Landscape Lighting Guide
Illuminating Answers for Your Outdoor Lighting Questions
At first you may just think of outdoor lighting as “icing on the cake.” It might merely seem like a curb appeal booster that will help your landscape project look nicer. Certainly, landscape lighting can give your property major curb appeal, but the truth is there is so much more value to it than that. Without landscape lighting, you literally won’t be able to function in your outdoor living area once the sun goes down.
Adding landscape lighting is a wise investment whether it’s for an existing outdoor living area or a project that you are planning to start in the near future. Of course we also know that there are many options out there and a lot to understand before jumping into an outdoor lighting project.
In order to truly understand the value of landscape lighting, as well as what’s involved when working with a landscape lighting professional, let’s delve in deeper and illuminate some of the answers to your outdoor lighting questions.
Outdoor Lighting Benefits
The biggest benefits of outdoor lighting can be broken down into four key categories: aesthetics, functionality, safety and security, and smart home capabilities. Let’s take a look at each, as each benefit brings something a little different to the table in your consideration of outdoor lighting.
Perhaps the benefit that comes to your mind first, there’s no question that landscape lighting will make your property more appealing. From uplighting certain architectural details on your home to installing attractive uplighting on your trees, outdoor lighting is an attractive addition to any property both in the front and the back of the home. Taking it a step further, there’s no question that the boost in curb appeal equates to added dollar value as well.
While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind, the functionality of outdoor lighting is perhaps its most important benefit. By adding landscape lighting you’re making your outdoor space useable beyond the daylight hours. For instance, pathlights will help guide your way on walkways throughout your property. Strategically placed lighting around your driveway will ensure guests see that unexpected curve in the drive. And lighting overtop a kitchen bar will allow you to fully enjoy an outdoor meal or drink.
You can take this benefit even further by adding customized lighting that will suit your specific needs. For instance, imagine adding lighting within a cabinet that will come on when you open the door or adding a bright light that shines down directly above your spot at the grill. You’ll be able to find that pan you’re looking for or see whether your steak is fully cooked with the help of landscape lighting.
You might also build lighting into a retaining wall around your seating area or even in the pavers underfoot. There are so many options that can be customized to serve your exact needs.
Safety & Security
The addition of outdoor lighting is also a known deterrent for burglars and trespassers. Most intruders will simply move on to a home that does not have strategic landscape lighting rather than take a chance with a well-lit home. In addition, you’ll also make your property safer when you light up walkways, stairways and driveways as you’ll reduce possible trip and fall hazards.
Smart Home Capabilities
Finally, it’s also worth mentioning that landscape lighting is another enhancement that complements smart home capabilities. With so many functions of your home being automated, landscape lighting is really no different. At just the push of a button on your smartphone, you can control your outdoor lighting allowing you to enjoy more time outdoors without having to go around and turn on lights.
The Cost of Landscape Lighting
In comparison to the overall cost of an outdoor landscape project such as an outdoor kitchen or a patio area, landscape lighting is only a small fraction of the overall investment. And for that small investment, the value that you get in return is plentiful. That’s because without outdoor lighting, you truly can’t utilize your space to its fullest potential.
There are many factors that can cause the overall cost of outdoor lighting to vary. Like anything else, how much you spend largely has to do with how many upgrades you want to incorporate. Today’s landscape lighting technology has come so far that the options are truly incredible. From color-changing capabilities to zoning and dimming functions (of course, all which can be controlled from a smartphone), the possibilities of what you can create run the gamut.
But even at the bare minimum investment, you should expect to get high-end fixtures and the latest technology coupled with the design expertise of a professional. After all, professional landscape lighting is not made up of products you could purchase from a big box store. These are professional level products being installed with an artistic approach by an expert.
At a minimum investment, you should expect to get enough lights around your property to be able to see and use your outdoor space in the evening hours. For instance, for an average investment of $6,000, you could have a few pathlights, a few strategically placed spotlights around the property, and uplight a couple interesting details of your home or landscape. The bulk of that cost is actually the transformer itself with design and installation factored in as well. But keep in mind you can add additional features down the road for relatively inexpensively once you have the transformer in place.
With more of an investment you could upgrade to a transformer that is zone-able, allowing you to program special features such as your walkway lights coming on at a specific time. Specialty lighting, such as lights built into a retaining wall, decorative pendant lighting, in-cabinet or in-drawer lighting, and other customized features are all upgrades that you might find are worth the additional investment for the benefits they provide. For an additional investment, the latest technology even allows for color-changing LED landscape lighting that can be programmed to change colors for special holidays or celebrations.
Landscape Lighting Design Ideas
There are so many possibilities when it comes to designing a landscape lighting scheme. From where to put the lights to considerations taken for the front versus the back, there are many points to bear in mind. Here are a few landscape lighting design ideas to consider as you brainstorm.
Backyard vs. Front
When you think of your home, it makes sense to think about the value of your front yard in terms of curb appeal and the value of your backyard in terms of personal enjoyment. Of course both ends of the property contribute to your home’s overall value and both are important. But for the purposes of simplifying things, let’s look at value in these terms.
In boosting curb appeal and property value, lights in the front yard are important along the pathway leading to your front door, steps in the walkway that need to be lit, and along your driveway if you have a dark property or a complicated drive. Curb appeal can also be boosted by uplighting interesting plant materials or key architectural features on the front of the house.All of these efforts will give you value in terms of looks but also increase safety and security as previously mentioned.
In terms of your backyard, you might think of it more as a place to entertain family and friends. Therefore there is great value in lighting that will allow you to use your outdoor living spaces to their fullest. That might mean lighting built into a retaining wall or lighting that properly illuminates an outdoor kitchen so that you can cook and entertain with ease. Outdoor lighting can also help create outdoor rooms as certain sections can be lit while others are not.
