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Landscape Lighting

Learn how to light up your home, add curb appeal to the front yard or turn your backyard into evening entertaining space.

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Can landscape lighting be installed correctly without a professional?
A home gardener can buy and install a low-voltage light kit without hiring an electrician. You just need some simple math, a few design tips and the appropriate lights for the job. The one thing you should hire someone for is installing an outdoor GFCI if you don't have power readily available outdoors. That job is more complicated.

Which types of lights are recommended for homeowners?
Path lights are always a great addition. They make your garden and home inviting to visitors, and they're also very important for safety. There are so many different design options that you can easily find something to match your style. Up-lights are designed to light things from below. You can use this to highlight features such as trees or a stone wall. Plants like olive trees and bamboo look nice when you light them from below. Spotlights are perfect for highlighting features in small gardens.

Underwater lights make fountains and water features look great and they can even be used in container water gardens. You don't need to buy expensive lights; cheap solar lights work well. Colored lights aren't always best for the landscape but they look good underwater, so if you want to add color, this is the best way to do it.

Solar lights aren't always the most reliable for all your lighting needs. They need direct sun so, if there are obstacles blocking sunlight, they don't work as well. Solar lights that have the sensors separate from the actual lights allow you to put the lights where you want them and then put the sensors where they will receive the most light. This is the kind of solar light that is recommended for use underwater. If you don't have electricity in the landscape, using solar lights is a good option, but they will obviously work better in the summer than in the fall when there is less available light.

Floodlights with motion sensors work well for security and safety purposes. If you walk outside in the middle of the night when the timers have turned off, you'll appreciate the motion sensor triggering the light.

How difficult is it to install these kits?
Since you're working with low voltage, you don't need permits and you don't need to worry about electrocuting yourself. One thing you should be concerned with is overloading your transformer. You need the right size of transformer for your design. If you start with a kit and then add additional lights, you run the risk of overloading it. If you create your own design and choose not to work from a kit, check with the professionals where you buy your lights if you're not confident that you have the right transformer.

What are some tips for customizing lighting design to fit the landscape?
The best thing to do is to walk out into your yard at night and see what areas could benefit from lighting. You don't want to overload the landscape with lights and give it a ballpark effect. Balance it out by highlighting certain areas to draw your eye around the space. If you light everything up it will just look flat. You want the light to add dimension to the space.

The lights themselves are part of the design too so shop around until you find something that matches your style. There are so many options out there for low voltage lighting that you don't have to settle on something you don't love. Think about the design of your house and your personality when picking the right lights. Don't be afraid to experiment either. Play around with the design. You can certainly move the lights around if you change your mind.

Don't bust your budget on lights. Even if you choose the sturdiest lights on the market, you should be prepared to replace a few. They will be outside so that means they're subject to wear and tear from the weather, pets and kids. If you can't afford to replace a few, choose something in a lower price range.

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