While lighting design inside the house is obviously important to home décor, outdoor lighting is just as critical, particularly since it sets the tone for the home and is the most visible.
Outdoor lighting doesn’t have to involve custom lighting designs and specialty wiring, but some lighting needs to consider are:
- Safety – at the very least make sure there is enough light for getting in and out of the house safely in the dark.
- Decorative & Task – a pair of sconces on the either side of the front door are a welcome addition when fumbling with keys in the dark. They not only look nice, but make the house number visible in the dark as well.
- Security – a sensor to turn on a light when there’s movement is a good, inexpensive addition to outdoor lighting. A motion detector that trips a light can be purchased for under $100 and can scare off a prowler, as well as light the way when you arrive home in the evening.
The latest trend in outdoor lighting has been solar powered light. I have to say, I am not a fan. The light is dim and unnatural looking. Often the batteries need replacement after a year and are considered hazardous. It’s also cheaper to buy new ones than replace the battery, so you're creating extra waste. As newer models come out with better looking light and become more efficient, I’ll be ready to take another look at them, because I love the idea of being able to put lights anywhere outside without worrying about hardwiring.
As for hardwiring, there are two types of outdoor lighting systems, low voltage, 12 volts, and line voltage, 120 volts. Low voltage is more suitable for residential use, as it offers the following advantages:
- Can be plugged into existing outdoor receptacles;
- Lower energy costs
- Smaller bulbs which allow fixtures to be smaller and less obtrusive in landscaping;
- It's designed for wet locations and operate safely when exposed to moisture; and
- fFexibility with installation, as only the wire needs to be hidden.
Line voltage lighting is more appropriate for commercial or larger settings, as it requires more technical specifications including waterproof fixtures and connectors and larger bulbs and fixtures.
For outdoor lighting landscaping within a tight budget, start with one or two low voltage items and add additional fixtures over time to spread out the cost.