Decorative Lighting Options for Your Yard and Garden
There are many great decorative outdoor lighting options to choose from these days.
SolarLighting is the most economical and easiest to install. Solar lights have staked ends and can be inserted into soil or mulch. Once the battery inside the light is activated (often by just pulling a tape that prevents contact with the photo cell) it takes about ten or twelve hours of exposure to sunlight to charge the battery and your solar light will be ready to illuminate your sidewalk, driveway, shrubs or flowers at night.
Solar lights come in a variety of styles: two or three tiered lamps, lanterns that hang from an ornamental rod, bollards (small, dome-shaped lights,) tiki torches, fence lights, post lights, small reflector-type flood lights and walk lights with star-patterned down lights. The average cost of a solar light can range from $2.50 to $5.00 depending on the size and whether it is metal or plastic. Most solar lights are LED’s today and give a crisp white light that lasts longer than an ordinary incandescent bulb. Solar lights can last for two, three and sometimes four years-the rechargeable battery can easily be replaced when the light grows dim.
Solar light provides an attractive accent light that can be used in any area of a yard or garden. Place them where they can be exposed to sunlight all day to get the best and longest illumination at night (usually eight to ten hours.) Solar lights can be purchased singly or in packs of six and ten.
Rope Lighting is ideal for accent lighting covered decks, porches, patios and gazebos. They come in a range of lengths (3 ft. to 25 ft.) and can be linked by plugging them together end to end. They are available in many colors including clear white, yellow, red, blue and green. The tiny bulbs used in rope lights can be incandescent or LED’s. The bulbs are a bright white, color variation is produced by the tubing around the light rather than the bulb itself.
Rope lights consist of heavy vinyl tubing which houses the string of tiny bulbs. The tubing stands up fairly well to weather, although, rope lights last longer when protected from the elements and used only during milder spring, summer and fall weather. Small hooks can be purchased to screw into material and anchor the rope light strings. The advantage to rope lighting is that it is flexible and can be wound or wrapped around deck and porch led downlight railings and strung along eaves. They require regular 120 voltage and can be plugged in wherever there is an exterior GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet. Rope lights can illuminate for years as long as the vinyl tubing jacket is not compromised by severe weather and temperature. The tiny bulbs produce very little heat and the rope lighting can be handled easily, even when lit. Rope lighting can cost from $4.00 to $40.00 depending on the length.
Landscape Lighting, although more expensive, has some definite advantages over solar and rope lighting. It is much brighter than solar or rope lighting and can be placed anywhere (lamps do not have to be exposed to the sun to illuminate.) Landscape lighting lamps are typically made of metal to withstand harsh weather although lamps are also available in more economical plastic. Wattages for landscape lamps can range from two to fifty watt bulbs. Lamp styles come in a variety of shapes and styles including small floodlights, spotlights, two and three tier lamps, bollards, lanterns, coach lights, step lights, deck lights, fence and post lights.
Landscape lamps are attached to special landscape wire by a simple contact that pierces the jacket of the wire. The wire is attached to a transformer that is designed to be installed outside and plugged into an exterior GFCI outlet. The transformer, or power pack as it is also called, reduces the landscape lighting from 120 volts to 12 volts, making the run of lamps and the wire safe for dogs, children and the occasional errant lawnmower or gardener digging with a shovel. There is not shock if for any reason, the landscape wire is exposed, cut or compromised.
Transformers come in a range of wattages, usually ranging from 100 to 500 watts. The wattage of the transformer determines the length of landscape wire and the number of lamps attached to the wire. Usually it is best to keep the total wattages of the lighting lamps just under the wattage of the transformer. Also, a very long run of wire, even with an accepted number of lamps attached to it, it might cause the lamps to dim, especially at the end of the run of wire. Typically, transformers come with a timer which can be set to turn the lights on and off at given times. Unlike solar, which will not charge and illuminate if days have been cloudy, landscape lighting provides bright, reliable light anytime.
Some applications for landscape lighting include the use of small floodlights whose beams can be adjusted to showcase shrubs and trees or the side of a house. Walkway lamps provide downlight for safe passage to a house along a sidewalk or path. Blooming flowers, shrubs, fountains and pools can be showcased with landscape lighting and there are low wattage bulbs available in a variety of colors as well, for dramatic effects.