Tips for Outdoor Lighting
The best outdoor lights are those that cannot be seen – highlighting an architectural element, an ornamental tree, a pathway, a waterfall, or a landscape artifact without calling attention to themselves.
Position light fixtures near a door so they do not shine in the eyes of someone entering or leaving.
Balance and a little restraint are very important. Everything doesn’t have to be symmetrical but the number and the intensity of light fixtures should be relatively balanced. Even though you may have one interesting landscape feature, a single light by itself can be very distracting. Do not place too many path lights in a straight line; it will resemble an airport runway. Do not try to light everything; it will begin to look like a “carnival.”
Buy high quality, heavy duty, outdoor light fixtures you can afford. These fixtures will last longer, perform better, and provide the lighting effects that will truly enhance your outdoor setting.
Be aware of spacing. If you have several interesting features close together, do nor try to light them all.
Plan for future lighting. If you will be adding paths or steps to a landscape, install 2-inch plastic conduit underneath so wiring can be added later.
Lights placed high on the house can gently illuminate an entire yard for parties. But such lights also can create a glare for guests looking back at the house from the yard.
Sometimes angle the light so it just grazes a wall, an evergreen, or a tree trunk, highlighting its texture.
Place lighting under railings, benches, and stairs to increase safety. Lights sometimes can perform double duty; for instance, an uplight on a tree can help light a walkway as well.
Sometimes shine a light on a wall behind shrubs or a statue to silhouette them.
Use timers on the transformers in order to automatically turn the lights off at around 11 PM.
Buy a large enough transformer to handle all of the lights you will need plus a couple of extras. Make sure the transformer has enough terminals to do multiple runs; you do not want all of your lights on one wire.
If the water is clear, use submersible lights to dramatically illuminate a pond of water feature. If the water is not clear, uplight a tree or architectural feature nearby and it will be reflected in the still water.
Direct lights so that they do not shine in windows, especially bedroom windows.
When you’re finished leave all of the wiring above the ground for few nights so you can easily make changes. Use wire that is 10 or 12 gauge – not 14 gauge.