Creating the Perfect 'Lightscape'
In an ideal world, youve renovated the house -- inside and out -- and your green thumb means the landscaping would win awards. But why stop there? Outdoor lighting is an easy, and cost effective, way to give your home a signature look. No longer just for safety and security, outdoor lighting, when installed properly, is the way to create todays lightscaping. With so much to choose from, it is simple to get designer-quality effects with little effort.
Buy some in the morning, enjoy it in the evening. Thats how easy it is to install low voltage outdoor lighting. However, there is no reason to think this means a simple row of path lights, which would not look out of place on an airport landing strip.
Yes, there are practical reasons to light your property: safety remains the big issue. But outdoor lighting is rapidly becoming a key visual element for an attractive home. Good, energy-efficient lighting can create lively moods for outdoor parties, while soft and subtle diffused lighting can inspire romance or enhance relaxation.
John Grosche, a low voltage lighting expert with Intermatic, outdoor lighting specialists, said mixing and matching lighting fixtures can help avoid that runway look.
For a pleasing design, mix eye-catching low voltage light fixtures with lights that blend into the background and subtly highlight a property, Groshe said.
Generally, large trees, front porches, gazebos and walkways make great lighting focal points. And it is at these focal points that you will often want to select a light fixture with a distinctive design.
To make the most of your lightscaping, first you will need to assess your property. Simply put, walk around your yard and house and decide on focal points that will benefit from outdoor lighting. Doing this at night with a flashlight or two will help you to really visualize lighting solutions.
Then, ask yourself the following questions: what are the propertys most attractive features; which areas need to be lit for safety and security; what are some areas that would benefit from an attractive light fixture even during the day, and, what areas could benefit from nighttime illumination.
A few easy lighting techniques can be utilized to achieve special effects at night:
Brad Wiesner, lighting merchant for Home Depots EXPO Design Centers, said buying lighting fixtures in a variety of finishes that maintain their good looks is an investment in the value of your home. Landscape Lighting is the key to highlighting your yard and provides visual interest and drama. Low voltage landscape lighting is flexible and easy to install, he said.
With low voltage lighting, a transformer is used to convert 120 volts from an outlet to a safe 12 volts. The path lights and spotlights can easily be moved and adjusted as plants grow. This allows the homeowner to experiment and change the lighting as their needs change.
Installation of low voltage systems should not require extensive electrical knowledge, but be sure to follow all installation guidelines. And also bear in mind; you get what you pay for. Some lighting sets can run as low as $25, but may not weather well over the winter if you live an extreme climate.
Environmental conditions are the number one consideration in determining how long an outdoor fixture will last. Finishes can fade from ultraviolet light. Water causes corrosion when trapped by debris in a crevice of the fixture. And the presence of water also causes incompatible metals to fuse together, preventing access to the fixtures.
For outdoor wall lanterns, Wiesner says dark finishes in bronze and shades of black are the trend right now. Lighting manufacturer's have taken the quality details of interior lighting and interpreted those aspects into exterior lighting. Multi-step finishes on outdoor lanterns enhance and add beauty to the fixtures. Interesting glass helps diffuse the light and provides decorative interest when off. There are many quality decorative Exterior wall lanterns that can enhance the look and design of your home.
When planning outdoor home lighting, make sure that what you choose does not light up your neighbors yard as well as your own. Good low-glare options include linear tube lights and fiber-optics. These can light the way for pedestrians without illuminating the entire area. Cut-off fixtures and shades are also useful in avoiding light pollution and spillover.
Solar lights are environmentally friendly, but realistically, they need at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day to charge.
Still a pretty option, and a really cost effective way of lightscaping is to use strings of Chinese lanterns or party lights. Candles and torches can be used for interesting ambient lighting. However, add up the cost of candles and fuel for your torches over a summer and you might be wiser to invest in electric lighting.
Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the shows podcast or sign-up for Toms free weekly e-newsletter, visit the programs website at www.moneypit.com.