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Landscape Lighting Design Tips - Common Problems

Landscape lighting design is a complex endeavor. It is meant to achieve many goals - safety, security, beauty, functionality, energy efficiency, and environmental goals. The lighting techniques and strategies used to achieve these goals are many, and some of the goals can interfere with each other. For example, you may find an uplight to be the best way to beautify your statue, but at the same time it is causing light pollution. We state these things not to add confusion, but rather to emphasize that lighting design is not simple - and can always be improved. Let's look at some common problems with simple solutions.

Lack of Variety. Be careful not to use too much of the same kind of lighting. Vary the outdoor lighting techniques and types to add visual interest to your nighttime landscape. There are many types of outdoor lights to choose from, such as flood lights, spotlights, and path-lights. Many contractors solely rely on up-lighting. Add some down-lighting for more natural effects and to best follow good Dark Sky Practices, and reduce light pollution.

Glare, Light Pollution & Light Trespass. Find spotlights with glare guards, and try to place light sources in hidden locations. It's always better to see the lighting effect and not the light fixture. Hiding the light also helps keep the light from shining directly into anyone's eyes (direct glare), or directly towards any neighbors (light trespass). Be sure your outdoor lights aren't shining into any nearby roads (a safety hazard), and especially not into windows (a nuisance). Include down-lighting whenever you can.

Overly Symmetrical Fixture Placement. Path lights should not be spaced too closely. Nor should they be placed opposite each other along a path or driveway (runway effect). Instead, stagger the lights, creating a zig-zag pattern from one side to the other.

Unbalanced Lighting. Do not place outdoor lighting fixtures in areas that will divide a yard. Make sure the light is balanced among the entire canvas of the property. You want to draw the eye around the entire yard, not necessarily toward one specific area. You especially don't want to create a hard "border" of light around your property line.

Over-Exaggerating A Style. Outdoor lighting is meant to be a subtle addition, and shouldn't be the complete focus of your yard. It should accentuate features in your landscape, not be the point of attention itself. Beware of creating too much contrast in light and dark spots, and try not to over-illuminate the house itself.

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