When the sun goes down in South Florida, the party doesn’t need to end. Some homeowners choose to move indoors – but if you want to continue to enjoy the weather once it gets dark, investing in exterior landscape lighting is a great way to add to the fun of living in paradise.
Utilizing the right design and fixtures on your deck or patio will take your yard to the next level – and make your house the place to be on long, lazy summer nights.
If you are looking for guidance in order to set up exterior landscape lighting, here is some guidance from our expert team.
Take time to determine your goal. Do you want to light up the whole backyard for late-night entertaining? Add cozy ambiance to a patio or deck? Frame a pathway? The first step to lighting your yard is designing a layout plan. Draw a sketch of your target area, choose where to place lights, then determine how to run wiring to connect them.
Exterior lighting systems include three main components: light fixtures, a transformer, and low-voltage cables. Often, lighting kits that include all the wiring accessories and instructions can be purchased along with your fixtures.
Light fixtures come in endless styles. Use spotlights to highlight specific areas of your landscape; pointing them up at trees gives an enchanting moonlight effect. Floodlights fixed to your house brighten up a deck, while small bulbs strung along a pergola give a soft glow. Choose a cute path light set to accentuate pavers and to illuminate your floral landscape design.
Keep bulb types in mind when choosing light fixtures. Most people have switched from using halogen bulbs in their yard to LEDs. Halogens, a form of incandescent light bulb, are inexpensive (usually <$10/bulb) and produce powerful light for an exterior. So why have LED bulbs grown so popular? While the up-front cost is greater—LEDs cost on average 2-4x more than halogens—these eco-friendly bulbs use a fraction of the electricity that halogens do, and thus last up to 15 years longer than halogens! When looking for reliable, long-term light, LED bulbs may be worth the investment.
Transformers lower the voltage of your outlet from the standard 120V to 12V, which is safer for outdoor lighting. Low-voltage systems don’t pose an electric hazard (and therefore are much better suited for being exposed to the elements). They also consume far less electricity than higher-voltage systems.
Transformers vary in capacity. LED lights need a transformer that handles about 45-300 watts. Transformers for halogen bulbs require 600-1000W. Add the wattages of your fixtures and purchase a transformer that can handle them.
Once you have drawn up a layout plan and chosen a transformer, measure how much wiring your system requires. Low-voltage cable is inexpensive and easy to place. You can purchase 50’ of cable for less than $40. A 100’ cable usually costs between $80-100. When laying the wire, be sure to bury it at least 6” deep underground and follow instructions for connecting the wire to your light fixtures. Additionally, don’t let your hard work go to waste—be sure to finalize all long-term plantings for your landscape prior to laying the cable for your new system to avoid accidentally chopping or damaging buried wires, and don’t bury cable in garden beds where you frequently dig.
If you are unsure or nervous of your ability to properly design and install these systems, consider hiring a local electrician to be safe. Of course, once you’ve got your lighting in place, you’ll need beautiful trees, flowers, and potted plants to finish the landscaping. You can get all of there, as well as architectural elements such as fountains or statuaries, at Big Earth Landscape Supply.