Monday, July 20, 2009

About This Site

This site is run by individuals with decades of experience in landscape design and electrical work. Tired of seeing a terrible selection of sites available for those searching for information about landscape lighting, we decided to launch this simple site on a free host (thank you, Blogger). It’s purpose is basic: to provide consumers with real, informative insight and to help them make a better decision when they purchase outdoor lighting.

A quick search on the internet will turn up several so-called articles that are content-poor and ad-rich. It doesn’t take long to see that many of these are written by people with little or no actual experience with lighting or landscaping – much less with landscape lighting! Other sites belong to lighting manufacturers and sales companies, all of whom want to sell you their lighting products. There’s nothing wrong with this, but there seemed to be a missing link.

We felt like there needed to be a place where people could come before they buy their outdoor lighting. A place where they can get the straight story on what kinds of lighting are available, and what some of the pros and cons of each type are. We also wanted to provide a forum for questions and discussion, not just a “dead” site that provides no user interaction other than a “buy now” button.

Hopefully, the information provided here is helpful to you. We have tried to keep it straight-forward and to-the-point so you can get what you need and move on. If you have questions or any other input, there are comment boxes on every page and after each post – use them at will!

Best wishes in your quest to beautify your surroundings and to make the most out of your landscape lighting budget. Thank you for visiting.

Types of Fixtures

The kind of fixtures you choose will be dictated primarily by the area you are working with and what you want to achieve by adding lights to that area. You will likely want to put different types in different parts of your property as you go. For a front walk, you might prefer some stakes or bollards to light the way for visitors. Motion lights installed atop a garage can deter would-be intruders, while floods around perimeter areas looks nice and enhance security. Look through the list below to familiarize yourself with the most common types of fixtures available on the market today.

  • Stake Lighting- Stake (or stem) lights are one of the most common types of outdoor lighting used by homeowners to add a quick, dramatic upgrade to any outdoor area. A bollard sits atop a stake that is driven directly into the ground. These are most popular to line paths and walkways, and are also beautiful distributed throughout beds & displays.
  • Well Lighting- This type of fixture is recessed into the ground and so, of course, requires more work to install. These kinds of lights can serve to create a kind of fluidity where light seemingly emanates from the ground itself. Like bollards, they’re most often used along paths or in beds.
  • Bollards- Bollards, also known as post lights, are an increasingly popular option. Like stake lights, they stand vertically from the ground – usually between 1-3 feet in height. Bollards, though, are encased all the way up so that they look like a column or post. This kind of light fixture can look very impressive, stately, and dramatic. A major advantage of installing this kind of lighting is that the outer encasement not only looks nice; it serves to protect your actual light fixtures from damage inflicted by weather, pets, landscapers, and so on.
  • Flood Lights – Sometimes called spot lights, flood lights are used to illuminate a large area, providing enhanced security. They can be great for brightening up an area used for parties or gatherings, too. Floods placed at the outlying areas of a large property can be a good way of eliminating any temptation for thieves and such types to lurk in the shadows there.
  • Post Cap Lighting- This type of light fixture sits atop a fence post or column, and can also make a great addition to a deck or patio. Another nice use for post caps are on driveway posts, if you have them. It can be a nice way to welcome visitors, while simultaneously deterring possible trespassers.
  • String Lighting- String lights are just what they sound like, and consist of many small bulbs strung along a line. This is an especially fun way to liven up any outdoor area. Use them under an arbor, wrapped around a tree, or even on an apartment balcony. There’s a huge variety of this kind of light out there, from the silly (with bulbs encased in miniature margaritas, peppers, lobsters, the list goes on and on..) to the serious (tiny, understated, twinkling glass bulbs).
  • Wall-Mount Lights- Again, the name says it all. A wall-mount fixture is attached to the side of your house, garage, or other structure. A wide variety of lights are offered in this type of fixture, whether you want a soft and subtle glow, a bright flood effect, or anything in between.
  • Motion Sensor Lights- Primarily used for security purposes, these lights also save energy since they only come on when triggered by movement. Motion sensor lights are most commonly found in wall-mount fixtures, but can be found in other types.

Each of these types of lights are available in energy efficient models, like those using solar and LED technologies. They can also be found in vastly varying styles and colors.

If you have questions not answered by the information on this page, please post them in the comment box below.

Energy Efficient Lighting

In times past, outdoor lights ran exclusively off of electricity and used only incandescent bulbs. Landscape lighting has come a long way in the past few years, though, with more energy-saving options available than ever before. As a consumer, you’ve got some serious options when it comes to purchasing outdoor lighting that is eco-friendly and saves you money on your energy bill. Here’s a basic rundown of what’s out there and what it all means.

  • Compact Florescent lighting (CF) – CFs are a step above the traditional incandescent bulbs. They contain only trace amounts of mercury, unlike their predecessors, which had loads of the toxin. While not as ‘green’ as some other options in the energy efficient family of outdoor lighting, CFs are a step in a more ecological direction. They still run off of electricity but use less of it than older-style bulbs.
  • Solar Powered Lighting – Solar powered lights absorb energy from the sun during the day, which provides them power to run at night. No wires, no plugs, no electricity usage at all is required to run solar lights. This makes them the only 100% energy efficient option available for purchase today. A good solar powered light, given adequate sun exposure, should run for at least 12 hours. The only major drawback is that these must be placed in high-sun areas for optimum performance. These require zero mercury to operate.
  • LED Lighting - LED is an acronym for Light Emitting Diode, a technology which has all but made incandescent and halogen bulbs obsolete. Not only do LEDs put out much more light and last years longer; they are 80% more energy efficient than outdoor lighting of old. LED lights contain no mercury.

You shouldn’t be limited when it comes to style and type, either. Most companies offer energy efficient options throughout their entire product line.

Cost Concerns

Another thing you’ll find in your quest for the perfect outdoor lighting is that prices vary greatly. A set of stake lights can be purchased for less than twenty dollars, while a single fixture can cost hundreds of dollars. Often, the cheapest sets are of very poor quality. While there’s nothing wrong with installing inexpensive lighting for a quick and easy upgrade; just don’t expect them to last for many seasons.

LED and solar powered light fixtures will usually cost more than their incandescent and florescent counterparts, and prices vary even within the categories of LED and solar-powered themselves. With solar-powered units, if you are considering purchasing a lower-end brand – please make sure to read the product specifications first to make sure that they will absorb and produce enough light for your satisfaction.

High-style and decorative fixtures always carry an extra cost, but if you can afford to do so it’s nice to be able to use lighting that reflects your personal tastes. While any lighting added to your landscape is going to be an improvement, careful consideration about which lights you put in will bring the added aesthetic to new heights.

If you desire high quality and style, but are on a meager budget consider purchasing your lighting in increments – buying an individual set or fixture at a time. Eventually, your entire property will be outfitted with good products that will continue to please you and your guests for years to come.