Common Outdoor Lighting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

http://freshome.com/2011/01/24/beautifying-your-front-entry-with-architectural-details/
If you are struggling with an outdoor lighting scheme for your home and landscape, take heart. Many homeowners feel overwhelmed trying to install outdoor lighting that satisfies both aesthetics and security. Strike the perfect balance of beauty and practicality by identifying and overcoming the most common outdoor lighting mistakes.

Well-designed outdoor lighting enhances the beauty of your landscaping and highlights key architectural features of your home. Outdoor lighting allows you to take advantage of seldom-used outdoor spaces for evening entertaining. Proper exterior illumination also provides a level of safety and security for residents and guests alike. Keep the following mistakes in mind as you begin your outdoor lighting project. Knowing a few of the pitfalls beforehand will ensure a successful outcome and dramatic results.

Not Having a Lighting Plan
Without an outdoor lighting plan, you can easily blow your budget, not to mention a fuse or two. Whether basic or detailed, a plan will serve as a visual guide and spec sheet. If your budget is tight, create a plan that can be completed in stages and allows for change and expansion. Take a walk around your property and make note of specific areas you wish to illuminate.

Draw the footprint of your house on graph paper, including all essential landscape elements. Plot out direct paths for wiring and fixture placement. Take your plan a step further by detailing specific components such as electrical cable, fixtures and transformer to satisfy your current and future outdoor lighting needs. 

Too Little Light
Relying on a single porch light as your outdoor lighting plan is a big mistake. You have spent a great deal of time and money creating your perfect suburban oasis. A properly lit house not only reflects pride of ownership; it also improves the overall curb appeal--an important factor if you are thinking of selling your home.

Outdoor lighting creates a sense of warmth and drama that can increase the perceived value of your home. Potential buyers often express interest in a property after driving or walking by during the evening. The absence of outdoor lighting can make your home seem unappealing and unsafe.

Too Much Light
Restraint is key when it comes to outdoor lighting. While a well-lit home increases security, you must also be considerate of neighbors and cognizant of local light pollution ordinances. Excessive outdoor lighting also adds to your electricity bill and your carbon footprint.

Think twice before going overboard with floodlights. If you do need lighting for security reasons, opt for motion sensor fixtures. Many communities now have ordinances to protect views of the evening sky. Look for manufacturers that make dark sky fixtures designed to minimize skyward ambient light. Keep lighting subtle and distribute fixtures evenly around your property.

Wrong Emphasis
Your choice of weathered copper lighting fixtures makes quite a design statement during the day. However, at night, those fixtures should fade into the background and allow your landscape features to shine. Get an unbiased assessment by inviting a friend or neighbor to evaluate your lighting after the sun goes down.

Ask them to view your property from the street and take in the overall effect. If they comment more on the fixtures than your landscaping abilities, make some adjustments. A slight change in lens angle or stake position places the focus back where it belongs--on that beautiful palm, soothing water feature and colorful floral border, rather than the fixtures themselves.
 
Cheap Lighting Fixtures

Resist the temptation to purchase cheap outdoor lighting fixtures. Yes, they will be easy on your budget at first but can become costly in the long run. Fixtures of questionable quality and manufacture need to be replaced more often.

Always invest in fixtures made by trusted companies offering limited or lifetime warranties. Make sure the warranty includes electrical wiring, sockets, bulb components and exterior finish. Look for UL-approved fixtures and those specifically designed for outdoor use.

Lack of Automated Controls
Without automated controls, you must access the transformer to manually operate your outdoor lighting. Integrated systems make your life easier and can reduce your monthly electricity bill. Built-in timers let you program lights to automatically turn on at dusk and off at sunrise, allowing you to better manage energy consumption.

Advanced systems let you control separate lighting zones. For instance, you can program the path and pool lights to turn off at midnight and other fixtures to remain on all night. For ease of use, install your automated controller in an area that is easily accessible for seasonal adjustments.

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