by Jessica Gezon
Choosing the right outdoor lighting is one of the most important aspects of landscape design. Landscape lighting illuminates dark paths, highlights interesting garden elements and deters intruders. Above all, garden lighting creates a welcoming ambiance of warmth and safety.
Path lighting: Outdoor lighting keeps driveways, garden paths and stairs safe for walking after dark. Featuring vintage and contemporary designs in impact-resistant plastics and metals, path lights usually have a domed top and pagoda style that directs the light toward the ground. This increases the light's effectiveness and decreases light pollution. For convenience, path lighting is usually sold in sets and includes electric and solar designs. Light sets make great outdoor patio lights and deck lights. While they are bright enough to illuminate a sidewalk, path lights are dimmer than many accent lights.
Low-voltage lights: These energy-efficient outdoor lights use 12 volts or less of electricity. A transformer converts the 120-volt electric power line to 12 volts for a set of lights. A popular option for path lighting, low-voltage light sets often include their own power packs. An experienced do-it-yourselfer can assemble this system; however, we recommend professional installation of these lights.
Solar lights: This outdoor lighting system uses sunlight to charge the Ni-Cad batteries that power the light fixture. Solar lights automatically switch on at dusk and generally stay lighted for up to 10 hours. This safe, wireless design doesn't use electricity, making solar outdoor lights an excellent option for the yard. Solar deck lights resemble soft candlelight -- creating a romantic glow. Solar-powered batteries need to be replaced about every three years. The LED panels are not replaceable but generally last about 20 years with proper care. Solar lights may not work well in shaded areas or during cloudy weather. However, solar lights emit enough light for adequate path lighting in most regions.
Accent lighting: Use individual accent lights to showcase interesting design elements in the yard. Spotlights will make a pretty tree look spectacular at night and properly illuminate flags. Floodlights make good house and patio lights, but their brightness will make outlying areas appear darker. Use a set of path lights to illuminate your garden; multiple low-light lamps will create a soft glow over flower beds.
Lanterns: These garden lights take several forms, the most common being the hanging lantern. Featuring vintage and contemporary designs, hanging lamps dangle from tall stakes or wall and ceiling hooks. Many of today's lanterns use electric or solar power, but lanterns with candles will create a romantic glow as patio lights. Of course, the lantern-style light is still popular for post lamps and porch lights.