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Outdoor Lighting 101: What Homeowners Need to Know

Outdoor Lighting 101: What Homeowners Need to Know

Like many people in 2020, you may be spending more time outside your home. As you try to make your own yard and home look the best it can look for open-air entertaining, you'll want to think about outdoor lighting options.

The right outdoor lights can make a big difference in the ambiance of your outdoor space. If you've lived at your current home for years, adding new lights can spruce things up. Or perhaps you've recently moved into a new home that you're eager to make attractive after dark.

Spending time in your garden or yard is good for your health, so make sure you can do it at night, too!

In any case, keep reading for how to get the best bang for your buck with some new outdoor lighting.

Outdoor Lighting Basics

You can accomplish quite a lot, even as an amateur, if you learn about the three basic types of lighting: ambient, task, and accent lighting. It's almost always best to incorporate all three of these types of lighting. A quick tip right off the bat: string lights can actually serve as a basic level of all three types of light and almost always look great in a patio setting. 

Once you understand the types of lighting, you can begin to form a plan for how you want your space to look and what you what to highlight.

Ambient Lighting 

Ambient lighting for outdoor spaces is intended to give an overall level of illumination. You want to cover all areas with at least enough light for safety and visibility so you don't trip on the landscaping or stairs or whatever else might get in the way.

Also, this base level of light should be enough to dissuade unwanted visitors from scoping out your property. 

Spotlights, wall lights, and post lantern lights are some common ways to provide this level of lighting. Some are motion-sensitive to provide light as needed when people are outside. Again, this serves as a way to see all around for your own use, as well as a security feature

The ambient light shouldn't overshadow everything else, though. It's just to provide a base level of visibility. 

Task Lighting

This is lighting that is intended for a specific reason or task. In an outdoor space, this typically means good lighting to clearly highlight entrances, exits, and paths. 

These are the primary "tasks" you need to accomplish outside. Good task lighting will illuminate the path to the house, or to the outdoor table you're about to have a nightcap at, or wherever else you want to go outside.

It's a way to provide attractive, but clearly defined lighting for accomplishing what you need to outside at night. 

Path lights are a great way to do this. 

Accent Lighting

The first two types of lighting are important especially for actually being able to see. Accent lighting is where you can become a little more creative or artistic. 

The purpose of accent lighting is to highlight a certain feature or create a certain mood for your outdoor space.

If you have some outdoor art or some great plants or trees that you want to show off at night, you can use accent lighting to highlight those. You can place the light at the base of the object and shine it upwards to make it very prominent. 

This doesn't provide the best light for visibility (that is what the ambient and task lighting are for), but it makes the object really stand out at night.

Other options are to silhouette or shadow an object. If there is a potted plant near a wall, a well-placed accent light can create the image of a large, dramatic shadow of that plant on the wall behind it.

Or you can place the light so that just the silhouette of an interesting shape or object can be seen. 

One more popular accent lighting option to shine a light vertically against a textured wall, which can create a glow across the whole surface.

All of these are for purely aesthetic reasons.

Next Steps

After you've figured out the ambient lighting, chosen what paths and objects to illuminate for easy use, and decided what objects to artistically highlight, you can start considering some next steps for a great outdoor vibe.  

Convenient Electronics

Want to make your lighting set up easier to use? You might want to consider Bluetooth technology to make it very convenient to switch on and off your lights. 

Although not exactly new, timers are a great way to dress up your lighting set up, as well. If you're either at home or want people to think you're at home, each evening between 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., just set your lights to come on for that time every night. 

Of course, with Bluetooth switches, you can even turn off and on your lights while you're either home or away. 

Water and Fire Features 

Outdoor lighting looks great when there is moving water to highlight. Consider adding a fountain or waterfall and then using accent lights to highlight it. They look good in the day, but even better at night. 

An outdoor fireplace, fire pit, tiki torches, or other similar fire-based lighting options can also be dramatic and look great in the right environment. Water and fire often look great when used together. 

Get Started Today

If you are inspired to give your yard a night-time overhaul, please contact us or check out our website for great lighting options. We are happy to provide some outdoor lighting help as you make your own space even better!

Don't forget that your own backyard can provide some great space to safely entertain guests in 2020, especially with some carefully considered outdoor lighting in place!

Give us a call!

With over 25 years’ experience designing and installing hardscapes in the field, our team has the expertise to address nearly any hardscape question you might have.

(703) 314-5493

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