Design & DIY

Rethink your outdoor lighting with these tips

Outdoor lighting tips

When it comes to enjoying an evening outside with friends, good lighting can make all the difference. But for outdoor lighting that’s effective—without being disruptive—you need to find a balance between practical and tranquil, and that means thinking about more than just style. There’s also placement, power source, the environment, and even your neighbours to consider. Here are six tips that will help you rethink your outdoor lighting.

Don’t overdo it

If you do a little research on outdoor lighting, you’ll find countless articles that suggest highlighting focal points (like trees, bushes, or large rocks) around your property. But when you’re at the cottage, it’s best to keep outdoor lights to a minimum. After all, you left the city for a reason, and there’s nothing better about spending an evening under the stars than, well, seeing the stars. There are also environmental factors to consider: an excessive amount of artificial light doesn’t just disrupt your view of the Milky Way—it can also disturb plant development, disorient bats, and even throw off birds’ migration patterns. More outdoor lighting also equals more bugs.

Stay safe

Although you never want to overdo it, illuminating some parts of your property is an important safety measure. Steep paths and steps, for example, are one place you should never skimp on outdoor lighting. To avoid anyone ending up with a twisted ankle, install some shielded low-wattage or solar lights along pathways, plus a few step lights on deck and dock stairs, especially if you’re prone to late-evening fishing trips or swims. For workspaces like your barbecue, you can often find battery-powered lights with adjustable screw clamps that will shine directly into your grill.

Understand your options

Understanding your options is essential to creating an inviting space that’s not completely washed out with light. Security and floodlights can be great for reducing criminal activity—especially when they’re attached to a motion sensor—but they should always be paired with a cover so they don’t illuminate too large of an area. For paths, stairways, and recessed areas along your cottage, low-wattage wall lights cast just enough glow to reduce tripping accidents. Path lights and deck lights are another good option for areas that are a little farther away from the cottage. For covered porches, entryways, and gazebos, you may want to consider something a little more substantial, like pendant lights or ceiling-mounted fixtures. No matter what outdoor lights you install, it’s a good idea to connect them to a digital timer. That way, you don’t have to remember to shut them off after you’ve had a few glasses of wine.

Upgrade to LEDs

When it comes to outdoor lighting, nothing beats LEDs. Although the initial cost of these lights can turn some consumers off, they pay for themselves in energy savings. There’s also a few other benefits that make them worth the extra money. In addition to using at least 75 percent less energy, they also last about 25 times longer than traditional incandescent lighting, which means they tend to require a lot less maintenance. But if that’s not reason enough to make the switch, LEDs are also known to emit light in a specific direction, making them especially effective for task lighting and recessed downlights.

Aim your lights carefully

Nobody expects you to stumble around your property with just a flashlight, but if you want to avoid some tense discussions with your neighbours, make sure you don’t have any bright lights shining directly towards their place. Even if there’s not another person for miles, paying attention to where your lights are pointing, and how their bulbs are covered, is another important step in minimizing light pollution. To avoid too much light trespass, be sure to buy shielded fixtures and face your lights downward whenever you can.

Consider solar

Figuring out where to place outdoor lights is one thing, but determining how you’re going to power those lights is another. A typical low-voltage lighting system requires just three parts: a transformer, a low-voltage electrical cable, and the fixture. Although you don’t need to be an electrician to install a system like this, you do need a transformer with enough capacity to support the cumulative wattage of your system. You’ll also need some outdoor outlets and the ability to dig a few shallow trenches to bury some cable. If your cottage is situated on rocky terrain, or perhaps even off-grid, sticking to solar is likely your best bet—it’s also one more way to save on your energy bill.

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