Landscape Lighting

Lighting is exciting!

Jack  O' Lanterns on Halloween night. Christmas lights at holiday time. Fourth of July fireworks. A campfire in the deep woods on a warm summer night. The dark sky presents a blank canvas to do extraordinary things with light.

Tips

Landscape lighting is becoming very popular in New Hampshire. In the landscape there are opportunities to create a very different image than what you see in the daytime. Rather than thinking of night lighting in terms of security lighting, or to merely expose the obvious, consider these tips and techniques to apply to your outdoor lighting as an artist uses brush strokes to create a portrait.

Experiment

Take a flashlight outside at night and shine it on certain objects that you think would look good night. Use different angles and see how that changes the effect. At L.A. Bartlett Landscapes, LLC we use a demo kit of inexpensive fixtures to "paint the portrait." This step in the lighting design process tells us what areas need more light, or what areas have too much. The lighting design process can save you a lot of money when professional landscape lighting costs can reach as much as $200 per fixture. You'll know exactly what you need before you take a shovel to the ground.

Use levels of light

The objective here is to spread the light around your yard. Instead of 200 W of floodlights off the corner of the house, the goal is to break up that concentrated light to cover a broader area. Identify key objects that you want to highlight. Those objects, whether it’s foundation or yard structure will most likely be a brighter light than others. We call this Level 3 lighting.

Determine the areas of lowlight such as path lights or deck lights. This is your Level 1 lighting. Avoid creating "black holes" between your Level 3 and Level I areas with Level 2 lighting, which may be garden lighting or up lighting vertical objects like trees or columns.

No glare

The trick in applying landscape lighting to your yard is to conceal the source of the light. The great disadvantage to post lights, door lights, and security lighting is that the glare causes your eye to dilate. From a safety standpoint, the eye has to re-adjust to shadow in order to see stairs or curbing. This can be especially problematic for the elderly.

In terms of security, the brighter the light the darker the shadow. While your driveway and front door may be well lit, there are dark areas not visible around the yard that can provide hiding places to would-be trespassers. When glare is simply unavoidable, look for lens options such as hex louvers or glare shielded fixtures to reduce it as much as possible.

Techniques

We all know about floodlights to light objects. This is one method but there are others. Beam control is critical to produce the desired effect of professional night lighting.

Uplighting is the primary technique in nightscaping. Up lighting reverses daylight which provides a negative of what you normally see during the day. Up lighting fixtures are usually bullytes-tube shaped with glare shields. Choose a fixture that takes an MR-16 lamp. MR 16 lamps come in a variety of wattages and degrees, or angle of light.

For taller tree or second story objects, you may need a narrow spot or a higher wattage to reach the point you are trying to light. Or you may want a flood to spread a softer, lighter beam. Some MR 16's are also colored for holiday lighting.

Wall Washing puts a soft, wide glow on vertical surfaces like house foundations or stonewalls. As it is a floodlight, it will not spread a long distance, so place the fixture 1 to 2 feet away from the object that is to be lit. When lighting the front face of your house, be sure to place the fixture behind the shrubs, so as not to cast shadows on the house.

One disadvantage to wall washers is that they tend to be large and difficult to conceal. A clay pot, small shrub or any similar lawn decoration can sometimes work to hide the most obvious ones.

Graze Lighting is striking a narrow beam close to flat texture object either vertically or horizontally. This can be a good alternative to wall washing (if the glare point can be concealed.) This requires less fixtures and lights the object from the side rather than the front. Be sure to soften the surrounding areas with level I or level II lighting, because a narrow spot tends to be bright. Adjust the light to reduce "hot spots."

Moonlighting is simply filtering a downward directed floodlight through branches. The effect, if done right, is a spattering of light and shadow on walking surfaces or gathering areas. The tree may need to be professionally pruned to accomplish the desired effect. Consider the type of tree- if it is a deciduous tree and sheds its leaves, the fixture should be placed where it is not glaring during the dormant season.

Path lighting is probably the most popular and over used of all lighting techniques. Too much Path lighting creates a runway effect, a connect-the-dots game of lighting pathway areas. My personal preference in Path lighting is to spread the light onto the ground and place fixtures randomly at key safety points in the pathway. The fixtures that are mushroom shaped work best as a directional ground light.

Spillover light from other light sources can satisfy the safety issue. Remember that glare dilates the eye. It's easy to see a path lit by moonlight because the eye is adjusted to a constant level of low light. Path lights are sometimes ornamental in value, so the selection of them is subject to personal taste. Just try to balance it with the lighting portrait as a whole.

 

 

Landscape lighting services available in Derry, Windham, Londonderry, Manchester, Bedford, Hudson,
Hollis and Nashua, New Hampshire.