LED lighting for the outdoors
Do-it-yourself landscape lighting
Types of outdoor lighting
When it comes to outdoor lighting, the porch light is just the beginning - with the new low-voltage and security fixtures available, any homeowner can make a statement with light.
- Uplighting: Architectural and landscape elements become dramatic features when illuminated from below. Fixtures can be camouflaged by the use of glare shields.
- Downlighting: Lighting from above can provide both security and aesthetics. You can also use downlighting to highlight a smaller area or single feature, or to create a sense of perspective.
- Spot lighting: This technique uses a strong, narrowly focused beam of light. Spotlighting is great for sculptures, statues, landscape features and flagpoles.
- Pathway lighting: This is simply illuminating a driveway or walkway, for either safety and security, or attractiveness. The new low-voltage lighting kits are easy to install yourself.
- Security lighting: You don't need to rely on glaring floodlights for security - strategic placement of accent lighting fixtures can be even more effective.
When you're shopping for the right style for your home, keep in mind that outdoor wiring must always be grounded , and the fixtures should be rated as "water- resistant/UL approved for outdoor use." Also remember that lighting rated for indoor use should never be used outdoors.
Outdoor lighting guidelines
The American Lighting Association recommends following these rules:
- Conceal the light source behind shrubs, etc., whenever possible - except when the fixture itself is a decorative feature.
- Don't overdo it - a little light goes a long way.
- Be creative - use a mixture of lighting techniques for dramatic effect.
- Use lighting controls like timers and photocells to turn lights on and off automatically.
- Be considerate of your neighbors - aim lights so they don't shine in others' windows.
Low-voltage lighting kits
Low-voltage outdoor lighting is popping in neighborhoods all over the Midwest - it's inexpensive, easy to install and makes any landscape more attractive. And because it's low voltage, it's safe and energy-efficient.
Pre-packaged kits are the most convenient way to purchase low-voltage lighting - they come with the transformer, cables and all the fixtures you need. The kits range in price from $15 to more than $100, depending on the number of fixtures and the type of material used.
And for even better energy savings, solar-powered fixtures are also available. They are more expensive - about $10 a fixture - but they're no-maintenance and environmentally friendly. Keep in mind that solar fixture require direct sunlight to recharge the photocells during the day.