How to choose the best landscape lighting for your yard

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Whether you’re choosing to light up your yard at night for aesthetic purposes or practical reasons, such as increasing security and safety, the right lighting design will provide curb appeal all night long. With the flick of a switch or through the use of solar panels, you can highlight your home’s architectural features, plants and trees while helping to detour potential intruders.

When you’re choosing the best landscape lighting, you’ll want to consider several different factors such as the types of bulbs and fixture materials and what you’ll want to shine a spotlight on — literally.

Using Light Styles To Highlight Different Features

Certain types of exterior lights work to brighten key features. For example: well, bullet, flood and downlights are great options for trees. Garden lights will show off your plants and look best when placed at least 20 feet apart. Anything closer will provide continuous illumination; it’s better if the eye is guided from one pool of light to the next.

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Bullet and wash lights are perfect for showing off a home’s facade, especially when bullet lights are aimed at the corners of the house to show off architectural details. Soft wash lights can add interest and help to brighten the darkness between bullet lights.

To highlight specific elements of your landscape, such as a tree swing, bench or fountain, flood, bullet and wash lights look best, particularly when used in multiples. Path lights along walkways provide added safety when coming and going.

Choosing Light Bulb Types

The next to-do when planning out the best landscape lighting is deciding what types of bulbs to go with — LED, halogen or fluorescent. Halogen bulbs will perform at a higher intensity (brighter and whiter) than fluorescent, but they also use more electricity and emit more heat. There will be a price difference too: halogens are more costly. When comparing between the two, fluorescent lighting is more energy-efficient and economical; however, they do pose a possible health risk if they break because they contain toxic mercury.

LED bulbs are becoming the new lighting standard because they are long-lasting and consume less energy.  LEDs cost more than halogen and fluorescent do, but they might make up for it in the long run in electricity use.

Depending on the types of lights you choose and the amount, you’ll need to consider how to run the electrical wires. Some products will simply plug into a nearby outlet. Solar lights offer a solution to traditional wiring. They draw from the sun’s energy and store it in a reusable battery pack.

Lighting Placement—Sketch Out A Plan

In many cases, landscape lighting is not just planted in the ground. Some lights might be placed as high as the eaves of the houses or higher with light shining down.

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The process should go smoothly when you create a loose sketch of your landscape to plan out exactly what will go where.

Install lighting during the day and block out time in the evening to make adjustments. The maintenance on your exterior lighting should be fairly minimal. Warranties typically last one to 10 years on fixtures and transformers; lights made of brass, stainless steel and copper should last for several years. Plastic lights are more prone to damage from storms when struck (and subsequently cracked) from falling debris.

The best landscape lighting will also create disinterest for potential intruders. Motion-activated floodlights are a practical way to scare off anyone who doesn’t belong in your yard.

Be A Good Neighbor

Be sure to consider your surroundings as you go about your design process to avoid creating light pollution. Your lights should not beam toward neighbors’ windows or reflect off surfaces that would interfere with anyone’s interior lighting.

Newly built homes might already have exterior lights installed, but you might want to supplement. Of course, you could always call a professional to help design and install everything for you. Then you won’t have to lift a finger!

About the Author

Emily O'Brien

Emily is a freelance writer who loves connecting the dots among facts and finding obscure little details to weave in throughout her work. Whether she's interviewing Olympic athletes, small business owners, dessert cookbook writers, or world-renowned architects, she's passionate about shining the spotlight on good people doing remarkable work. Learn More.