Lighting Your Yard

Outdoor lights play three essential roles in your yard: security, safety, and ambiance. In previous posts, I spoke about security lights, which illuminate the backyard immediately to deter intruders and predators, and safety lights like pathway lights and spotlights on stairs and decks that help you navigate your landscape regions.

The ideal landscape lighting plan embraces security, mood, and safety lighting.

Ambiance lighting adds artistry to a home by showcasing the design and features of your space.

Many weekend warriors can set up low-voltage lighting in the yard. My favorite manufacturer — Volt — provides resources on its website for beginners that need advice on mapping out a plan.

Safety First Outdoor Lighting

Spotlights, floodlights, and motion-activated lights instantly protect your home from burglary or nuisances. People and animals that don’t belong around the premises will avoid well-lit landscapes. Two or three motion sensor lights will scare away trouble.

Spotlights add emphasis to a specific area of your yard. They are usually found at the corner of homes or above the garage. They push a narrow beam of light to one site. Floodlights have a wider light spread and illuminate a larger area. An outdoor floodlight is angled from the ground to wash the side of the house or the entire yard.

These are my favorite security spotlights. I installed these floodlights at the top of my arbor to flood the backyard and pool area with lighting at night.

Typical security spotlights.
Floodlights illuminate a larger area.

Pathway lights add a layer of safety for guests walking up to the front door or traveling a path to the backyard. This type of lighting adds more illumination to the residence and should illuminate areas where tree roots, steps, or uneven landscape could be a tripping hazard.

Budgeting for Outdoor Lights

When you budget for an outdoor light project, amortize the cost. You should expect a minimum of $5,000 when hiring a professional lighting contractor to install security and landscape lights around an average half-acre house. You can find low-voltage li box stores that cost at the big box stores$250 or less. But consider how long those sets will last in your climate.

Read the warranties on lights and cabling packages. Metal fixtures that each usually include a lifetime replacement warranty. It’s worth it. The overall expense will be higher today, but paying the extra cost now will save money and time.

Fire, water, and Lights

A fire pit, pool, or dining table immediately denotes a socialization area. Consider lighting these areas to make them more user-friendly at night. Diffusion lanai lighting can be added to arbors, poles or projected from the ground to add a glow to these areas.

Showcasing Your Gardens

You can enjoy trees and garden landscapes after dark. Sometimes the tree canopy is prettier when you project light into the tree tops. You’ll want to use spotlights to delineate the property borders by illuminating gardens and fence areas. Additional deck lights or pathway lights should lead back to your activity areas.

A Checklist for Outdoor Lights

  • Identify those areas that need more security lighting
  • Set your budget — how much can you afford to spend
  • Identify tripping hazards for spotlights
  • Delineate the borders of your yard
  • Pinpoint activity centers for social settings
  • Look for landscape features that need lighting at night

My Outdoor Lighting Budget Plan

I budgeted $1,500.00 for my low-voltage lighting plan. I am installing the lights in stages. My house has two motion sensor spotlights on the back corners. We will be adding:

  • Two wall wash floodlights will attach to the patio arbor and run off one 300-watt low voltage transformer.
  • I’ll wire six pathway lights to the back garden pool deck from the same transformer.
  • 2 spotlights will light up the rear garden features — a 30-foot bird of paradise and the patio fountain.
  • A string of dimmable Edison lights will hang from the patio arbor and connect to a standard wall outlet.

I started our installation with the transformer and six pathway lights I purchased in a kit. That initial cost was $650.00. Two floodlights at $120 each will sit atop the patio arbors.

I think people mistakenly believe everything has to go in all at once. If you can install low-voltage lighting yourself, you can install lights individually.

A second transformer at the front entrance will control six additional pathway lights leading to the front door. I hired an electrician to install the second transformer’s electrical outlet at the front door.

The durability factor of buying better lights won out. I settled on Volt fixtures because the brass and glass fixtures include a lifetime warranty.

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