With a little bit of planning, you can design a safer, more attractive home. Create your own lighting plan with a quick survey of your home and a few of the techniques listed below. Make sure to consider efficient lighting practices and know your local codes before beginning your installation.
Create Your Plan
Take a walk around your home and property at dusk, after nightfall and at dawn to determine what areas will benefit from outdoor lighting. It's a good idea to carry a flashlight with you during your walks.
Be observant of potential focal points, dark spots and hazardous steps or walkways.
Put pencil to paper and make a sketch of the footprint of your home and property, including interesting architectural features, landscaping, walkways, driveways, patios and decking. Then, sketch in areas where lighting fixtures could be installed to create the desired effects.
By incorporating the following lighting techniques into your plan, you can soften, highlight, reveal details, create landscaping shadows or silhouettes and eliminate unwanted dark spots. When possible, mount lights behind shrubbery, within the branches of trees, on eaves or patio structures to eliminate fixture distraction. To avoid lighting glare, aim light away from observers.
- Accent lighting for highlighting: Use spot or spreading beam lights for an intense light on a specific object.
- Crosslighting to reveal details and soften shadows: Use spot or flood lights mounted on either side of a tree, fence or gate.
- Downlighting for a soft look: Use spot, flood and spreading beam lights mounted high in trees and aimed downward. For outdoor activity areas, place fixtures above eye level and overlap light patterns to create a more uniform light.
- Grazing for stone or brick walls: Use spot lights placed at ground-level and direct the beams of light across the object's surface.
- Shadowing for landscaping: Use spot or flood lights placed at ground level, or place in ground fixtures in front of an object to throw its shadow on a wall behind it.
- Silhouetting for landscaping: Use spot or flood lights placed at ground level, or place in-ground fixtures behind an object to create a silhouette of the object.
- Spread lighting for landscaping and walkways: Use spread or mushroom lights placed at ground level for circular patterns of light. This is especially attractive when used to highlight ground cover and low shrubs.
- Uplighting for highlighting: Use spot or flood lights that are surface- or ground-mounted and aimed upwards at a specific object.
Efficient Outdoor Lighting
The tips below will help ensure that your outdoor lighting does the job it is intended to do without causing reduced visibility for passing motorists, light trespass (spilling of light into areas where it is not wanted or intended) and energy waste. You'll also help preserve the stunning view of the night sky.
- Lighting installed for walkways and driveways should be directed downward.
- Accent lighting should illuminate only the intended objects.
- Use timers, photo cells and motion detectors to automatically turn lights on and off.
- Use energy efficient bulbs.
Before beginning an outdoor installation, make sure you’re familiar with your local codes. If any excavation is required, make sure to dig safe.
- Outdoor electrical work may require a permit and or may only be installed by a licensed electrician. Check with your city, town or county code enforcement officer for local requirements.
- Before digging, mark the location of underground utilities by calling the appropriate one-call notification system for your area.