable curb appeal, security, and enhancing safety. But, form follows function.
Take a minute to read through this important list of considerations before you start planning your new outdoor lighting system or speak to one of our lighting specialists about installing a lighting system for you.
Plan for Living
Figure out which areas of your landscape and property you use most. Then decide which of these you will want to use at night, if it isn’t all of them. From there, you can plan your outdoor lighting to highlight these areas for safety and security so you can continue enjoying the great outdoors after sunset.
Decide where there are “risk zones” in your yard. Pick areas that need to be lit up for safety reasons, such as steps, around the pool, dark zones, and other areas where guests may be in danger of tripping. This has the benefit of adding security from trespassers.
How Will You Use Your Outdoor Space?
Before choosing any outdoor lighting designs, consider how you will be using your outdoor space. Do you only want security and safety lighting for your front walkway and entrance? Or, would you like to light up your backyard to enjoy BBQ dinners and entertain family and friends? Consider areas including, front steps, driveway, patio, porch, backyard, pool, or other unique architectural elements. The lighting design you choose will enhance the way you use your space, so be sure you’ve considered all the ways you’ll use your outdoor spaces at night before making your final decision.
Illuminate Points of Interest and Unique Features
Just as every homeowner is unique, so too is every yard unique. It’s important that you find the unique features of your yard and accentuate them. This is also the perfect time to express your personal style and tastes for passers-by.
When planning your outdoor lighting design, you should think about placing the fixtures so that your gardens and landscape is appealing regardless of the time of day. Think about any alterations or changes that you make to your yard with the seasonal shifts.
Determine Lighting Style
Deciding on the needs of each area of your home will help to streamline the decisions on what kind of lighting and lighting fixtures to install. You may want task lighting over the bar-be-que. Maybe you want to brighten up the darkest parts of your yard for security with strategically placed floodlights. Perhaps you’ll want to install uplighting for your trees or illuminate a unique architectural feature on your home with spotlights. You’re not limited to one style. If you want one type of light for the bar-be-que area, that same lighting doesn’t have to light up your dining area.
Let one style and brightness complement another. This is where smart technology and creating zones for your outdoor lighting design planning comes in!
Creating Landscape Lighting Zones Maximizes Versatility
Outdoor lighting has come a long way very quickly. Not only can we offer customers a variety of colours, beam spread, and intensity of light, we can create zones that can be controlled by scenes (twilight, dinner party, security, etc.) or control individual fixtures all right from your phone or tablet.
Zones are created by grouping fixtures placed close together on a single line from the transformer. Each zone then can be controlled independently depending on the intended use. Outdoor lights used for security will likely be needed all night and turn off at dawn. Lights for special events or just while you’re outside on patio could automatically shut off when you go to bed. Create a timed light show to music if you want. We can create as much versatility as you want if that flexibility is built into the design.
Using LED technology, landscape lighting is available in a variety of colours, beam spread, and intensity. Zones allocate a particular focus or intended use and each zone will complement and blend into another. Smart technology allows you to control individual fixtures with your phone or tablet.
There have never been more options for style and versatility.
Each lighting zone will be grouped on a single line from the main transformer and each zone can be controlled independently, depending on any number of factors. For instance, security lighting can be programmed to come on at dusk and turn off at dawn – set it and forget it.
Smart technology can also automate the lights on your patio or pool to suit your lifestyle. If you need lights for special events or while you’re outside on the patio, you can set those to automatically turn off at a particular time, or even create a timed light show to music to enhance the occasion.
How To Determine The Best Zones For Your Outdoor Lighting
You might create zones based on the proximity of the fixtures to one another or a particular feature (fence line, building, hot tub, or tree in the yard), or based on their function (security, pool, cooking). If you are creating zones based on function, you might want to craft a design where you can leave your security lighting on all night, but be able to shut off your garden lighting before you go to bed.
We recommend that you begin by drawing a rough diagram of your yard and make note of any features you want to highlight at night, such as a fountain, pond, statue, etc. Those individual items will need their own electrical lines if you wish to control them separately from other zones.
Next, identify which parts of the yard require specific kinds of lighting:
Pathway lighting for safety.
Downlights in the tree for entertaining.
Uplights along the foundation to highlight the house façade.
Spotlights for security around the garage.
This design draft will allow you to conserve energy and only use the lights you want when you need them. Want to know where to start when designing zones and choosing fixtures? Keep reading.
The more zones you have, the more complicated the design becomes and intricate the electrical work. The fewer purposes you have, the easier the lighting will be to install. You can have some fixtures pull double duty. For instance, the path lighting for safety could also be used for aesthetics when you have friends over. When all the other light for entertaining turn off, the path lights for security will remain on.
You will be able to control which zones remain on all night and which turn off early. You don’t need to completely light up the front yard to deter thieves.
