Whether you want to add more light to your outdoor living spaces for entertaining or simply to beautify your patio and yard, accent lighting can add warmth, beauty, safety, and that finishing touch.
- Spotlights: Unlike floodlights, spotlights illuminate a beam of light generally less than 45 degrees. Typically spotlights are arranged to highlight specific areas of an outdoor garden — this is known as accent lighting. While homeowners can easily install their own, spotlights may be better left to a landscape specialist in order to gain the best possible aesthetic. Consider up-lighting trees and artistic structures to add beauty and drama. You will find a large variety of styles including low voltage, solar, and kits with color filters. Finishes range from modern to antique, I’ve even seen one that looks like a rock!
- Candles/Lanterns: Coupling synthetic outdoor candles and lanterns can provide your yard with a pleasing soft glow at night without the hazard and attention needed for traditional wax flame candles. When you purchase outdoor battery operated candles, confirm they are not wax. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of one melting in the afternoon sun! Many are made of plastic and designed specifically to operate in most weather conditions. Some candles can be set to a timer or operate by remote. With an endless amount of candle-lantern combinations to choose from, you can choose a style that best fits your home. Well-placed lanterns in your backyard or patio can create a warm ambience for entertaining or just relaxing. Lanterns can be placed on decks and tables as well as hung from overhead structures or sturdy tree limbs.
- Overhead lighting: Also known as task lighting, overhead bulbs and lamps are used to illuminate areas for a given purpose. Floodlights or hanging lamps and fixtures can provide light for entertaining, outdoor dining, and illuminating seating areas or paths. While lanterns can provide a warm glow to your back patio, task lighting can provide more illumination and be preferable for cooking and entertaining. Once you have decided the function and placement, shop around to find a look that fits your outdoor décor.
Outdoor lighting can be powered in a number of ways. Most outdoor candles utilize batteries. Other forms of lighting can use solar power, or connect directly to a home’s electrical power source. Options range from 120 volts AC to 12 volts DC, the latter of which provides safety against electrical shock but requires an electrical transformer. Additionally, lower wattage bulbs will provide for a softer, warmer aesthetic, while high wattage bulbs may look harsher. For added safety, lighting should be on a ground fault circuit interrupter—a circuit breaker utilized to shut of power in a fraction of a second in the event of an electrical short. While many outdoor lights are designed to withstand the elements, be cautious of direct exposure to rainfall and water buildup, or flooding around the fixtures.
Weather-resistant candles run anywhere from $10 to $80 and up, depending on the quality and brand. Inexpensive lanterns can be found at discount stores for around $20. High quality, ornate outdoor lanterns can run into the $100s and up. A full outdoor lighting installation will vary depending on the size of the space and type of lighting. If you are considering tackling the project yourself, make a complete plan mapping all areas and listing all parts (fixtures, cables, transformers, and so on). It can be valuable to get a bid from a professional electrician. Even if you want to do some of the work yourself, the details and expertise are generally worth paying for.