Archive for the ‘Outdoor Lighting’ Category
Selling a home is tough right now, I don’t need to tell you that. The value of houses is low and there is a lot of competition on the market. However, it is possible to make your home appealing enough to find a buyer. Paying attention to your home’s lighting is crucial for setting your house apart from the rest of the crowd and increasing the likelihood of a sale.
Why Lighting Matters
Does changing the lighting of a home really make a difference to buyers? Yes. Light has the power to flatter a space or make it unattractive. The right lighting can have a major impact on the aesthetic appeal of the home. A dark home looks dingy and unappealing. A home with glaring lights feels harsh. A space with the right amount of task lighting and ambient lighting is warm and inviting, something that buyers are definitely looking for. The right light fixtures can also enhance the design of the home, making it more elegant or more contemporary.
Tips for Improving Existing Lighting
The first thing that you should do is to look at the lights in the home that you want to keep. There are things that you can do to improve existing lights in the home to make the house more interesting for buyers. Top tips include:
- Make sure the paint is right for your lighting. You may have great ambient lighting but if your walls are painted a dark color then the light will get absorbed and the room will seem dark. Re-paint with bright and light colors to enhance the value of your existing lighting.
- Open the curtains. Although your existing lighting is important, there’s nothing better than natural sunlight. Make sure that you let as much of it in as possible when showing off the home to potential buyers.
- Clean all of your light fixtures. This allows the brightness of the lights to shine through and also makes the fixtures themselves more appealing. What a great cheap way to make it more likely that your home will sell quickly.
- Check that all of the lights are working properly. A big mistake that homeowners’ make is that they forget the little details. A buyer who walks into a room and turns on a switch only to find that it doesn’t work is immediately turned off.
- Listen to your lights. If any of them are making a slight humming noise then they are too old and need to be replaced to increase the likelihood of a sale.
Tips for Adding New Lighting
There will be some areas where you want to add new lighting to enhance the value of the home. Here are some tips for adding that important lighting:
- Start with the exterior. Curb appeal is the most important part of getting a home to sell. Make sure that your home’s exterior is well lit with attractive outdoor light fixtures.
- Replace outdated main light fixtures. If you walk into a room and the first thing that you see is an out-of-date light fixture then you’re going to look at the rest of the space with a bad taste in your mouth. Invest in upgrading the main light fixtures that get attention in the home.
- Replace lamps with better all-room lighting. Task lighting is terrific when you’re actually living in a space. However, when you’re looking at whole room to see if you want to live there, you need great ambient lighting. Lamps look like clutter to potential homebuyers and the wrong style of lamp can turn off buyers who would otherwise be interested in the home. Invest in better ambient lighting to avoid this problem.
- Update the light fixtures in the bathroom. This is one area where the task lighting rule doesn’t apply. You should make sure that there’s great lighting around the bathroom mirror. The fixtures should be in keeping with the style of the home. An impressive bathroom can clinch the sale of a home and lighting helps with that.
- Add LED lights in kitchen cabinets. This is a great little touch that appeals greatly to buyers, making it noticeable that you’ve really put some effort into making the house convenient and comfortable for them.
Have your real estate agent or a good friend walk through your home once you’ve completed your lighting updates. They can provide you with an outside perspective as to whether any additional lighting changes should be made to make the home more appealing to buyers.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve brought you a lot of information on the technicalities of outdoor lighting. We won’t send you off without some guidelines on how to pull it all together. By following these Do’s and Don’ts, you’ll soon be lighting your own landscape in style:
DON’T over-light. You don’t want to light up the sky like a football field on Friday Night. That much light will not only annoy your neighbors, it will also put a strain on natural resources, and on your budget.
DO start with a single, primary lighting source for each area, and add accent lighting in layers to highlight special garden features and create ambiance.
DO think about how you will use each space. Will your patio be used a lot for entertaining and cookouts? Then consider fun party lighting, like Chinese lanterns or strings of holiday lights. Flameless candles and soft solar-powered lighting provide a softer, more intimate glow; outdoor-rated decorative lamps are just right for if you just want a spot to curl up and read while enjoying the night breeze.
DON’T leave bright flood lights burning all night, and take special care not to shine them into your neighbors’ windows.
DO consider using security lights with light and motion sensors. This way, they’ll only come on after dark and if someone is moving around your property. This will save energy and money, and will be much more considerate to your neighbors if you can’t avoid pointing the light in their direction.
DON’T turn your pathways into runways by spacing lights evenly on each side.
DO stagger path lights so that they don’t run in parallel lines, or consider lining only one side of a path.
DO conceal non-decorative fixtures, either in the ground, in trees, or behind rocks or bushes.
DO consider your home’s architectural style when selecting decorative lighting fixtures.
DON’T be afraid to experiment! The advantage of low-voltage and plug-in lighting is that it can be easily rearranged if you don’t like how it looks. By adding your own creativity to these guidelines, you’ll be certain to develop a unique lighting plan that conveys your homes personality.
