Erin Doman on March 17, 2016 2 Comments Landscape lighting is the perfect way to create a safer, more entertaining and more beautiful front or back lawn. The difficulty comes in deciding what type of lighting suits your needs, but keeping these tips in mind will help you get started. 1. Consider the Reasons to Use Landscape Lighting Landscape lighting is both functional and beautiful. It provides safety by illuminating walkways, stairs, driveways, outdoor seating areas and entryways, and highlights the plant life and unique design elements of your landscaping. Additionally, outdoor lighting means you don’t have to limit your outdoor entertaining to daylight hours. You can have barbecues, drinks and time with friends and family well into the evening. 2. Decide What You Want to Illuminate If you simply want a safer yard, it will be enough to install basic lights along your driveway and any pathways leading to your garage or exterior doors. However, if your lawn has a gorgeous rosebush, a large tree or some other unique feature that you love and want to display, you should consider the best way to illuminate it. Consider, too, whether you have an outdoor space you’d like to work or entertain in during the evening hours. No matter what you lighting needs are, there is certainly a lighting style that will perfectly illuminate your yard to your liking. 3. Choose a Light Source There are three common types of sources for landscape lighting: solar, low-voltage and high-voltage. Each of the three options have their benefits and drawbacks, and some yards might be more suited to one type of lighting than another. Solar Lighting: If you are on a budget or prefer something environmentally friendly, consider using solar power. Since solar lights rely on harnessing energy from the sun, you won’t spend extra money on your energy bill each month. If you can place your lights where they receive direct sunlight throughout the day, they won’t require any cords, which makes them easy to install yourself. However, if the space you wish to light doesn’t receive sun during the day, you will need to invest in and install a solar panel that runs wires to the lights. This can be much more expensive, which is why it might suit you in this case to go with one of the other lighting options. Low-Voltage Lighting: The most common landscape lighting option is low-voltage. Low-voltage lights use only 10 percent of the power that a traditional 120-volt system does. It relies on stepped-down power from your home. This system requires a 12-volt transformer, bulbs of various brightness, colors and beam widths, and fixture housing, which protects the bulbs from weather damage and shapes the beams to your liking. You’ll also need stakes to hold the fixtures in place and the proper cables to carry the current through the lights’ wires. High-Voltage Lighting: If you have a large yard, or if you have several different features you wish to shed light on, you’ll need to use a 120-volt system. These systems must be buried at least 18 inches below the ground or encased in a conduit that protects the current from water. Because of the amount of electricity they use, a licensed electrician must install them, which makes them more expensive than solar or low-voltage lighting systems. 4. Understand the Different Lighting Techniques Landscape lighting placements vary greatly, with the most common being deck lighting. Deck lighting is used to illuminate safety hazards such as steps and walkways, and works well with masonry or wood construction. If you’d like to emphasize a specific texture in your yard, such as climbing ivy, consider using the grazing technique. Grazing lights use a light beam placed within 12 inches of the area you want to cast light on, which is aimed parallel to the focal point. Keep in mind that what you wish to illuminate will determine which technique you use. For example, trees look best with well, bullet or flood lighting, but be sure to illuminate the trunks or else they may end up looking like floating bushes in your yard. Flower-focused fixtures should have at least 20 feet between each light source to avoid flooding the area with too much light, and if you want a very specific focus, be sure you use at least two light beams on the plant or structure to avoid harsh shadows. Other common lighting techniques include: Path and area lighting Shadowing Uplighting and downlighting Wall washing As always, be sure to talk to a product expert if you are unsure of which type of landscape lighting would suit your yard best. 5. Know the Costs Involved Click Here to View All Solar Garden Lights Factors such as the types of lighting, whether you use halogen or LED bulbs, the types of fixtures you choose and whether you install yourself or hire a professional all contribute to the varying costs of outdoor lighting. If you choose to go the DIY route, individual fixtures begin at about $20 each, and you can expect to pay about 70 cents per foot of cable. The 12-volt transformer averages about $200. For a professionally installed 10-light system, you could be looking at between $2,000 and $2,500. You should also consider the cost of upkeep. Halogen bulbs are cheaper to purchase initially, but will cost more in the long term between energy bills and replacement bulbs. LED lighting is more expensive initially, beginning at about $40 per fixture, but is cheaper in the long run since it doesn’t use as much energy and probably won’t need to be replaced for at least 20 years. However, it is important to keep in mind that LED lighting is usually not as aesthetically pleasing when used outdoors. When factoring costs, look over your warranty. Pay close attention to what it covers and how long it lasts. A typical warranty will cover your fixtures for up to 10 years, but many brass, copper and stainless steel fixtures will last much longer than that. 6. Things to Keep in Mind if You Install Your Own Lighting If you decide to purchase and install your own outdoor lighting, buy through a reputable store with expert knowledge. A good company will answer your questions and not push you to buy the first product you see. If you are seeking the advice of an expert, be sure they know about the limitations of your yard that might affect your ability to use certain lights. The product experts should be able to help you navigate around all of the options to find one that suits your landscaping needs. Be sure you can dig trenches and connect fixtures safely. To determine what size transformer you need, calculate the watt capacity by adding the total wattage of all your lights and multiplying the total by 1.25. Keep in mind that if you don’t already have the proper transformer receptacle installed, a professional will need to install it, and if you have any doubts about the electrical requirements, hire an electrician so you don’t injure yourself or others. Use this landscape lighting guide to help you design an inviting space. Once you’ve spent a few weekends enjoying your newly illuminated evening with family and friends, you’ll wonder why you didn’t install outdoor lighting sooner!