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15th October 2018

Enhancing your outdoor space with lighting shouldn’t be daunting. But given how we love to spend time in our gardens, it’s worth the investment to do it once, and do it properly.

If you’re looking to make the most of your outdoor space, it’s important to have the right lighting. While we generally spend a lot of time and money on our interior lighting, it’s easy for our outside lighting to be neglected, or at least under-prioritised.

In our opinion, lighting is an essential element that is equally important for both interior and exterior spaces. Lighting can really make or break a space, so getting it right is crucial for creating a sense of comfort, safety and well-being, especially in an outdoor setting.

Installing permanent lighting in your garden will not only help create a wonderful ambiance, it will make entertaining that much easier and enjoyable if you take the time to light paths and steps, not to mention trees and plants or other features that you want to highlight.

Garden lighting has come a long way over the years in terms of design and technology. Today there are almost as many options for outdoor lighting as there are for indoors, and these days you can create virtually any mood or look for your garden and your patio, deck or other outdoor living space.

So, what do you need to know before getting garden lighting installed at your home?

The benefits of outdoor lighting

Outdoor lighting doesn’t just mean a security light to ward off trespassers, lighting is an important way to bring out the main features of your garden past sunset. For example, do you have a water feature installed? Or maybe you have an old tree with beautiful twisting branches?

These should be focal points in your garden, so use outdoor lighting to showcase them. Feature lighting is really big right now, and it’s only limited by your imagination and creativity, so don’t be afraid to be bold!

Tips for choosing garden lights

It’s a cliché, but less is more. So go for higher quality products and fewer units. Outdoor lighting is the sort of thing you want to do once, do it properly, and then not have to worry about it again. With quality products come quality guarantees and solutions.

Cheaper products, on the other hand, might have lower quality materials and connections, and joins may not have been properly heat shrunk and sealed. With outdoor lighting that is exposed to the elements, this is just asking for problems later on. Moisture can cause an electrical short, which will bring you right back to square one.

Unlike the lighting inside your home, your outdoor lighting has to endure everything Mother Nature throws at it. And let’s face it, in a typical UK year, that’s quite a lot - from the heat of summer to freezing winters, not to mention the wind and rain and everything else in between!

So our golden rule number one: it pays to invest in quality products.

Types of garden lights

From lighting pathways to lighting up ponds, the possibilities are endless, and a well-lit garden can look stunning. Like all lighting, there are many different styles of garden lights, but there are four main types that you should focus on when trying to create the most effective garden lighting.

  1. Solar lights: these have become all the rage over the past decade, and with good reason. Although not as bright or powerful as most mains-powered lights, solar lights can give an effective and relaxing ambiance to your garden once natural light levels are low.

Without the hassle of cables and power sources, solar lights are far easier to install and can be positioned wherever you like around your garden.

  1. Garden spotlights: these are perfect for uplighting trees, shrubs and bushes. They come in a range of sizes, brightness levels and even colours, depending on the height of whatever it is you want to light up.

  1. Step or stair Lights: these are designed to emit enough light to illuminate each step. They look great and also provide an important safety role (especially useful during a long liquid summer barbecue…)

  1. Pond lights: if you have a water feature in your garden like a pond or fountain, this is a great way to make it a focal point for both day and night.

LED or halogen lights?

There’s a definite trend towards LED these days, and garden lights are available in both LED and halogen. The trade-off is up-front cost versus running costs and lifespan.

Halogens will generally draw more power than LEDs, which means they are more expensive to run. They also have a shorter lifespan than LEDs. On the plus side, halogens are cheaper to buy than LEDs.

LEDs, on the other hand, are more expensive to buy, but cheaper to run (due to their lower wattage) and last longer.

If the initial cash outlay is not your biggest concern, then LEDs is probably the way to go. Your running costs will be lower over the long term, and the individual bulbs should last much longer than their halogen cousins.

As always when choosing your outdoor lights, look for good quality materials and products with certified ratings. They will be far more resistant to water and dust, which means that your garden lighting should be able to survive the elements for years.

How to plan your garden lighting

The best way to start planning is with a pen and paper and a tape measure. Then:

  1. Draw up a rough plan of your garden.

  1. Mark any trees, bushes, water features or anything else that would look great lit up at night.

  1. Mark any paths that need marking or steps that are poorly lit, plus any power points already wired in the garden.

  1. Think about lighting plants or groups of plants that will draw your eye at night. This will create interest and a sense of depth in your garden.

  1. Mark in where you would like to position your lights, then work out how many lights, and what brightness you’ll need.

An important warning on electrical safety

We recommend using a transformer to bring the 240W mains supply down to a much safer and more manageable 12W. The right transformer will be the one that is rated to take the total amount of watts in your system. For example, if the wattage of your chosen system adds up to 280W, you’ll need a 300W transformer.

This is where we come in! You will need a qualified electrician to help you from this point, so make sure to contact us before attempting this as a DIY project, and we can do the rest.

The final word – let there be light!

We all love spending time in our gardens, but we’re often daunted by the prospect of installing a permanent outdoor lighting system. If you’re still not convinced, think about this: given how many lights you have inside your house, isn’t it about time that you did justice to your outdoor living areas as well?

If you’re interesting in designing your own outdoor lighting system, feel free to get in touch. We’re ready, willing and able to provide a no-obligation consultation.

So what are you waiting for? Come on, step into the light…