Landscape Now: 5 Tips For Landscape Lighting
Saturday, August 17, 2013
With a well-designed lighting plan, your landscape can become enjoyable during the evening hours...in spring, summer, fall and even during the winter months from inside your home. With appropriately placed light sources you can achieve moonlight effects, highlights for focal points, illumination of paths and patios for safety and balanced lighting to tie in the landscape plantings, structures and lighting creating a very aesthetically pleasing landscape design. Let’s look at 5 tips to consider when designing landscape lighting and mistakes to avoid!
The Design Comes First
As with any project involving your landscape, gardens, and construction projects, it is extremely important to create a plan and design for the placement of light sources in your landscape, identify the principles of light to be used, techniques to be implemented, bulbs, fixtures, transformers, and wire needed. Although homeowners can investigate lighting and learn the basic principles, it is advised to seek out a landscape lighting designer to consult with to plan and implement major projects. Their expertise and familiarity with the intricate nature of low voltage lighting, effect of light and the numerous ways to provide the appropriate amount and intensity of light.
Goals of Landscape Lighting
The major goals of lighting are to provide security, ensure safety in the landscape, appropriate lighting for various needs and the overall aesthetics of the lighting plan. Each goal can be achieved in numerous ways, with each technique and choices affecting the overall aesthetic result of the lighting design. Although fixtures are the vehicles that hold the bulb, it is the light source (bulb) that is the most critical decision to be made by the designer.
Landscape Lighting Design Principles
Five principles of lighting design are:
- Cohesion: the lighting plan must make visual sense to the viewer, combining the architectural, landscape, and lighting techniques into a sensible relationship with each other.
- Depth: illumination of close and distance features will add depth to the owner’s view of the landscape, adding elements of intrigue to explore and move around the landscape.
- Focal points: distinctive features in a landscape deserve to be highlighted...statues, pools, specimen trees, and architectural structures like arbors, gazebos, and specialty fencing.
- Balance: There needs to be a sense of balance and proportion to the plants, structures, and features that are illuminated to create a feeling of visual congruity...areas of lighting and shadows that seem even and not unbalanced.
- Visual comfort: Nothing is more uncomfortable for the viewer than glaring light sources, extremely bright bulbs, or misplaced fixtures. Making sure the lighting sources are comfortable for the viewer will ensure there are no distractions that will impact the effectiveness of the illumination.
It is the Light Source That is Critical
Many people get caught up in wanting to choose the fixture first before the design, bulb selection or lighting principles are considered. To achieve the effects you want, moonlight pooling, up lighting, highlighting, down lighting, or safety illumination it is the type, size and wattage of the bulb that determines the light effect. Narrow spots, floods, wall washes, pathway pooling, or underwater lighting are all the result of the right bulb for the job. Recently LED (Light-emitting diode) light sources have become popular. Although they are more expensive, LED bulbs consume less energy, have a longer life, and are smaller. It is very important to know the wattage of the bulbs being used because with each run of wire from the transformer to the fixtures there is a limit to the carrying capacity of the size wire and possible voltage drop...affecting the intensity and longevity of the bulbs.
Fixtures, Wire and Transformers
Although some would think these items are what should be discussed first when designing landscape lighting they are the last parts to be determined. The transformer will be sized based on the amount of bulbs and their total wattage...and always oversize the transformer to allow for future expansion. The transformer takes 110 volts and reduces it to 12 volts, hence the name low voltage lighting. Caution: any work done on the 110 volt side of your project needs to be completed by a licensed electrician. There are literally thousands of landscape lighting fixtures, the important things are to choose fixtures that will last, offer 10 year or more warranties and fit the aesthetics you are trying to achieve. Low voltage wire comes in several sizes; 10-2, 12-2 and 14-2 that will carry the electricity to the fixtures. A lighting designer or electrician can determine the appropriate wire size to satisfy your needs without voltage drop.
Light Up Your Night!
Although creating a landscape lighting design plan and project may seem involved the result of installing lighting on your property will provide numerous opportunities to enjoy your landscape year round, ensure safety for your family and visitors and add an element of security to your home!
In my next article I will discuss the allure of water gardens in your landscape and 7 key points to consider when planning to add one to your landscape!
“Light always follows the path of the beautiful.”
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