Eyes Need Less Light Outdoors

A little goes a long way when it comes to lighting your landscape. That’s because your eyes need less light outdoors than they do indoors in order to see light, shadow, and pattern. In planning your outdoor lighting, walk around your yard at night and envision how and when you want to use your spaces.

Lighting Principles Never Change

How light is seen during the day is different from how it is seen at night, a particularly important distinction when it comes to lighting pathways and other outdoor spaces. However, certain principles about lighting remain true. Light has intensity, or quantity emitted, and color. The color of a particular light bulb can be found on the packaging. It is a number that ranges from 1800 kelvins (K), which is very red in tone, to 7500 K, which is a bluish white.

Lighting Divided into Three Layers

Whether indoors or outdoors, lighting is generally divided into three layers based on function. They are: overall light, which provides illumination for a whole room or space; task lighting, which is used for a specific purpose, such as to light a path; and accent lighting, which draws attention to an object or area. This is usually accomplished with spotlights or floodlights.

Variety of Bulbs Suitable

A variety of bulbs are suitable for outdoor fixtures. Incandescent bulbs emit pleasing light but have a short life and consume more electricity. Halogen bulbs are more efficient versions of incandescent, typically with a longer life and less energy consumption. Fluorescents are now available in a more pleasing color range, last much longer, and consume less energy. While LED bulbs are more expensive, their costs, which continue to decline, are balanced by their extraordinarily long life and extremely low energy consumption.

Outdoor Lighting Issues Need Attention

Outdoor lighting issues differ from those of indoor light. For example, reflection is less an issue outdoors because most surfaces are dark and do not reflect light well. However, position and shielding are more important in outdoor landscape lighting in order to prevent glare. Glare happens when a light source is too big or too bright; it can be blinding because it reflects directly in people’s eyes. Exterior landscape lighting also needs to be particularly sensitive to direct versus indirect light. Direct outdoor landscape light, such as a down light outside a side entry door, will brighten mostly the object it is directed at and little of the surroundings. Indirect light reflects on the surrounding surfaces to create a soft wash.

Outdoor Light Pollution a Negative

Too much light, or poorly installed lighting, can create unwanted light pollution that shines into indoor rooms, washes out the view of the stars, creates glare that temporarily blinds people, and wastes energy and money. To avoid light pollution: (1) Aim lights carefully. Position lights at night and check their position frequently; (2) Shield bulbs. Use fixtures that have reflectors and shielding to concentrate light where you want it; Minimize wattage. Higher wattage will create harsher light without improving aesthetics or increasing safety. Low-wattage bulbs are often enough to provide illumination; Control the light. Separately zoned lights with timers, controls, dimmers, or motion sensors will turn on lights only when needed or enable them to be turned down as necessary.