Define the Purpose for Landscape Lighting
Before you invest in any landscape lighting, ask yourself what your purposes are for wanting illumination in your backyard. Perhaps you want to set a soft, romantic mood during the evening hours. Maybe you have a bench or a shadowy garden corner you need to illuminate for security reasons. A path leading through the garden may require landscape lighting to mark its boundaries. You might want to highlight some features of your backyard like a water fountain or pond.
Make a Sketch of Your Yard
After you have defined your reasons for wanting to add landscape lighting, sketch your yard. Include in the sketch existing lights, buildings, benches, trees and shrubs, as well as the vegetation and decorations in the garden. Each of these items will reflect light or absorb it. Estimate the height of each of the objects, especially the foliage.
Decide Where Landscape Lighting Should Go
Match the reason for lighting to specific locations in your backyard. You may want to illuminate a bench along the path with a pole-type lamp placed behind it. A soft mood can be achieved by hiding landscape lighting under shrubs. A path may require a series of short stake lights along its border on one side or on both sides (Image 1). A water fountain can be enhanced with a spotlight (Image 2), and a pond can have soft lighting around its perimeter.
Determine How Much Effort You Want to Expend
The landscape lighting that requires the greatest effort to install is 120-volt lighting. Wiring for these types of garden lights must be buried at a depth of 18 inches or encased in conduit to protect it from water. A licensed electrician has to install the electrical components.
Low-voltage landscape lighting for the backyard needs only an outdoor receptacle and a transformer. The transformer converts the 120 volts coming from the household line to a usable 12 volts to operate the lights.
The easiest landscape lighting to place in the backyard is solar lighting (below). This type of lighting has no cords to be hidden. It should be positioned in such a way that the photovoltaic cell in the lighting fixture receives enough light during the day to allow it to shine at night.
Set a Budget and Buy the Lights
Most Expensive: High-voltage landscape lighting at $100 or more per light
Information: Add on the cost of labor for the electrical contractor installing the wiring to cost of lighting for an additional fee.
Lower Cost: Low-voltage landscape lighting at $30 to $300 per light
Information: This type of lighting can easily be installed by a do-it-yourselfer.
Least Expensive: Solar lighting
Information: Since solar lights rely upon the rays of the sun and an inbuilt photovoltaic device to work, they do not necessitate installation costs or a lot of money to operate. The initial price of the solar lights is the only cost which will be incurred. Tip: If you’re lighting a darkened portion of your garden and the solar landscape light will not receive adequate sunlight during the day, you will need to have a solar panel installed in a high-sunlight location and run wiring to your solar lights.
If you wish to highlight a single item in your garden like a statue, gazing ball or fountain, you should consider using a few landscape lighting fixtures with lower intensity bulbs. Place these at various angles and distances. A single bright light shining directly on the object will create harsh shadows.
Landscape lights that make soft spots of light are good for garden paths. Space the lights at equal distances along the path you want illuminated.
Blue tinted lights allow for a moonlight-type mood in your garden landscape.