Our summer landscape lighting series is coming to a close, but summer is still going strong. There are still several weeks left until the days grow noticeably shorter and the temperature starts to cool. This gives you plenty of time to put all that you’ve learned here into practice. By starting now, you’ll have your landscape lighting set up just in time for football parties and crisp autumn nights gathered around the fire pit.
By now, you’ve got your outdoor lighting fixtures picked out, your power sources are all sorted, and you know which light bulbs best suit your needs. So what do you do with it all? You don’t want your landscape lighting to look haphazard or unprofessional; but where to begin? It helps to know the techniques that the landscaping pros use to illuminate their work. Use these techniques selectively, and combine them to create just the right lighting effect for your outdoor space.
Uplighting – as the name suggests, this lighting style places the lighting source low to, or in, the ground, with the light pointing upwards to draw attention to dramatic focal points. Add even more drama with one of these uplighting techniques:
- Grazing – place the light close to a surface you wish to highlight, and point it so that the light grazes the surface enough to bring out its interesting features without overpowering it.
- Back lighting (or Silhouetting) – place the light behind an object to create a silhouette.
- Shadowing – position the light in front and down low to project a shadow of the object onto the surface behind it.
- Cross lighting – you see this most often with flagpoles: two or more spotlights point upward at an object to illuminate it from different angles.
- Washing – placing a light near the base of a wall or other broad surface so that it becomes awash in light.
Downlighting – again, the name seems self-explanatory. The light source is placed above the object and pointed downward. But there are a couple of downlighting techniques that achieve dramatically different effects:
- Moonlighting – soft lights are placed up high and hidden in trees to mimic natural moonlight.
- Spread or Diffused lighting – the light source is typically lower and covered, as in bollard lighting, to direct soft light onto a low-to-the-ground feature such as a flowerbed or pathway.
Spotlighting – this technique uses an intense beam of light, pointed either upwards or downwards, to bring focus to a specific feature.
Ambient lighting – think of this as “comfort lighting” that illuminates the areas where you’ll spend the most time, such as porches and patios. Depending on the mood you wish to set, it can be something as simple as a decorative porch light that casts enough light for safety and security, or as elaborate as strings of party lights, lanterns, candles and outdoor lamps to create a festive mood long into the night.
With so many lighting techniques at your disposal, the design possibilities are nearly endless. Next week, we’ll look at some Do’s and Don’ts of outdoor lighting design to help you pull it all together.
It seems like such a small consideration, and it’s an easy one to overlook; but just as with indoor lighting, you don’t want to neglect light bulbs as a factor when planning your outdoor lighting scheme. The options for outdoor bulbs are pretty similar to those for indoors, but there are other considerations, such as climate conditions and the amount of voltage you’re planning to use, that might affect your choices.
As we’ve discussed here previously, the main types of light bulbs to consider are incandescent, Compact Florescent Light or CFL, Halogen, Xenon and LED. We’ve seen how incandescent bulbs fair against the other types as far as efficiency and performance, so for the purposes of this article, we’ll go ahead and cross those off the list.
Next to consider are CFL bulbs. Not only are they highly efficient, CFL bulbs are also the least expensive of the remaining options, and are a great choice for porch lights and yard lamps, as well as any protected fixture in a regulated climate that will be left on for long periods of time. The key phrase there is “regulated climate”; standard CFL bulbs don’t perform well in cold weather. That said, you can purchase CFL bulbs that have a special cold weather ballast. Regardless of the climate in which you live, you should check the label on any CFL bulbs you buy for this purpose to make sure they’re approved for outdoor use.
Low-voltage halogen or xenon bulbs are a popular choice for the type of low-voltage garden and landscape lighting we discussed last week. Both come in outdoor bulbs with either frosted or clear glass. Some are mirrored to focus and intensify the light beam, making them perfect for use with spotlights. Xenon bulbs produce a cleaner, whiter light than halogen, making them a good choice for creating a moonlight effect. They also don’t burn as hot as halogen. They are, however, more expensive. When using either of these bulbs, keep track of the wattage. The combined wattage of all of the bulbs on a single system will help determine the size transformer you need to use.
LED bulbs are commonly used in pathway lighting such as bollard lights, and they’re rapidly becoming the preferred choice for party and holiday string lighting. Since LEDs produce light without heat, they’re a safer choice for holiday displays. They are also the most efficient and longest-lasting of any of the previously-mentioned bulbs. Costing just a little more than CFL bulbs and performing well in all types of weather make LEDs an excellent choice for outdoor lighting.
Now you’re armed with all of the basic elements necessary for building a lighting strategy for your own outdoor space. Next week we’ll help you along even further by sharing some expert design tips for lighting up your garden. See you then!
This week, our coverage of outdoor electric lighting basics continues with a look at the main types of outdoor lighting power sources. Not so long ago, the options were pretty much limited to a single source. Today, there is a bit more of a choice, each with its own set of pros and cons.
