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Outdoor Lighting Ideas

Outdoor lighting adds beauty, safety and security to your home. A well-designed lighting plan will dramatically change your new home's landscape.

Bright Ideas

Low-voltage outdoor lighting systems are inexpensive to operate, easy to install, safe and movable. Outdoor lighting also deters crime, and makes walking through your yard safer at night.

To make your outdoor lights more low-maintenance, install automatic timers. For easy access from inside your home, install indoor light switches.

Create a Lighting Plan

Get ideas for your lighting plan by walking your yard, browsing d├ęcor catalogs, or taking a look at your neighbors' landscapes. Take a few pointers from our specialists at Lowe's:

  • Decide where to place lighting by taking note of the shading and highlighting created by natural light. Note the textures of your landscape and potentially unsafe areas, and plan accordingly.
  • Select a focal point or main element to design around: large trees, a main entrance, etc.
  • Make it easier for guests to locate your house by lighting house numbers.
  • Enhance the ambience of your patio with the right lighting. You can also add different colors to strike the right mood.
  • Combine lighting techniques for interest and appeal.

Now you're ready to create a rough sketch of your lawn and garden. Be sure to mark the locations where you wish to install the fixtures and light patterns.

Draw Your Plot Plan

Before you begin your plot plan, check your local codes: You may need a permit. Research any easements on your property. (An easement is an area where the city or town is authorized to use.) Also check for any utility lines: gas, cabling, plumbing, etc.

Once you're fully informed about codes, easements and underground utilities, you're ready to begin. Here's how:

  1. Use a measuring tape to outline your property. The longer the tape, the easier it will be.
  2. Measure the distance from the property line to the house, other structures, etc. Show all the walls, sidewalks, masonry and planting beds. Mark your grid accordingly.
  3. Add the shape of trees, shrubs and flowerbeds last.
  4. Draw in your lighting placement.
Lighting Applications

With your plot plan completed, it's time to choose your outdoor lights. When choosing lighting, consider the various types of lighting effects at your disposal. Think of how to best combine down lighting, up lighting, shadowing, silhouetting, etc. for a truly unique look.

Calculate Total Wattage

You will need to compute the total wattage of your outdoor fixtures to determine the necessary transformer:

  1. Multiply the quantity of each fixture by the watts for each fixture to determine the total wattage necessary.
  2. Add all total fixture wattages together to determine the total system wattage necessary.

Next, select a transformer to handle the total wattage:

  1. Divide the total wattage by the transformer wattage to determine the number of transformers necessary to power your lighting plan.
  2. Select a control option (timer, photo control, manual on/off) you desire to control your lighting plan.

Estimate Cable Lengths

To estimate how much cable you'll need:

  1. Determine the length of your individual runs, the distance from last light to the closest outlet (transformer).
  2. Select the gauge you need, which will be determined by the length of the run.

Buy Your Outdoor Lighting

When shopping for outdoor lighting, remember that all wiring must be grounded. Outdoor lights and wiring must also be rated as "water-resistant-U.L. approved for outdoor use." If you're purchasing pool and fountain lights, only use fixtures labeled for use in these areas.

You'll have a wide assortment of styles and options to choose from:

Lighting Sets. Prepackaged light sets offer the most convenient way to purchase complete systems.

Separate Fixtures and Components. Mixing and matching light fixtures allows different lighting effects to be produced. A complete line of accessories and components are available for custom lighting.

Architectural Grade. Architectural grade fixtures are made of high quality die cast aluminum or industrial polymers that feature commercial durability and brightness.

Install Your Lighting

  1. Connect the transformer (follow manufacturer's instructions).
  2. Lay the cable. Low-voltage cable can be covered with wood chips or decorative stones, or simply hidden under shrubbery or foliage. You might also consider using a lawn edger to cut the sod and bury your cable. Alternatively, you can make a 45-degree angle cut in the yard surface, pry up the sod, drop in the cable, and press the sod back into place.
  3. Place the fixtures where you want them, adjusting for the desired lighting effect.
  4. If the system has an automatic timer, set it to the desired on/off times.

With additional lighting, you may notice a few more outdoor improvements for your new home. Check out more tips and ideas for settling in.

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