Modern outdoor illumination is no longer just 'making light'. Instead lighting has become an art, a process that requires skills, talent, knowledge and ability to handle the right equipment to create perfect light scenario. Outdoor lighting techniques not only serve to enhance the landscaped exterior spaces but also dramatically change them to compliment their night time functions.
Landscape lighting can transform the exterior environments creating 'outdoor rooms' where one can dine, relax, recreate and entertain on a well illuminated evening. A well lit landscaped home area will bring the outdoors in and the indoors out. Comfort and beauty, safety and security are guaranteed in a well lit landscaped home exterior.
Home landscape lighting
Well designed landscape lighting inspires comfort, serenity and relaxation. A high profile light at the side of a tall building or a low profile light under a plant along the walkway can have a powerful impact on the viewer. A well-lit landscape has the power to completely change the mood of the outdoors. A properly lit landscaped home adds not just beauty and charm but also provide night time safety for walkways and gardens. There are several lighting techniques that are implemented in a landscape lighting design. Elements of color, form, pattern, texture and scale come into play in landscape lighting.
Landscapes can be broken up into hardscapes and softscapes. Hard landscape elements are patios, decks, walkways, walls, fences, pools and water features. Soft landscape elements are trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses and the like. The path to the patio, reflection pool and garden need soft illumination to the hidden terrace which needs a slightly higher lever of lighting.
While large trees, interesting shrubs, rock walls, architectural details and sculptures can be lit up to produce dramatic effects, some other large trees pergolas and gazebos can be down lighted thereby producing the effect of soft natural light mimicking moonlight. Wall washing and shadow creations can be rendered more interesting by back lighting effects against stone walls or textured surfaces. Cross lighting fountains, sculptures, trees, produces interesting shadows and reveals details.
Earlier dependable landscape lighting systems used the same standard household power of 120 volts. It had to meet a strict electrical code and needed the services of a trained electrician to do all the outdoor installations. Heavy duty connectors, fittings and bulbs were used. The materials had to be waterproof and weatherproof. There are landscape architects or contractors specialized in landscape lighting available to do this job. The costs of hiring such professionals are of course very high.
With the advent of low voltage landscape lighting (12 to 18 volts), home landscape lighting had become distinctly easier. One can buy an inexpensive kit and often install it without external help. With a little imagination, one can design landscape lighting and work on the light locations and lighting design. The low voltage lighting system available today is not only affordable but also durable as well. One common mistake that occurs with landscape lighting is use of too many lights. Lighting in the wrong places is another error that oft happens. A side walk or a garden path need not look like an airport runway that glows with floodlights.
Earlier outdoor lighting remained strictly practical. There was a light outside in the front and backdoor and probably one at the garage door. Outdoor lighting should be soft and subtle and the lighting fixtures should blend with the landscape and not produce glare or harsh shadows. The light sources for outdoor illumination should not be too bright and yet bright enough to provide enough light for walkways and prevent trespassing.
Bright lights need higher efficiency of electricity and therefore consume more energy. Solar lights for gardens and path illuminations cut energy costs by about 20%. Solar garden lamps also help solve the difficulty. However in winter months and at nights the solar batteries are not strong enough to last the whole night.
Since wrong lighting can negatively impact the ambience of outdoor space, careful planning and considerations are advised well before choosing lighting for outdoors. Lighting professionals recommend environment-friendly luminaries and economical systems. In fact neon, halogen, tungsten and fluorescent lights are being replaced by non toxic long lasting and energy efficient outdoor lights. LED emits pure light to the natural spectrum that is safe and environment and flicker free. Serene outdoor lighting patterns, directional accents and balanced light are hall marks of outdoor lighting in houses.
Using glass lights outside the house is another option in outdoor lighting. Glass enhances the effects created by lights. Depending upon the type of glass being used the appearance of the exterior can change.
Outdoor lighting tips
- Spot lighting can be used outdoors for highlighting statues and other central architectural elements. It is recommended to position spots that emanate powerful light beams higher than the human eye.
- Shadowing is another interesting feature whereby a light is placed in the spot directly in front of the element one wants to create. Light is placed in such a manner to cause interesting effect and point light towards a vertical surface to form a shadow.
- Step lighting is another technique employed in staircases in houses. LED fixtures powered by solar cells are ideal for this sort of lighting, as one does not need too much light on each step but just a contour which is a light accent or a light path.
- Up lighters can be used to enhance residences with architectural traits as these help to accentuate their beauty and charm.
- Under water illumination is ideal for artesian fountains, pools and ponds although these are generally expensive and one needs professional help for their installation.