Outdoor Lighting: Advice from an Expert

March 17, 2017

Outdoor lighting is like the icing on the cake for your garden.

Lighting extends the hours of the day that you can enjoy your garden while adding an additional element of viewing pleasure to the space. Most of our projects include lighting if it fits into the budget. One great thing about low voltage lighting is that it is typically easy to add to your garden later as well if you don’t have the room in the initial budget.

Outdoor lighting to illuminate stair landing

I recently discussed some of the key factors of outdoor lighting with Matt Arnold, the Irrigation and Lighting Specialist at JP Landscape. He had some very valuable information.

What design mistake do you commonly seen in outdoor lighting systems?

The most common mistake that Matt sees in lighting design is also one of our biggest pet-peeves. Matt stated that “the biggest issue with the design of low-voltage lighting is the “run-way” effect, when lights path-light or up-light are placed right across from each other, and too close together. Low voltage landscape lighting is supposed to be adding safety while still maintaining a subtle and attractive look.”

Unless you are a pilot your driveway should not look like a runway.

We used different light fixtures to subtly illuminate for way-finding through the garden after dark and to showcase features of the garden by lighting specimen trees, art, and water features.

Outdoor lighting – Lake Stevens, WA

What outdoor lighting installation mistakes should be avoided?

“The thing that I run into the most as far as an installation mistake would be cheap splicing. Pinch style connections while being easier, let moisture in. This moisture can cause damage by shorting out the system, while a majority professional grade transformers are protected by a breaker or fusible link relay, they are not infallible.  This being said it is also important that the transformer is plugged into a GFI protected outlet.” Safety is very important even though most outdoor lighting is low voltage.

Outdoor lighting – Bothell, WA

Low maintenance is typically the number one concern for new gardens. The great news is that adding lighting will not noticeably increase the maintenance of your garden. ”Now with the introduction of the finer controlled lighting systems with astronomical timers and the addition on LEDs adding longer lamp life, the time investment into lighting maintenance has really been cut down. It is still important to keep the fixtures clean and free of debris, and to straighten and re-direct as things get bumped. Aside from the occasional bulb change, low-voltage lighting maintenance (of a properly installed system) has never been easier! “

Outdoor lighting in the winter- Snohomish, WA

LED’s have brought new life to the capabilities of lighting systems. Low voltage lighting systems have really come a long way in the 10 years that Matt has been working with them, especially with the introductions of smart technology into the field.

What are the benefits of zoning and dimming capable lighting systems?

“The biggest upside to the zoning and dimming capabilities is being able to reduce the intensity of certain lights in select areas when you are not using the space in your yard, thus saving power and extending the lamp life. The drawback is that it is quite a bit more expensive”  but in a large system where not all of the lighting needs to be on all the time or at full intensity it can be very useful.

Wall light – Woodinville, WA

Matt has a vast knowledge in both outdoor lighting and irrigation and also told me , “He has always had a fascination with mechanical systems of all kinds, and his parents were both in the landscaping field, and he naturally gravitated towards irrigation systems. The low-voltage lighting came later, as it does for most irrigation professionals because they maintain the mechanical/technical installation and have a troubleshooting mind-set. “ That mechanical mindset shows in his comprehensive approach to both lighting and irrigation systems.

How does outdoor lighting increase the enjoyment of your garden? Is outdoor lighting on your wishlist for your new garden? We would love to hear from you.

~ Kryssie

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