Light up the night
Make your front yard or back yard look like the cover of Architectural Digest. Most lighting professionals will tell you that landscape lighting subscribes to the old adage that less is more. We're here to say more is more! Light up the night, because it's dark and scary and light will even make your not so perfect trees look theatrical and your boring landscape look exciting. Landscape lighting is kind of a slippery slope, once you get started you can't stop, and it's because of the effect it has on your space, lighting up your home, pathways and plants creates more visual interest when hosting events, curb appeal, and just looking out the window. And yes, it does keep creeps away! So how do you get started with landscape lighting? You just start small. One of the best attributes of landscape lighting is that the wiring is in the dirt, and you can cut the wire to add a fixture anywhere, you can make a wire longer, you can splice off and create a whole new line of lights in a new area and the wiring can be on top of the ground or under leaves or buried...it's not in your wall or roof so it's easy! Landscape lighting wires carry low-voltage electrical power, which you can't feel if you touch, so the kids can't hurt themselves, the lawnmower can't cause a catastrophe if it runs over the wire. It's safe and easy. So, follow our quick steps to getting started on your project today!
1. Get a transformer.
This is not a scary piece of electrical equipment. This is a very simple box that can plug into any outdoor outlet if you want to keep things simple, or it can be mounted in a garage and plugged in. Fancier versions can be hardwired and controlled remotely. The power that goes into your transformer is 120 volts of electricity or line-voltage, this is the voltage that comes from all residential home electrical outlets. The transformer does this amazing thing, it transforms the voltage down to 12 volts. Yes 12 volts, more than a 9volt battery, but way less than 120volts so that it's safe and easy to run wire and have running throughout your yard. Most all landscape lighting is powered by low-voltage power and can go long distances up to 150 feet, and longer if needed.
2. Be controlling.
We suggest starting out to get a basic mechanical timer or photo-cell sensor. The mechanical timer is easy to set up and this way your lights go on at 6pm or 7pm, or whenever you set, and off as well. This is a brainless system to setup that you change a few times a year as the sun sets at different times. The other basic, if your transformer is outside, is a photocell sensor. Essentially this tells your transformer, if it's dark out go on, if it's light out, stay off. Pretty simple right? We think so.
3. Wire it up!
Landscape wire is very important, without it, the power doesn't go from your transformer to your lights. Tesla was working on wireless energy, but he never quite perfected it, so you will need a wire to get power from point A to point B. Landscape wire is sold by the foot or reels of 50' feet or 100' feet or even 500' feet. The gauge is how thick the wire is...thickest at 8 and thinnest at 18. 12 gauge is standard for landscape wire. Get a spool and get going. If you have more in-depth wire gauge questions, check out this Irwin Corey post. Furthermore, when wiring together make sure to use outdoor rated silicone filled wire connectors like the image below. This will keep the water out of your wires, remember water and electricity don't mix!
4. Accent some foliage.
The all-powerful accent light is the work horse of your entire project, so pick a good one. When it comes to materials in landscape lighting, brass is best. Brass doesn't rust, it will deal with the elements, temperature, weather, and bird sh*t better than painted metal over a long period of time. Please use LED lighting engines. The world is melting, conserve some energy. If you don't care about that then conserve some of your time as LED will last longer than traditional halogen lamps, saving you back breaking work changing bulbs out on a Saturday. Speaking of lamps, pick a color temperature. We prefer 2700k warm white. We suggest getting one of each and picking for yourself. 2700k is a warmer cozier amber light, 3000k is like the crisp white of halogen, still warm but crisp. Either will work well. May we suggest the Hardy Landscape light from Hinkley Lighting? Thanks. Ok so we like the light for a few reasons, its brass, it's LED, it comes in both 27k and 30k color temps, and you can pick beam spreads and light output! Beam spreads are nice to play with and this light has choices so you can setup your light with different size beam spread after installed. The newest, bestest, greatest feature is that you can change light output for each light! You can change from 4, 8, 10, or 12 watts of output. So, for small trees or palm trees this light has you covered. And with a 5-year warranty you're covered from any defects, worry free lighting is the way to go. This is the one size fits all for any DIY landscape project, buy a grip of these landscape lights and a 6-pack and you've got plans for the weekend:)
5. Follow the Illuminated Path. #illuminatedpath
The path in light is paved in gold. The illuminated path can take you to some interesting places in life, or it can take you to the front or back door of your home, safely. The path light is a functional light, more function than form, as it is lighting up concrete most of the time, or beautiful sandstone pavers. The point is that it keeps you safe from tripping and falling and that's all the impetus you need to get some or get some good homeowners' insurance because walking in the dark can be dangerous. Path lights solve all these problems. They are best when spaced a part a bit, maybe a bit less than more here, as you don't need to illuminate every inch of a pathway. Sometimes back and forth on each of a pathway is nice, if it is a long straight pathway then evenly spaced down one side is nice. One pathway that does it all is the Hardy Island Side Mount LED. This path light is made of cast brass and has a classic hat that fits well into modern or traditional environments. The dark brass finish helps the light really blend into any landscape and sit quietly during the day and function well at night. The 16" height is not too obtrusive and the side mount off center hat helps the light project onto one direction mainly..the path, with a bit of leak everywhere else.
Landscape lighting is very forgiving, if you don't like what you come up with, then rip it out of the ground, preferably you're installing and uninstalling when the ground is soft and start over somewhere else. You can always add and subtract and move things around as your yard grows and changes, the beauty is that once you set it up, it's easy to add and fix, not like inside your house. And YOU CAN DO IT! Yes, you can DIY yourself and show everyone that you're an artist, electrician, designer, and gardener all at the same time. There are a lot more sophisticated landscape lights for steps, water fountains, hardscaping, and more but were started with the basics, something you can build on. Have fun but stay in your yard and keep the light out of my eyes please!