Use lighting to show off your home and garden
Low-voltage landscape lighting is inexpensive to operate, yet creates great drama while enhancing safety and security, and adding value. It shows off your home's richness and beauty at night by highlighting ornamental plants, ponds, sculpture, architectural lines, textures and other focal points. Lighting also brightens outdoor cooking and eating areas. It illuminates pathways, driveways and steps while deterring prowlers and vandals.
Most landscape lighting is considered low-voltage and there are several brands of do-it-yourself kits in home improvement centers, hardware stores, mail-order catalogs and other retailers.
Homeowners with large, complicated landscapes may wish to call a professional landscape contractor to install the lighting. Licensed professionals make sure the voltage is stable throughout the lighting system, so that the last lamp works as well as the one closest to the energy source. Uneven voltage may cause bulbs and transformers to burn out prematurely.
Purchasing and placing landscape lighting
Here is some more advice on choosing lighting and determining where to install it.
- Before you buy the lights or make arrangements to have lights installed, you need to have some idea of what you would like lighted. Look at your landscape at night from all sides of the house, pathways, the street and other angles. Chances are, you no longer will be able to see that beautiful Japanese maple that is so visible in the daytime. Missing from the view also might be colorful flower plantings, some definition of where the water garden is or those beautiful, custom porch columns or balustrades for which you paid top dollar.
- Stand inside your house and look out the windows at your landscape. Pay special attention to the views from windows you use most often, especially at night, such as in the kitchen, dining room or sunroom. Can you see what you think are the attributes of your yard, such as the stately tree in the back of the garden or your beautiful collection of hostas?
- Avoid the tendency to overlight. Too much light and light that is too bright or harsh, looks garish.
- Lighting is most effective when the source can't be seen. To enhance the illusion, try to select decorative lighting fixtures or camouflage the fixtures in the landscape.
- Make sure the lights do not shine in people's eyes. Take into account even far-away distances, such as your neighbor's house or landscape. You wouldn't want to blind your neighbor.
- Each landscape will require a different number of fixtures. Their distance apart will vary, too, depending on whether you are illuminating a specimen plant in the garden or a pathway.
- Play with flashlights, lanterns, candles or other light sources to get an idea of what various sections of your landscape look like when illuminated.
- If you have a large property, don't worry about lighting it all at once. Lighting, like most landscape projects, can be done in phases.
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