Know that you can control zones to turn on and off with the different seasons, or to coincide with your own sleeping patterns. Prefer to stay up late on Fridays and Saturdays, but have the lights turn off earlier the rest of the week? You can do that. You’ll also have the option to turn the lights off manually.
Basic Design Principles For Custom Landscape Lighting
Usually, the home is the focal point of a landscape lighting design, but other areas of focus can be included. A good design will tie these separate elements together to establish a cohesive appearance.
Be sure to avoid a flattening effect by only adding outdoor lighting to the front of your home. Instead, create a three-dimensional viewing experience by adding depth and contrast through lighting multiple angles.
Maximize your home’s nighttime potential. Many home builders install minimal lighting, so the effect is utilitarian rather than aesthetic. Upgrade the look of your home by highlighting its architectural features and landscaping to create a unique-to-you effect day and night!
Strategically placed landscape lighting directed at the shadows in your yard can increase the security of your home. Don’t forget your pathways, driveways, walkways, and stairs — they also need adequate lighting to provide safety for family and guests. If you have a pool or another feature that could pose a safety risk, proper lighting is a must.
Never accept a light fixture that’s only functional, search for the fixture that’s functional, looks great, and provides just the right kind of light. Many of these fixtures can pull double duty and provide light for multiple purposes to maximize your investment.
Types of Outdoor Lighting
In order to better understand your outdoor lighting design needs, consider the following outdoor lighting classifications:
Decorative Lighting: Adds overall value to your home by illuminating areas of your yard where you can socialize with family and friends. Our tiki lamps provide a nice downlighting effect and will enhance the mood around the pool or near the BBQ.
Landscape lighting: If your garden is the envy of the neighbourhood, why not show off all its features with lighting? Try our mini wash light for garden areas or our above-ground well light for trees or fountains.
Security lighting: Illuminating a large area will help to discourage trespassers. Sensors or timers will be effective once you determine where there are “risk zones” in your yard. Select areas that would benefit by being lit up for safety reasons, such as steps, around the pool, dark zones, and other areas where guests may be in danger of tripping.
Consider the Effect of Your Landscape Lighting
Rather than simply considering what the fixture looks like, you should be thinking about what desired effect you are trying to achieve. Common techniques are grazing, silhouetting, spotlighting, moonlight effect, and cross lighting.
Consider factors such as the height of the feature you want to highlight, the type of feature (hardscaping areas like fire pits, walls, and ovens, or natural landscaping), the colour of the feature, and the type of texture. Texture will enhance the effect of the lighting by creating shadows.
Layered Lighting Essentials
Layered outdoor lighting means even if you want to entertain on the patio every weekend and your spouse simply wants a quiet space to read, you can accommodate both activities effectively.
Ambient Lighting: This type of lighting provides enough illumination for comfort. After dark, our outdoor lighting expectation is that the light will be softer, more nuanced. Ambient lighting may be as simple as a ceiling fixture in a covered porch or pillar accent lights on a back deck. Ambient lighting is the backdrop, the basic first layer that all the others are built upon.
Task Lighting: Task lighting makes outdoor activities safe. This may include security lights for a garage or pathway. Typically, headlights help us see the driveway well enough, but what about the path to the house or yard? Will someone unfamiliar with the yard lose their step?
Lighting pathways isn’t the only type of task lighting. Remember that spouse who wants a quiet corner to read? Why not place a light looking over their shoulder from behind mounted in a friendly tree or landscape feature? String lights hung artfully over an outdoor table or kitchen create great atmosphere.
Accent Lighting: Water and electricity aren’t good bedfellows normally, but there are many attractive underwater lighting options for the pond or pool – and don’t forget decorative fountains. Accent lighting is great for special trees, vases, art, or unique yard features. But why highlight the puny tree that cost you $25 when you could highlight architectural detail of your home instead?
Remember that a single accent light on a tree will only highlight one angle. You’ll need to add lights to all the viewable sides. If everything is highlighted, then nothing is highlighted. Selecting specific features to highlight, less is more, will be more effective and dramatic than filling in every corner of your yard.
An expert in landscape lighting will consider how the space is used, how a feature will be viewed, and will choose fixtures and fixture placement to avoid you and your visitors being blinded by the light or stumbling in the dark.
Consider the greener options to help the environment and your bank account. LED lights may be more expensive at the initial purchase, but will save you in the long run – especially with the many lights needed for landscape lighting.
Hire a Professional Landscape Lighting Installer
The best way to get well-design professionally installed landscape lighting in the Halton, Hamilton, Mississauga, Burlington or Oakville area to fit your needs is to hire a professional like Nite Time Decor. Our seasoned experts can help you plan and tell you exactly what fixtures will provide what effect, and how best to enhance the usefulness of your yard, as well as the safety, security, and curb appeal of your home. The warranty that comes with a professional installation is another huge benefit.
Don’t wait to enhance the night time beauty and safety of your home. Contact Nite Time Decor for your complimentary lighting demo and quote today.