There are many reasons for using lighting in a garden:
• To showcase your garden at night
• To up-light feature trees or plants
• To create drama or mood in the garden
• For safety
• The ability to use your garden at night
The most basic lighting - a well-lit path and front entrance, an illuminated water feature or an outdoor eating area - can mean the difference between you using your garden at night or not.
The most affordable lighting is candles and citronella torches, but these are more for ambiance than successful lighting. Also on the market are many do-it-yourself solar lights which run on batteries and require no wiring, but these don’t generally give off much light.
Previously, you might have had to dig 6 feet down into your yard to bury 240-volt electric cables (because of their dangerous voltage level), the advent of 12-volt lighting has made garden lighting very easy to install. Using 12-volt cables means that an established garden can be lit with minimal disturbance to the lawn, plants, and paving. If you’re going to DIY, then you can buy simple 12-volt lighting kits at your local hardware or lighting specialist, ready to install yourself. Consider purchasing top-quality fittings that will stand the test of time from a lighting specialist.
Halogen or LED lighting?
The huge advantage of both is that they will run from 12-volt cable, attached with a transformer, to your 240-volt electricity source. Halogen lighting has been considered the best lighting method for a long time, with globes that last several years and boast a good light output. LED lights have previously been used only for decorative or safety lighting, as they put out only a small amount of light, using very little power. However, modern technology has seen a huge increase in the illumination that can be obtained with LED. They are extremely cheap to run, create little heat and because of their low power use, voltage drop is not a problem. Each globe will last up to 100,000 hours!
Several factors influence the number of transformers you need, such as the number of lights, and the distance the electricity flows. ‘Voltage drop’, as the power travels along a distance to several light sources, is the most significant problem, and you will need several heavy-duty cables for a normal-sized garden.
There are several techniques that may be used, with different fittings and power creating effects that may be soft, strong or textural. Here are a few different styles of lighting, each having a different role in an overall plan:
• Up-lighting - Use this method to illuminate from the ground up. It’s often used for lighting mature trees, a specific plant or for showing up the texture of a wall.
• Down-lighting - This method is effective in lighting up a barbecue area or a table, and for casting interesting shadows from the canopy of a tree.
• Spot-lighting - Use this method to highlight features such as statues, pots or sculptural planting. It may also be employed to cast silhouettes onto a wall. Ensure that the light is placed so it doesn’t dazzle those who walk into its beam.
• Path lighting - It’s important to get this right, for safety’s sake. Evenly overlapping light spread is the best way to go. Always make sure that swimming pools are adequately lit.
• Pond lighting - Depends on the desired look and the style of water feature.
When planning your lighting, it’s a great idea to divide the lighting into groups that you would like to have switched on together. This means that you can not only change the effect according to your mood and needs, but also spread the cost of installation over time, by having the most important zones put in first. Most garden lighting companies have a showroom where the client can see the effects of different styles of lighting.
• Not all light fittings come with globes so make sure you budget for extra costs
• Use a tissue or cloth to handle halogen globes as oils from your fingers can heat up and shorten the life of the globe
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