These are currently the three available types of outdoor lighting:
- 120-volt household current fixtures
- Solar powered lights
- Low voltage lighting
The first two types are fairly self-explanatory. The first type taps into your existing household wiring, a lá your front porch lantern. Installation might be as easy as plugging a fixture into an existing outdoor, weatherproof electrical outlet. The drawback of this type of lighting is two-fold: for one thing, if an outlet isn’t available, or if you don’t want any visible electrical cords, you’ll need to re-wire your home’s electrical system which, unless you are a DIY expert schooled in all of the necessary safety precautions for such an endeavor, is best left to a hired professional; that can be expensive. The other drawback is that this is an easy way to run up your electric bill. You could cut costs by using energy efficient bulbs and installing tools such as timers, light and motion sensors and dimmers, but that’s yet more wiring for which you’ll have to pay your friendly neighborhood electrician.
The second type, solar power, seems ideal at first glance: with a self-contained, solar-powered battery attached to each light, wiring is minimal to non-existent, and installation couldn’t be easier. Plus, they don’t add a single cent to your electric bill. They do have one major drawback, however: they tend to be rather dim, and their light doesn’t always last through the night, which makes them a poor choice for security lighting.
This is probably why the third type, low voltage lighting, is gaining in popularity. A happy medium between household current and solar lighting, these light fixtures are attached to transformers that typically plug into an existing outlet and transform the energy current into a low voltage, usually 12 volts, that is both safe for the average homeowner to work with sans electrician, and easy on the electric bill. Low-voltage lighting kits both capitalize on and add to the growing popularity of this type of lighting, and take even more of the guesswork out of DIY installation.
By now you’re well on your way to developing an effective, efficient lighting plan for your own landscape. Check back next week, when we’ll continue our outdoor lighting basics coverage with a look at the best light bulbs for outdoor use.
These days, the mechanics of outdoor lighting are simple enough that the average DIYer can achieve a well-lit landscape in a single weekend. Still, all of the options can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not familiar with the terminology. Whether you plan to install lighting yourself or turn all of the work and planning over to the pros, you still have a lot of decisions to make. It helps to know the basics, which is what we’ll be covering here over the next couple of weeks.
Let’s start with the different types of outdoor light fixtures:
- Lanterns – whether mounted on a wall bracket, close to the ceiling, hung on a chain, or topping a post, a lantern-style fixture is your basic porch or yard light; although with all of the styles they come in, the only thing basic about them is their function—to shed enough light on your front path or entryway to keep you and your guests from tripping or fumbling with keys in the dark.
- Bollard and Post Lights – you’ve probably see these short, standing light fixtures lining driveways or walkways. They’re also a useful and attractive means of lighting decks, swimming pool and jacuzzi areas.
- Spread lights – similar to bollard lights, these fixtures are low to the ground and usually have dome-shaped covers that spread the light in a broad, diffused pattern that’s good for highlighting flower beds, plants, fish ponds and other ground features.
- Well lights – these fixtures are usually concealed in the ground and provide decorative up-lighting that highlights trees, shrubs and architectural features.
- Spot lights – generally used for accent lighting, these adjustable fixtures are best concealed behind shrubs to provide up-lighting, or hidden in trees and pointed downward for a moonlight effect.
- Flood lights – these bright lights are best for basic safety and security. They are usually attached to light and motion sensors, causing them to only come on in the dark when there is motion inside their perimeter. This has the triple benefit of saving on energy, assuring there is always a light on when you need it, and alerting you to potential trespassers on your property. They can also have the drawback of annoying your neighbors, so be careful where you point them.
Now that you’re armed with knowledge of the types of fixtures available, as well as the purpose each type serves, you’re better able to start putting together a lighting plan for your yard, garden or patio that’s both functional and attractive. But lighting fixtures are just the tip of the iceberg. Next week we’ll cover more of the basics by taking a look at the different power sources and types of light bulbs appropriate to outdoor fixtures. So stay tuned!
It’s the time of year when warm weather and long hours of daylight beckon us outdoors, and most of us are happy to answer that call. Time was when outdoor summer fun ended with the sunset. But thanks to technological advances that have made outdoor lighting both more affordable and more accessible, that no longer has to be the case.
The back yard barbecue, the garden party, and the friendly gathering around the fire pit can go on well into the wee hours in a yard that’s as comfortably lit as the living room.
This summer, more people than ever are treating their gardens, back yards and patios as extensions of their homes, furnishing and decorating them as they would a room inside the house, and lighting plays a major role in the décor. Today’s outdoor lighting plans range far beyond the simple porch light, taking into account aesthetics as much as security.
Thanks to energy-efficient, and cost-effective, low-wattage lighting, the average suburban home can enjoy the same decorative and ambient landscape lighting that was once reserved for upscale homes. With new wiring technologies that provide both flexibility and safety, the options for lighting placement are practically endless.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be exploring these new trends in outdoor lighting and taking a look at the tools and tricks that are used to achieve various lighting effects. Whether you’re looking to add security lighting to a dark corner of the yard, to highlight a feature of your garden, or to bring the comfort of the indoors out to the patio, we’ll tell you what you need to get the job done without breaking the bank. So stay tuned in to this blog all summer long to learn all you need to know about landscape and outdoor lighting.