Outdoor Lighting Guide to Improve Appearance & Deter Theft
December 1, 2017
When was the last time you inspected your outdoor lighting? Landscape and security lighting go hand-in-hand, helping to brighten up your home, boost curb appeal, and provide you with additional safety and security for your home and family.
Work with a professional electrician and outdoor lighting expert to help design a landscape lighting plan to solve your security and aesthetic needs.
Since the days are shorter and the nights are longer, winter is a great time to assess your outdoor lighting situation.
Where to Add Light Around the Home
Your outdoor lighting should be a mix of different lighting and mounting tights and strategies for different areas around the home. Here is a list of some of the things you should consider lighting around your home and the best methods for doing so:
Pathway lighting is essential for avoiding trips, falls, and other accidents around your stairs and pathways. In addition to seeing where you are going, you will also be able to better detect who may be coming toward your home. Consider low-voltage lights that are low to the ground for your pathway lights.
Pathway lights can be solar or electrical, but are almost always some form of small post with a light at the top. Light is typically diffused to spread the glow around. Pathway lights are probably the most popular form of outdoor lighting, used for everything from paths and ponds to driveways and entertainment spaces.
Instead of low-to-the-ground pathway lights, consider postmount/piermount fixtures that are raised to around waist level. The light is normally fixed to the top of the structure/post. They can be used to mark off paths and highlight the entries of walkways, driveways, gates, fences, decks, and other exterior areas of your home.
Another option are bollard lights, which is basically a heavy-duty and more permanent-looking pathway light. They can be used as guide posts, similar to postmounts.
Consider under-lighting for your stairs to light up each and every step. They aren’t just practical, they are also beautiful and are easy to install. Similar lights and accents can be used for your walls and lighting up swimming pools, patios, and other entertainment spaces.
Also, consider motion lights to save money and whelp ward off intruders. Use motion lighting at the mid-point of your home and on the ground for sufficient illumination for your stairs and pathways
You can use pathway lights to line the perimeter of your driveway, as well as around ponds, gardens, and other specific areas of your home. There are many different ways to light up your driveway, but you don’t need to have it be as bright as a runway. To avoid a runway look, place pathway lights at least ten feet away from each other.
The main idea is safety and security. We recommend having lights placed around the driveway entrance and anywhere where they might be a change in direction. Light fixtures should highlight any potential obstacles, such as trees, boulders, and walls. Use your driveway lights to make parking, entering, and exiting easier.
Consider placing a decorative lamppost at the entrance of your driveway. You can also use a boulder, stone, or entry pier that can also serve as a mailbox and address marker.
Doors and Entryways
The front door is probably the first thing you notice when driving by houses on a residential street. Well-designed entryway lighting complements your home’s architecture, boosts curb appeal, improves security, and makes it easy for guests to navigate their way to your front door.
If you don’t want to be fiddling with your keys all night and want a clear view to your doorway, bright doorway lights are essential. Additionally, if you have security cameras around your doorways, you’ll need working doorway lighting to create a clear image.
You have several options for lighting up your doors and entryways:
- Double Sconce – One of the best-looking lighting designs for doorways is the wall-mounted double sconce. Normally placed around 6-12 inches from either side of the door frame, they create symmetrical look with plenty of light.
- Single Sconce – If your doorway doesn’t allow for double sconces due to spacing issues, a single sconce can work as well. Just be sure to place it on the doorknob side of the door for adequate light.
- Pendant (Hanging) Fixture – If you want an overhead light and have a high ceiling, consider a hanging pendant light. They work best for entryways with high ceilings where high winds won’t be an issue.
- Flush and Recessed Lights – For an overhead light with lower ceilings, flush or recessed lights work best. They also work better for doors with screens or storm doors.
Usually, you only need one or the other—wall-mount or ceiling-mount—however, if for very large entryways, you may want to combine both. There are doorway lighting options for every budget.
Patios work best with a range of different lighting. For the stairs, we recommend under-stair lighting. Consider general lighting for large patio areas, highlighted by outdoor wall lights and outdoor flush-mounts.
For more patio lighting ideas, consider:
- Task Lighting
- Post Lights
- Deck & Step Lights
- Dimmers and Lighting Controls
- Outdoor Chandeliers
- Outdoor Pendants
- Outdoor Floor Lamps
Plants and Trees
If there are a lot of trees, bushes, and other plants around your home, consider illuminating them to help define your space, mimic moonlighting, and brighten shadows and potential hiding places for intruders.
Lights can be placed low to the ground and shined upward or they can be placed in the branches of the trees to create a moonlighting effect.
- For larger trees, we recommend placing the lights (usually spotlights) up high in the trees, aimed down to create a beautiful “moonlight” effect. This lighting has a magical feel since the light source is hidden behind branches and foliage.
- For smaller trees and plants, it’s better to light up the base, trunk, and canopy from below.
- For extra-large trees, such as evergreens, you may want to combine up-lighting and down-lighting for a dramatic effect.
- Up-lighting is great for adding some drama to taller structures and trees. They can also help highlight the underside of a tree’s canopy on wide tree and smaller trees.
Walls and Hardscape
If you have a lot of walls and hardscaping around your property, “grazing” can be a great option. Also known as hardscape lighting, this technique involves placing lights close to the surface and either aiming them up or down to create dramatic lights and shadow play.
Grazing works best when there are interesting textures and shapes to the wall. You will often see this type of landscape lighting around upscale restaurants and hotels.
Where NOT to Light
Landscape lighting is a balancing act. You don’t want too much or too little. Avoid light pollution and annoying your neighbors:
- Light sources shouldn’t shine directly into people’s eyes.
- Avoid shining lights into neighbors’ windows.
- Too much light can wash out the beautiful night sky and created unwanted glare.
- Try to hide or obscure light sources if possible.
Outdoor Lighting Design
- Down-lighting – Sometimes referred to as “moonlighting,” lights that are placed high and cast downwards give your landscape a romantic feel. Downlights work best when placed high up in trees.
- Up-lighting – Up-lighting works best to highlight specific elements of your landscape, such as statues, tree trunks, walls, and other areas. They provide a dramatic look to your home. Spotlights and well-lights are the most popular up-lighting options. Well-lights are installed into the ground to give your landscape a seamless and upscale look and feel.
- Cross-lighting – Cross-lighting gives your home and landscape a more balanced look by lighting up the yard and other areas from multiple sides. Cross-lighting is effective for reducing shadowy areas.
Outdoor Lighting Maintenance
- Change light bulbs as needed. Switch to LED bulbs for much more durable and longer-lasting light bulbs.
- Clean and polish your light fixtures to prevent oxidation and brighten up the light output.
- Schedule an electrical inspection every year from a qualified electrician. This will ensure optimum safety and efficiency levels.
- Test your GFCI and AFCI outlets/breakers every 30-60 days for proper operation.
Landscape and security lighting can make your home look great, prevent trips and falls, while also deterring potential burglars. Speak with a professional outdoor lighting expert from OnTime Service to start designing the perfect landscape lighting for your home.
- Christmas Lighting and Ladder Safety
- Illuminate Your Pathways with Low Voltage Lights
- Extension Cord Safety
SERVICE ON TIME OR WE PAY YOU $59!
Contact OnTime Service at (205) 942-1405 to schedule your outdoor lighting consultation.
OnTime Service has been providing Birmingham-area homeowners with professional on-time home services since 1975. As always, we will provide you with straightforward pricing options before any work begins. Your satisfaction is guaranteed.