Tips To Light Your Garden

January 16, 2015
Tips To Light Your Garden

With BBQ season here for another year, now is the time to make a plan to get some permanent garden lighting sorted in your backyard. Installing lighting in your garden will not only help create a wonderful ambiance, it will make summer entertaining all that bit easier and enjoyable if you take the time to light paths and steps for clear way-finding.

Note: Electrical hard wiring and fixed electrical equipment must be only installed by a licensed electrician.

So, what do you need to know before getting garden lighting installed at your home?

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We spoke to Brett Tilly from Tilly’s Lights in Perth. Tilly’s Lights specialise in outdoor lighting and Brett is a wealth of knowledge.

Where To Start?

Brett 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.

Choosing Your Lights

Like all lighting there are lots of different styles of garden lights, but there are three key ones 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.

Furthermore, when choosing your lights, look for good quality materials and products with certified IP ratings so that your garden lighting set up will survive the elements for years.

Three Key Things

Before going any further, Brett says there are three key things that you need to know about garden lighting:

  • Garden lights are available in either Halogen or LED. Halogen lights will generally draw more power than LEDs. All garden lights should come with an IP rating – this will tell you how resistant to water and dust they are.
  • If you are planning on making this a DIY project then you’ll need to ensure you use 12V 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. 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.

The Lighting Plan

On the plan that you have drawn up, 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

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 this table:

Light Cable Guide

Table credit thanks to Tilly's Lighting

Set aside a Saturday afternoon to run your cables, and set up your system, and then enjoy your handiwork!

Top Lighting Tips

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 its 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. Check the table and planning guide to reduce your risk. LED systems have a much lower power draw so voltage drop is not generally a problem.

By following some of these handy hints Brett has kindly provided, we hope this finds you enjoying your well-lit garden and outdoor area this summer!

The Team at RenoExchange would like to thank Brett from Tilly's Lighting Solutions in Osborne Park WA for his time and valuable advice for our readers who are planning their garden lighting solutions.

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