Brighten Up Your Yard With Outdoor Lighting

OK, so you have finally finished landscaping your yard and it is beautiful … as long as the sun is up. Would not you like to enjoy the beauty after the sun goes down as well? The easiest way is with low-voltage landscape lighting. You have put a lot of time and thought into planning the placement of your trees, flowers, deck and pond. Now it's time to plan your outdoor lighting. Decorative outdoor lighting is easy to plan if you take it one step at a time.

The first step in planning your project is to decide what you want to illuminate and the effect you want. These two things will determine the type of lights you need and their placement. There are many different lighting techniques that will create different effects.

Spot Lighting showcases interesting features such as trees, shrubs, architecture and statuaries.

Shadow Lighting highlights interesting shapes or branch structure by casting a shadow on the surface behind the object being highlighted.

Underwater Lighting enhances the beauty of a pond, swimming pool or fountain.

Grazing brings out the texture of fences, chimneys, walls or other masonry.

Moon Lighting creates the soft effect of moonlight filtering down through tree branches.

Walkway Lighting adds safety, visibility and security for walking and can also highlight plants and shrubs along the walkway.

Step Lighting adds beauty to your decks and landscaping while allowing guests to navigate steps safely.

Security or Motion Control Lighting will help deter against crime and unwanted pests by eliminating dark areas where intruders can hide.

Silhouetting highlights objects with interesting shapes or plants with interesting branch structure by silhouetting the object on the surface behind it.

Sign Lighting will keep your signs illuminated and useful when it is dark outside.

Down Lighting simulates natural light for entertaining as well as illuminating for safety and security.

Up Lighting dramatically heights the beauty of flags, statue, trees and architectural designs, especially ones that are large or flowering.

Spread Lighting illuminates flowerbeds, ground cover and low shrubs. It can also be used underwater to illuminate an ornamental pond.

Deck lighting will bring your deck to life at night while it enables guests to navigate your deck safely. Deck fixtures can be installed on posts, below benches and railings or in step risers.

  • Test the placement of your lights by having a friend help you by shining a flashlight on objects you think you want to light. Make notes of what type of lighting is best in each location as well as the angle that best achieves the effect you want. Also, make sure the light is not going to shine in your neighbor's window.
  • Sketch a "bird's eye view" of your yard on graph paper showing main features such as driveways, gardens, walkways, trees and walls. Then plot where each fixture will be placed.
  • Decide if you want to use low-voltage or solar lighting. Solar outdoor lighting is good for aesthetic reasons and requires no wiring because they run off their own power. Low-voltage outdoor lighting is brighter than solar lighting and they do not require sunlight for power.
  • Once you decide how many and which types of lights you need, decide if you want to purchase lighting kits or a custom system. Kits are an easy way to get started and usually contain several types of lights, cable, connectors and controls. All of the necessary components can also be purchased separately so you can customize your landscape lighting project.
  • Make sure you get the right size power pack for your project. A salesperson at your hardware store can help you determine which power pack you need. You'll need to add up the total wattage of your lights and make sure the total wattage is less than 100% of the power pack rating. 80% is a good rule of thumb so you can add more lighting in the future.

Now that you've planned your outdoor lighting project, you just need to install it and fire up the barbeque.