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Decorative Outdoor Lighting Ideas


Incorporate ambient, task, and security lighting into your landscape scheme

You create different types of lighting situations inside your home; shouldn't you do the same for the outside? If you are spending more and more time outdoors, there is no need to peer out into the darkness or stumble over sprinklers when you can add drama and emotion with a few simple lighting ideas.

With so many lighting choices on the market today, it is hard to imagine where to begin. Only your pocketbook will determine the extent of your lighting adventures. If you are looking at a permanent landscape display, then you should at least consult professionals to get pricing ideas.

However, if you are looking for a few party ideas or some decorative lighting for evenings in the back yard, shop around at home improvement and discount stores as well as specialty stores that carry unique gifts. You'll find electrical and solar options as well as a host of items that will safely hold candles; if you have a pond or swimming pool, look for lights specifically rated safe to be safe around water.

Other than security and task lighting, most outdoor lights are low-voltage, either electrical or solar-powered. You will need a transformer for low-voltage electrical lights. These small units convert the 120 watts at the outlet to 12 watts. When purchasing electrical light strings, be sure to check the capacity that the transformer can hold. Low-voltage lights are safe and easy to install.

You may be able to attach 100 feet of twinkle lights onto one transformer, but the larger the bulb and the higher the wattage, the more transformers you will need. If you are shopping for lighting for infrequent gatherings, then you can certainly plug light strings into an indoor outlet. For regular use, an outdoor outlet is required.

For permanent lighting considerations, look around your home and identify a few focal points. You may have large trees, a swimming pool, or a garden path. Place lights at the base of trees and direct them upward - this is called uplighting. You will find some units on the market that have interchangeable color filters that will set different "moods."

If you have statuary, though, uplighting will create a scary cast - position lighting from above to accentuate outdoor artwork. You may have other objects or focus items that will benefit from specialized lighting placement: from the fronts, backs, and sides. Practice with large and small flashlights to get an idea before committing to wiring and installation.

Any place that people walk should have some type of lighting - solar lights do not require wiring and you can move them around to accommodate centers of activity. Purchase these units in sets to save money and make sure they have protective caps to direct the light downward. Plain solar lights that have no covers will blind a person coming down the path.

Lighting disks run on solar power, electricity, or batteries. Colored disks add drama to a deck or dock; some are rated waterproof for floating on a pool or pond. Install flush lighting on decks and post lights on corners. All these choices provide ambient light and added safety.

Keep in mind that home lighting kits may save money, but will not be as high in quality as those from a professional installer.

You will find plenty of new temporary lighting ideas at specialty stores and outdoor centers. Many of these are solar-powered or use candles.

-String paper or rattan lanterns on tree branches or across decks.
-Stake knee-high iron votive holders around areas that are away from traffic and vegetation.
-Fill large glass bowls with floating candles and place on tables.
-Anchor votive candelabras to deck posts.

In fact, anywhere you can safely place a candle arrangement you can add romance and a bit of excitement to the setting. For high-traffic areas, look for battery-powered lights as an alternative.

Add decorative and task lighting to the landscape and you will find the excuse to spend even more time enjoying the great outdoors.


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