It may be hard to think about right now, but spring is just five weeks away. Before you know it, the season for outdoor living will be back. If you have a porch, patio, or deck, you have a perfect location for some outdoor relaxation, both day and night. Of course, if you want to use your outdoor space at night, you will need some kind of lighting. Many homes are fitted with a simple, utilitarian porch light next to the door leading to an outside space. But you can do much, much better with some simple planning. In fact, at Night Vision Lighting we don’t want you to settle for anything less than a magical porch, patio, or deck. Make the nighttime spectacular in your outdoor spaces.
Picking the Right Fixtures
When it comes to choosing fixtures for your outdoor spaces, you have two general options. You can use fixtures meant to be seen, or you can use fixtures intended to be hidden. A good outdoor lighting design will usually use both types of fixtures.
Some common fixtures that are meant to be seen are porch lights and wall sconces. These fixtures are stuck on your wall slightly above eye level, so there’s no chance you’ll hide them. They are great for providing lots of light in a particular area. They can be used to illuminate doorways or create extra light in a seating area. Depending on the fixture, wall lights can sometimes spread their light pretty far. These fixtures can be used as a complement to ambient lighting, though they may not replace it entirely. When choosing visible fixtures, think about the style of the fixture and how it complements or contrasts with the style of your home. Visible light fixtures are a part of your outdoor landscape or architectural design, so select them with care.
Fixtures that are meant to be hidden can serve a variety of functions. Sometimes, the best ambient light comes from hidden fixtures. You can conceal downlighting fixtures high up in trees and shine them through the branches for a dappled moonlight look. Or you can hide fixtures under a soffit or a pergola to light up your living space without drawing attention to the source of the light. Uplighting in the form of bullet lights and floodlights can also be hidden in bushes or behind hardscaping. Well lights can be buried at the base of a tree or shrub, or they can be installed right into your patio’s hardscape.
Where to Put Your Outdoor Lights
There are three main types of light you will use in your outdoor areas:
- Ambient Lighting
- Task Lighting
- Accent Lighting
Ambient lighting can come from any direction, though one of the most common methods is to light from above. To get a classic moonlight effect, you can mount some wide-angle downlights high up in trees around your outdoor living space. For an even more realistic moonlight effect, use bulbs that are slightly blue-shifted, such as 4000K LED bulbs.
In addition to downlighting, ambient light can be enhanced by small lights hidden around your porch, patio, or deck. You can also get a lot of ambient light from wall sconces or decorative lamps mounted on railings or posts.
Task lighting is direct lighting over a small area that allows you to do a task that requires extra light. This is especially common in outdoor kitchens or places where you would want to use a grill. You could also have task lighting for an area where you want to be able to read or play a game. Good task lighting should be relatively narrow but bright. You don’t need that much light on your entire porch, patio, or deck, but where you need it, you want it to be bright enough to be useful. Sometimes a wall sconce can work for task lighting, though bullet lights shining from above often work best.
Accent lighting is not meant to give you usable light. Instead, accent lights are like little decorations that are only visible at night. There are many types of accent lighting. For example, strip lighting on the lip of a railing might not provide a lot of extra light but can create a magical glow that looks great.
Money and Energy Saving Tips
Creating a magical porch, patio, or deck doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. There are lots of ways to save money and be economical about your outdoor lighting installation. The first tip we can give, though, is not to skimp of the startup costs. Purchasing cheap low-quality fixtures can cost you money in the long run. Cheap fixtures break more easily and more often, and regular replacement can become expensive. Also, if you’re trying to create a magical atmosphere, cheap lights are not going to produce the same effect as higher-quality ones. Instead, think about long-term savings.
One of the best places to save money is with LED lamps in your fixtures. LED lamps use much less electricity than halogen or incandescent lights. They also last much longer. So you will replace them less often and spend less on energy bills. But that’s not where the savings end.
Using Less Electricity
Using less electricity to run your outdoor lighting system is good for the environment and good for your pocketbook. A great way to cut back on energy use is to control when the lights are on. Instead of flipping a switch at dusk and keeping your lights on until the next morning, get a timer. A timer will turn the lights on for you when you need them and shut them off again when you don’t. Usually, we suggest shutting off most of your lights after 11:00 p.m., since most people have on indoors by then. If you want to save more energy, you can get astronomical timers that can be set once and then change the on and off times with the seasons. As sunset gets later, the lights will go on later.
Another energy-saving tip is to use motion sensors in areas where the light will only be useful when someone is there. A motion sensor can tell when no one is around or you’ve gone indoors and shut the lights of automatically.
Design Tips and Tricks
We could go on and on about the fun, fanciful, beautiful touches you can use to add magic to your porch, patio, or deck. But we’ll pick a few of our favorites to highlight here.
LED strip lighting is an excellent tool for creating a little something extra. It is usually easy to install since it often comes with adhesive backing. You can run some strip lighting under a railing, under the lip of a wall, or even under the leap of each step in a staircase. It creates a beautiful and magical glow without being too distracting.
Another fun tip is to use post lighting. If you have a railing, you can get post toppers that have lights built in. They make great accent lights and can add a little flair to an otherwise underused part of your architecture.
For more fun and interesting design tips, contact us today to set up a no-obligation consultation. We’ll work with you to find the best, most magical outdoor lighting solution for your home and your budget. Don’t wait to light up your outdoor areas. Spring is right around the corner, and you don’t want to waste a moment!