DIY Network

Types of Outdoor Lighting

Lighting down the garden simply adds an extra dimension to your enjoyment of the outdoor space. It helps to show visitors the way to your front door after dark and is an excellent burglar deterrent.

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Outdoor light fixture

Building Regulations Approval

You should notify your local authority Building Department or local code official of your intention to install any new circuits or electrical equipment outside the house. You must do this before you start the work, and pay a fee to have it tested and certified on completion.

The only job described here for which your local authority might not need to be notified is installing a light on a house wall, unless it is controlled by an outside switch. However, you must still have the work tested and certified by a qualified electrician to ensure that it is safe. Installing low-voltage lighting may also be exempt from notification, depending on the type being installed. If in doubt, check with your local authority.

Types of Lights

Outdoor lighting can be in two forms electrically but can be in many different forms aesthetically. Some lights can be connected directly to the house current of 120 volts AC, while others are also available as 12 volts DC. 12 volt DC lighting usually comes with a voltage transformer that plugs into a house outlet and converts the power to the required voltage. Whereas the house current can be lethal if installed or used incorrectly, 12 volts DC is completely safe against electrical shock.

Lights come in a vast array of colors and designs to fit anyone's preference. And they can be placed on the house, out on the grounds, at the base of trees shining upward, and in the tops of trees shining down. The homeowner can design any type of landscape or mood with lighting.

As is the usual case with any outdoor electrical supplies, the lighting should be on a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter for safety. Normally outdoor lighting has been designed to withstand the rigors of the weather, but your lights need to be placed so that they do not stand in water or are exposed to direct rain.

Outdoor Light Styles

Outdoor lights come in styles to suit all tastes. So before you go to the store, have an idea how you want your landscaping to look and choose lighting that fits your preferred design.

Outdoor Spotlights (image below)
Spotlights can be used to highlight special features, or may be used to improve safety. Unlike flood lights that are designed to wash an entire area with light, spots concentrate the light into a much smaller area.

Courtesy of © 2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Low-Voltage Lights

Low-voltage lighting often comes in a package with a transformer, a timer or photocell, and wiring. It will come with instructions for proper installation and suggestions for design. It can be hardwired in to an electrical junction box, or just plugged in to an exterior outlet. Some outdoor low-voltage lights are battery operated and have photo cell charging panels built in to charge the batteries during the day.

Outdoor Lighting (image below)
The outdoor low-voltage lighting system is powered through a transformer that has been hard-wired into a junction box. Because of the low voltage, the cable does not need to be buried deep underground.

Courtesy of DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Outdoor Sound

Creating a mood in your landscape design can extend to sound as well as lighting. Music in the garden is often called for during outdoor gatherings. Speakers are available in many different styles. Some mount flush into a hole in the wall or cornice, some mount on the surface and can be directionally adjusted, and others sit on the ground and look like a large rock or seat.

Courtesy of © 2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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