Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting Planning

The basic purpose of outdoor lighting is to extend the nighttime space in which you live. Without outside lights, you can feel enclosed, trapped within the walls of your home. Even the windows, which by day let you view the outside world, no longer let your gaze through. They reflect instead the inside scene you were trying to look past.

In planning outdoor lighting, you want to think about drawing the eye through that window and into the garden beyond. You want it to look different than it does by day and just as beautiful if not more so. But if you're lighting that area, you'll probably also want to do more than look at it. So you need to think about issues of safety and convenience as well. Lighting also provides a measure of security, discouraging intruders. That's one more thing to plan for.

As you plan and design, you'll find some of these goals are overlapping. Hopefully, none of them will be contradictory. But if you have to choose between safety and beauty, the right choice should be obvious. In any event, you'll need to be methodical and painstaking if you want the best end result.

Think about what parts of the space you'd like to emphasize. Think about the parts you'd like to conceal or disguise. Consider where the safety issues are-steps and stones and trees and ponds. Consider where an intruder might be likely to attempt entry into your home. (If it doesn't make sense to light that area continuously, you can install a light with a motion sensor.)

As you plan, remember that you're not only going to have to install the lighting (or pay to have it done), you're going to have to maintain it as well (again, unless you pay). Service and maintenance are part of the cost of extending your nighttime space outdoors. But if you plan carefully, select sturdy fixtures, and don't overdo things, this added concern doesn't need to become a burden.

If you're fortunate enough to consider these things before your home is completed, contact the builder or landscaper to discuss your plans. They may be able to help you decide where to place wiring conduits under walkways or patios. If this can be done before the concrete is poured, you'll safe yourself a lot a grief and hassle.

If the whole task seems overwhelming, consult a professional to see what you can afford. But even if you're going to have it professionally done, it helps to have a clear idea of what you'd like the finished product to be. After all, you're the one who gets to live there. So you're the one who has to be pleased.

As you plan the system, plan in advance for flexibility. This is an area where low voltage lighting really shines. The cables don't have to be deeply buried, so it's easy to take up and place elsewhere. And if you've only loaded the transformers at the recommended 80%, you'll be able to add in a bulb or two if you fancy more brightness at a certain spot. Consider especially where shrubs or trees may grow and plan for flexibility around those areas. A good plan for the present will also take into account the future.

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