Lighting is an essential element that is equally important for both interior and exterior spaces. Lighting can make or break a space and in and getting it right is crucial for creating a sense of comfort, safety and well-being, especially in an outdoor setting.
Installing permanent lighting in your garden will not only help create a wonderful ambiance, it will make entertaining all that bit easier and enjoyable if you take the time to light paths and steps for clear way-finding.
Garden lighting has come a long way over the years in terms of design and technology. Today there’s almost as many options for outdoor lighting as there is for indoors and the mood or look that can be achieved is every bit as impressive.
So, what do you need to know before getting garden lighting installed at your home?
To provide you with the best advice and technical information, we sought the advice of Jill from Creative Lighting; a company that specialises in lighting design for homes and gardens.
This comprehensive outdoor lighting guide will take you through the following wealth of information.
Outdoor lighting can help detract from those problem areas by highlighting what’s working, and leading the eye away from what isn’t. For instance, do you have a water featured installed? Perhaps there’s an old tree with beautiful twisting branches? See the strengths in your garden and use outdoor lighting to literally and figuratively uplight these. Feature lighting is really big right now and only limited by one’s creativity; don’t be afraid to be bold!
It’s a cliché, but less is more. Go for higher quality products and just purchase fewer units. Cheaper items on the market can give a scrambled look. Outdoor lighting is the sort of thing you want to do once, do it properly, and then not have to think about it again. With quality products comes quality warranties, guarantees and solutions.
Cheaper products might not have all the joins properly connected, and they might not have been properly heat shrunk and sealed. This could lead to moisture entering the light and causing it to blow, which brings you back to where you started in the first place.
Unlike lighting in your home, what you place outdoors has to endure everything Mother Nature throws at it – from harsh heat to freezing winters, not to mention wind, rain and hail! It pays to invest in quality products.
Like all lighting there are lots of different styles of garden lights, but there are three key types that will help you create effective garden lighting.
Garden spots – these are perfect for uplighting trees and bushes. They come in a range of size/brightness depending on the height of the plant you want to light up.
Step/Stair Lights – these are designed to throw enough light to illuminate each step.
Pond Lights – if you've got a water feature in your garden like a pond or fountain, this is a great way to make it a focal point for both day and night.
LED Vs. Halogen
Garden lights are available in either Halogen or LED. Halogen lights will generally draw more power than LEDs which are more energy efficient. With LED globes, the brighter they are the bigger the size of the actual globe. So always double check that the fitting that you have chosen works with the brightness (and therefore size) of LED globe that you need in that area.
Halogen garden lights can suffer from voltage drop. What’s voltage drop? Simply it’s when the light that is furthest away from the transformer doesn't burn as brightly as the one closest to it. The problem is made worse when there are a lot of lights on the system, or the system runs over a particularly long distance.
Making sure you use the right cable and transformer will overcome this. Refer to our 'How to Choose the Correct Cabling' table later in this article to help choose the right cable and refer to the 'How to Plan a Garden Lighting Scheme' in the section below. LED systems have a much lower power draw so voltage drop is not generally a problem.
Furthermore, when choosing your lights, look for good quality materials and products with certified IP ratings. This will tell you how resistant to water and dust they are so that your garden lighting can survive the elements for years.
Hunza from New Zealand is a really reputable brand, as are the subsidiaries that belong to them such as Luxor. Havit, Mercator and Oriel also have an excellent names in the industry.
Click here to learn more about the Best Lighting Bands.
Before going any further, Jill says there are three key things that you need to know about garden lighting:
12 Volt vs. 240 volt
If you are planning on making this a DIY project then you’ll need to ensure you use 12 Volt lighting, otherwise you will need to employee the services of a qualified electrician.
12V lighting uses transformers to step power down from the 240V electricity supplied to your home, to a safe 12V.
Most outdoor lights are 12 volt, so that such danger is avoided. If you’re working with 12 volt lights then you can keep cords above ground (perhaps just hide them by running them along the fence, or placing some tan bark over them).
If you’re working with 240 volt lights then these need to go underground (600mm deep trenches) and installed by an electrician. Whatever the volt, just make sure the product is weather proof (IP 65 is weather proof and IP 68 is able to be submersed and buried).
