By Maria Bargellini
The most common type of landscape lighting I see today are pathway and area lights. These lights are usually found lining the pathway up to a home and are often confused with one another because they are similar– but they are in deed different. A pathway light will have the bulb located in front of the stake or support to shine its light in front of the fixture and on the path itself, while an area light will have its support in the middle with the light being cast on all sides surrounding the stem or support. You can use either as long as you have enough light to cover the area to be used effectively. Because these types of landscape lights are so common they are also commonly installed incorrectly. This may be a case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder but I think most of you will agree that airport strips are best left at the airport and not your home. Here’s a short list of do’s and don’ts to help you install your outdoor lighting like a professional.
Don’t-B Use Solar lights: These are good for the environment but currently bad for your front yard. They have yet to come out with fixtures or technology that can produce a solar landscape light that will actually light the pathway and not just the fixture itself. In the end most people end up throwing them out which is actually bad for the planet. The other issues are the inconsistancy in light output and timing, often lights will be on during a cloudy day or when shaded by your landscape. This both adds light when not needed and uses up it’s energy for the nighttime display.
Do – Buy a quality landscape lighting fixture that will stand the test of time. Most professional outdoor lighting companies will offer fixtures with a 10yr, 15yr or even a lifetime warranty on materials. If installed correctly your outdoor lights willB be using the same amount of volts, resulting in an even output of light at all the fixtures. Digital timers installed in your transformers will turn the lights on and off when you schedule them not when it’s cloudy out.
Don’t -B Install an Airport strip: Please o Please do not do this. In this case less is truly more. Don’t use more than you need just because they came in a set, and don’t put them right across from each other. This is not as aesthetically pleasing and won’t win you any yard of the month prizes for sure
Do – Install fixtures using caddy corners or on a diagonal, this will give you enough light B without over doing it. Depending on the fixtures every 10-15 feet apart should be good, smaller or shorter fixtures scan be at 8-10 feet apart. Make sure to highlight any tripping hazards or obstacles. Don’t worry if there are shadows on the ground, if the outdoor lights are properly placed you will automatically follow the low of the path. There will be no bogey men in the dark spaces I promise. OK well I can’t really promise that but ya know what I mean.
Don’t – Leave Crooked lights: Having a bunch of crooked lights sticking out of the ground isn’t pleasing to the eye at all. Inexpensive fixtures with weak stakes provide little if any resistance against lawn mowers and little feet. These lights won’t have a chance against playing kids, speeding dogs and running lawn mowers.
Do – B Buy high quality fixtures: OK there’s no way to ensure with 100% certainty that the lights will always be standing straight unless you set them in concrete, which isn’t necessary, but- buying good quality fixtures definietly helps as the material are usually far superior to that of most inexpensive box store brands.B You could also limit access by installing a border. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it can simply be some edging and gravel or mulch. On average you should only have 2-4 lights on the path (depending on length), in a custom design vs. the 8-12 pack you’d get
Whether you’re installing them yourself or have a professionalB outdoor lighting company install them make sure you go over the design in detail and if possible ask for a nighttime demonstration. MostB landscape lighting companies will be able to do this and you can see for yourself just how it will make you feel.
Maria Bargellini is the president ofB Dallas Curb Appeal Inc. a full service landscape contractor that operatesB The Outdoor Lighting Expert,B Lawn Sprinklers Dallas,B DFW Christmas Lights, andB Dallas Holiday Lighting.