Helpful Landscape Lighting Designs and Tips

Strategically placed lighting opens your eyes to the beauty of your home's exterior after the sun goes down, plus it makes your home safer. Before you choose light fixtures, you should design and create a lighting portrait.

  • Drive or walk around your neighborhood at night. Look at the many ways in which people light their property, until you find the look you like.
  • Ask yourself these questions: What is my focal point? What levels of light do I want to achieve? What overall effect am I trying to create?
  • A well-lit home should include fixtures that are hidden from sight. The focus of the lighting portrait should be the home. The source of the light should be difficult to find and provide as little glare as possible.
  • The focal point of a home is usually the entrance. A well-designed lighting system should "direct" you or your guests to your front door.
  • Use fewer lights and place them strategically to accent the home and to highlight the shrubs and trees. Spill lighting will usually illuminate the walkways.
  • When trees, shrubs and flowers are lighted, it brings out their color, form and texture.
  • Lighting a deck, porch, pool, yard or patio creates extra space for nighttime parties and entertaining.
  • Define the perimeter of your home with lights to complete the lighting portrait.

When the design of your property is complete, you can determine exactly where the lights should be placed and how many you need.

  • Use soft, subtle lighting and hide the light source.
  • Use as many lights as needed to create a consistent flow of light. Try not to allow any dark, creepy spots into your lighting portrait.
  • Never place a fixture below a windowpane. It's a good idea to check to see if any lights will shine into a bedroom window.
  • Determine the size of the transformer by calculating the number of lights, times their wattage, plus adding voltage drop (loss of power resulting from the distance of the lamp from the power source).

Now you're ready to install the transformer, stake or bury the light fixtures in place, and wire the lights to the main wire coming from the transformer.

  • Bury the wire lines 4-6 inches deep.
  • Using a voltmeter, test the number of volts at each fixture. Each lamp should read between 10.8 to 12 volts in order to power a 20 to 50 watt lamp.
  • When the lights are too dim, some people believe the bulb doesn't have enough watts. In reality, it's not receiving enough volts at the lamp. Raise the tap number at the transformer until the volts at the lamp are in range.
  • The transformer is plugged into your electrical outlet and transforms your 110/120 volts to 12 volts.
  • A timer or photocell can be installed to run the transformer.

Lighting Terms

Uplighting

  • Lights aimed upwards (sometimes buried in the ground) to create a dramatic effect. It can be used to light interesting trees, a statue, or textured wall surfaces.

Moonlighting

  • Lighting units mounted high in trees to simulate the charming effect of moonlight filtering through branches.

Accent or Spot Lighting

  • Lights that focus a controlled intense beam to highlight the focal points in your garden. This creates sparkling islands of interest in a landscape lighting plan.

Shadowing

  • Lights an object from the front and below to project intriguing shadows on the wall or other vertical surfaces.

Silhouetting

  • Lights concealed behind and below a tree or bush. Achieves a magical effect similar to seeing an image on a ridge silhouetted against the sky at dusk.

Cross Lighting

  • Illuminating a tree or statue from two or more sides to reveal a three-dimensional form in a striking perspective.