Halogen and LED lights require different types of transformers and the number and size of the lights you choose will determine the size of the transformer you’ll require.
Then there is the wiring. All the lights will need to be connected back to the transformer(s). But there are different wire thicknesses depending on the distance and the number of watts required.
Jill suggests starting with a pen and paper and a tape measure.
Draw up a rough plan of your garden.
Mark in any trees or bushes that would look great uplit at night, any paths that need marking or stairs that are poorly lit, plus any power points already wired in the garden.
Think about lighting plants or a group of plants that will draw your eye at night – this creates interest and a sense of depth in your garden.
Mark in where you are going to lay the wiring to connect each of the lights back to the transformer. The transformer is best installed close to one of the power points.
At this stage it's also good to think about how many watts, or how bright each of the lights in your system will be.
Halogen lights require higher wattage globes, but a good guide is:
20 Watt Globe for a step lights
20 Watt Globe for a pond/water feature light
35 Watt Globe for uplighting a small bush
50 Watt Globe for uplighting a medium sized feature tree
With LED globes a good guide for wattage is:
1.5 Watt Globe for a step lights
3 Watt Globe for a pond/water feature light
5 Watt Globe for uplighting a small bush
5 or 9 Watt Globe for uplighting a medium sized feature tree
Next, mark in where you would like to position your lights, then work out how many lights, and what brightness you’ll need.
The right transformer will be the one that is rated to take the total amount of watts in your system, so if the wattage of your chosen lights adds to 280Watt, you’ll need a 300Watt transformer.
Then you need to work out which thickness of cable to run. The easiest way is to cross check the table below.
Set aside a Saturday afternoon to run your cables, and set up your system, and then enjoy your handiwork!
The Best type of lighting recommend for generally lighting up the grounds
Adjustable spike spotlights do a great job in this department! They look a little like pencils that you simply insert into the ground, and the protruding spotlight can then be moved around in various directions.
The Best type of lighting recommend for decking
You can achieve some sensational ambient lighting from discreet deck lights available in black ,copper, stainless or brass. Their circumference is around the same size as a ten cent piece, so we’re talking just shots of gentle light coming up from the deck. Not only do they look good, but they serve a function purpose especially around deck steps.
How to get the best out of lighting a deck
The use of LED strip lighting can also illuminate a deck area, water features and steps. This can be placed in aluminium extrusion to diffuse and protect light source. There are some great miniature lights with frosted glass that can be specially fitted into decking.
Black Outdoor Lights
Lighting finish trends follow the trends in door handles and tap ware. So, one of the strongest trends at the moment is a matte black finish for door hardware and tap ware. This is following through in a range of matte black outdoor lighting fixtures.
Bronze & Nickel Outdoor Lights
An emerging trend this year is bronze, nickel or gun metal wall lights. Textured, satin finish or rounded, these lights look incredibly smart by day and night and deliver such a lovely illumination.
Gold, Brass & Copper Outdoor Lights
We are also seeing a shift from the polished chrome and stainless steel finishes, to the warmer metal tones of gold, copper and brass.
Lanterns are a perennial outdoor lighting favourite, and there are some really interesting styles available, from the traditional to the more bohemian. Lanterns can add a point of interest to an outdoor area.
By following some of these handy hints Jill has kindly provided, we hope this finds you enjoying your well-lit garden and outdoor area all year round! Please remember: Electrical hard wiring and fixed electrical equipment must be only installed by a licensed electrician.
The Team at House of Home would like to thank Jill for her time and terrific tips for our readers.
Creative Lighting Director and Lighting Design Consultant Jill, has over 28 years lighting experience in the lighting industry. Jill's background is in design and she had worked with the previous owners, establishing the design and consultancy services from the ground up. Damian and Jill purchased the business together in 2005 and she is known for her creativity and expertise in the industry and is extremely well regarded. Jill loves photography, and all things creative like painting, drawing and of course, lighting. Some might say it’s her passion!
Check out the full outdoor lighting range from Creative Lighting on House of Home or, pop in and visit Jill and the team at Creative Lighting in Eltham, Vic.
We hope you found this article helpful. If you are ready to start building your wishlist of products, then be sure and check out our Outdoor Lighting range.
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