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Outdoor Lighting Considerations

Outdoor lighting increases your property value and gives your landscape nightlife. To help you create a lighting scheme destined to garner glowing reviews, the lighting experts at the American Lighting Association offer the following tips.

  • Opt for professional guidance. American Lighting Association Certified Lighting Consultants offer creative expertise, share ideas and provide examples of special effects. To find a lighting consultant, contact local ALA lighting showrooms in your area.

  • Determine what you want your lighting to accomplish and determine focal points in your yard you want highlighted.

  • When meeting with a lighting professional, bring a plat of the property, a copy of your landscape design and/or Polaroid pictures of your home and its surroundings. Even a rough sketch can help if it includes your home's entrance, placement of the pool, the BBQ area, the traveled spots in the yard and where the electricity is currently placed.

  • If you are in the process of building a house, include the outdoor lighting in the landscape plan. Pre-planning can help with placement of the transformer, pipes and wires.

  • Get 2 — 3 bids. This allows you to check out creativity of consultants as well as their cost.

  • Buy a large enough transformer to handle all your outdoor lighting needs—both now and in the future.

  • If you decide to add your landscape lighting in stages, run all the power in initial phase so that you only disrupt the landscape once.

  • Work with a licensed electrician who will stand behind their work.

DIY 3 Basic Lighting Techniques

Uplighting: This type of outdoor lighting emphasizes specific objects such as fountains, tree foliage, statues. These are best lit with direct lighting, or uplighting, which uses reflectors that directs the light on the object. The important thing to consider is to direct this light away from typical viewer's positions.

Walk Lighting: This type of outdoor lighting illuminates areas where people walk so that it provides a non-glare lighted area such as along a path or walkway. It can also be used to provide visual clues to direct people along a walk and keep them safe. Lights should not allow any direct lighting to a normal height person's eyes.

Specialty Lighting: These are usually either in-wall or surface mounted outdoor lighting installations and help provide interesting highlight areas in the garden and to help define vertical surface areas.

Select a focal point

Look for the main features of your home and landscape and select the main element to build your lighting around. This could be a large tree, the entrance, the front walkway or just a landscaped bed.

Selecting the right size transformer

Once the lighting plan is defined, calculate the total wattage of all the bulbs that will be used in the plant. Wattage is specified on each bulb (7 watts, 14 watts, etc.) Simply total all of these numbers to arrive at a grand total. This will give you a number to use in selecting the right size transformer to provide enough juice to properly light each of your lamps without over-loading the transformer.

Control options

Transformers can be turned on and off in various ways: manually, timers, and photo controls. Timers come on at a pre-determined time and go off at a specified time. These do require periodic adjustment throughout the year as sunset times change. There's no need to change these timers for daylight savings.

Photo controls come on at sunset and will remain on either for a set number of hours, or until sunrise.

Wiring considerations

Wiring for outdoor low-voltage lighting typically comes in 3 sizes: 16, 14, and 12 gauges. The smaller the number, the larger diameter the wire and the more wattage it can carry and for a longer run.

  • 16 Gauge Wire is suitable for a 150 Watt maximum transformer and for wire lengths up to 100' in length

  • 14 Gauge Wire is good for 200 Watt maximum transformers and for runs up to 150' in length

  • 12 Gauge Wire is required for 250 Watt maximum transformers and for runs up to 200' in length.

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