Of course many of the same design features that are applied to the front yard can be applied to the back. That might mean uplighting interesting details of your home or certain trees or shrubs that enhance the property.
Lighting allows you to enjoy these features of your yard even when the sun goes down whether you’re inside or out. Imagine looking outside your kitchen window or through your sliding doors to see your beautifully lit landscape.
There’s also something magical about a property in the evening hours when it’s artistically well-lit. The right lighting gives trees and shrubs a whole new appearance, casting beautiful shadows and even some artistic flair. In fact, some homeowners even say they enjoy their outdoor living areas more in the evening hours than the daytime with the right outdoor lighting illuminating it.
Types of Fixtures and Lighting
The design styles and materials available for outdoor lighting have come incredibly far. There is truly something for every taste out there from traditional to modern. There is also a lot of choice when it comes to the fixture materials. As previously discussed in the cost section, even at the basic investment you’re going to get a high-end light fixture when working with a professional. That’s because professionals know that investing a little bit more in a high quality fixture is worth the cost in terms of durability. When you’re dealing with something that is going to be outdoors, facing the elements day in and day out, investing in quality is important.
Some of the more common high-quality fixture choices include the following:
- Composite material
Exactly which material is right for you is largely dependent upon your style and taste but also your budget. A design professional will work closely with you to determine which fixture material is the best choice for your project.
In addition, today’s advanced lighting technology is turning toward LED landscape lighting, which is the longest lasting option in the marketplace. Modern LED landscape lighting may be a bit more of an investment at the onset but because it is extremely energy efficient, it is ultimately a savings. While older landscape lighting systems required frequently changing bulbs (often a couple times in a year) and produced high energy bills, LED landscape lighting is a lot more cost effective. In comparison to old, incandescent bulbs, LED lighting can decrease your lighting systems’ energy consumption by 80 percent, with bulbs lasting for up to 20 years.
It is today’s LED lighting systems that also allow you the opportunity to change colors and be controlled by your smartphone. This is the most advanced technology and the best option available today.
Wow Factor Considerations
With all of the advances in lighting technology, there are are some really exciting possibilities for your outdoor projects. The wow factor of outdoor lighting can be the difference between a nice outdoor living project and one that is mind blowing. With the following three features, outdoor lighting can truly take your outdoor project to the next level.
The ability to change lighting color is one of the hottest features right now. It’s allowing homeowners to create specialty lighting designs for the holidays without ever having to go out and string holiday lights again.
But it doesn’t have to stop there. With such a huge color palette, you can do speciality lighting for Saint Patty’s Day, the Fourth of July, Halloween, or maybe even your favorite sports team. The ability to create holiday or party themed lighting can take your entertainment to a whole new level of fun.
All of this is easily programmed by the homeowner to be as simple or complex as you want. It could be as basic as just changing the color on a few uplit trees or on your home or you could go all out with a complete party theme.
Highly Customized Lighting
With zoning and dimming capabilities, outdoor lighting can truly be customized to your exact needs. Zoning allows lights to be programmed into preset themes which can be activated for special occasions such as entertaining, grilling, or just relaxing with the family.
This technology is so advanced that it can be programmed to automatically react to your activity. For instance, when the outdoor TV goes on in the pavilion, your lighting could be programmed to automatically dim, if you wish.
Dimming also allows lights to automatically emit any desired illumination percentage at any time. Today’s lighting is so advanced that it can be programmed so that each individual light is controlled on its own.
Discussed previously in the benefits section, it’s worth revisiting smartphone capabilities of landscape lighting for its wow factor. With all of the controls preset onto your phone, all you need to do is push a button to control different zones, change the intensity of dimming lights, or even change the colors.
Smartphone technology makes it easy and effortless. That also means you no longer have to go out and set everything up or make changes. You can have one preset function for hanging out with your family (lower lighting, more relaxing) and a totally different one for entertaining a bunch of guests (lots of lighting, maybe even color). With technology at play, setting up lighting is made simple.
The Earth, Turf & Wood Difference
A lot of companies say they install landscape lighting, but not all products and processes are created equal. Anyone can slap some cheap fixtures into the ground but there is a lot to be said for quality not only in the materials but in the design as well.
One of the biggest benefits to having landscape lighting installed through Earth, Turf & Wood is the fact that we have an in-house Registered Landscape Architect that works full-time for our company. This means you have access to premium design possibilities. It can be the difference between a row of pathlights looking like an airport runway or looking like a thoughtfully and artistically designed row of pathlights. Our Registered Landscape Architect will work closely with you to determine your goals and develop a custom-designed solution that works best for you and your budget.
We also work with the very best products on the market. Earth, Turf & Wood installs professional grade FX landscape lighting along with the FX Luminaire Luxor ZDC automated system. This system allows more customization than any other system you will find on the market today. If it’s something you’re considering but aren’t sure if you’re ready to take the leap, we can also offer a try-it-before-you-buy-it option to see what your property would look like with outdoor lighting.
At Earth, Turf & Wood, our goal is always to provide you with the very best whether that’s in products or services. We provide the same level of excellence with outdoor lighting services that we do in our other areas of professional landscaping and design. We know there’s a lot involved in starting a landscape lighting project but are ready to walk you through everything from start to finish. When you begin a lighting project with Earth, Turf & Wood you can feel confident that we are there for you every step of the way.
Let's Get Started!
For more help and information on planning your landscape lighting enhancements or your entire outdoor living area, contact us for a DreamBuilder Workbook. This helpful resource will enable us to work together to plan an ideal outdoor space for you and your family!
Or if you're still looking for more inspiration, check out some of the projects we've completed in our Project Gallery.
When you're ready to discuss the details for your next project, contact us for a free consultation where we can talk about making your dreams become a reality!