Questions you might have about outdoor lights
Arizona residents pride themselves on using their yards as a second great room for much of the year – a place where they can cook, dine, relax and entertain. But most don't realize how much more comfortable and livable that outdoor space could be if they invest in better landscape lighting.
You may have questions about outdoor lighting: Where would you put the lights, how many would there be, and would you have to dig up the entire yard? Could you set up the lights yourself?
Maybe you've even moved to an older home that has lights on trees and paths, but the cost of keeping those lights burning is affecting your utility bill. So, what would those bills look like if you added more lights?
Following are answers to those questions and more.
Should you light up the front yard or the backyard or both?
Because Arizonans love to use their backyards, lighting is often added there first. Lighting the front yard can improve security, particularly if you leave lights on from dusk to dawn. Out front, you want your address lighted for visitors, deliveries, service people, and so that someone can find your house in an emergency. Walkways can be lighted for guests, doorways can be turned into grand entranceways, and the front of your house can become a spectacular focal point.
Are there specific plants or areas you should provide lighting for?
You can have the major trees and plants lighted. You can also light up the fireplace or fire pit in order to draw guests to sit and relax in those areas. Lighting can bring your water features and fountains to life. Many homeowners want special lights in and around swimming pools.
What will happen to your power bill?
Mike Johnson of Arizona Outdoor Landscape Lighting in Phoenix told us that today's landscape lighting is primarily done with LED (light emitting diode) bulbs that have extremely low-voltage and burn fewer watts than halogen bulbs. Because of that, the size and resulting cost of a transformer can be less and power bills can be much less expensive. LED systems also use simpler wiring. Installing a new LED system might also provide great savings for older homes that have less up-to-date lighting now. Bonus: LEDs do not attract mosquitoes, moths and bugs the way other lighting systems do.
Does a professional designer need to draw up the plan for your system?
That might have been true in the past, but generally, today's lighting systems can be done using a basic sketch that marks where fixtures will go. You can simply walk through a yard and put in flags where you want lights installed. The average yard, back and front, will probably need about 20 lights, Johnson says.
Can I use solar power instead of LEDs?
If you've ever driven through a neighborhood at night and seen homes with very pale, weak-looking lights, they're probably solar fixtures. Unfortunately, those landscape lights have yet to achieve the same kind of performance electric-powered lights can give.
Will my yard be torn up in the process of doing the landscape lighting?
You'll need to have a transformer mounted on a wall near an outlet. You might also want a weatherproof outlet box to keep rain out. A 6-inch trench will be needed to run wiring to all fixtures. Fixtures will be installed in their locations using connectors and tape. Some fixtures will be staked into the ground; some will be hung on walls or even underwater. Fixtures will be attached to the transformer by using wires. After testing, the wires will be buried.
Can I install a lighting system myself?
Do-it-yourself kits you buy at big box stores do not have lights and wiring with the same quality and will not perform as well as those installed by a qualified lighting professional. You can do some of the work yourself like digging trenches and choosing where you want to put the lights, but any electrical work should be done by an electrician.
Although landscape lighting might not be on your list of must-do improvements for your home, it probably should be. It's a moderate cost upgrade that can enhance the value of your house and make your home standout in your neighborhood.
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