Light therapy

Your backyard doesn’t have to be just a daytime oasis. Easy and attractive lighting makes it a great place to hang out on summer evenings as well.

After a long day of work, homeowners are turning to their backyards as an oasis. Tech and energy advances in landscape lighting can help them enjoy the outdoors well after dusk.

More than simply hanging some lanterns, “landscape lighting is the use of light to create a visually stimulating and appealing experience in an outdoor environment,” said Patrick Harders, founder of Enlightened Lighting and co-owner of Sterling Lighting, both near Washington, D.C.

“Many homeowners decide to have landscape lighting installed to increase curb appeal and highlight key features of their landscaping and architecture. Others prefer lighting for the added security and visibility it brings to dark and sometimes treacherous areas of their property, which can include walkways, steps and uneven areas of their yard,” said Harders, who serves on the board of directors for the International Landscape Lighting Institute.

If lighting is on your list of home improvement projects, the trend is toward energy-efficient, low-voltage lighting.

“LEDs (light emitting diodes) have become the standard light source overtaking halogen bulbs, which used to be the norm years ago. LEDs have gained popularity due to their energy efficiency and refined clean white color temperature, unlike a warm yellow tint or cool blue tint of other light sources,” Harders said.

For fixtures, high-quality metallics are in, particularly marine-grade brass and stainless steel, Harders said.

The types of lighting applications that are trending right now include home facade lighting, patio and deck lighting, fountain and pond lighting, and specific types of lighting for landscaping features such as gardens and trees, Harders said.

“A true lighting designer will create layers and depth to create an amazing visual experience. This is generally accomplished not by bright overpowering lights, but multiple lower-level lights,” he said.

Homeowners should avoid dated light fixtures that create unnecessary glare or are made from inferior materials that will more easily fail or corrode, Harders said. For example, large flood lights produce glare, and security lights positioned off of the soffit create what Harders likes to call a “prison breakout” look.

Another look to stay away from is the overuse of path lights.

“Less is more, as too many lights can negatively impact the overall look and atmosphere of your pathway, resulting in an overdone airport runway look,” Harders said.

High-quality, low-voltage landscape lighting can be added to your property without disruption of your lawn and underground utilities when installed by a professional with electrical and design knowledge, Harders said.

“Those looking to go the DIY route need to remember that any electrical work, whether for the interior or exterior of your home, can be dangerous without electrical knowledge and experience,” Harders said.

Landscape lighting is an investment for your home, and the price is determined by how many total fixtures are included and how many areas are illuminated.

“Prices vary by contractor and lighting design professional, but a small lighting system can start at several thousand dollars,” Harders said.

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