Garden lighting: How to plan your own installation

When it comes to garden lighting, knowing what and where to illuminate can seem confusing. In this article, Rachel Morris of 4Lite offers her advice on how to approach your own installation.

An effective lighting installation can transform gardens, improving safety, security, ambience and design, but for many undertaking their own project or renovation, the process can be daunting.

Consider your space
To anyone embarking on an outdoor lighting installation, we’d advise them to begin by taking some time out to understand their space and requirements. Often, when there are a variety of areas and features to illuminate, deciding what to incorporate can be a daunting prospect. Remember – less is more. Just because you can illuminate the entire space doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

A great place to start is to consider the space in its entirety and what you want to achieve. Do you want to create a subtle, low-key scene that promotes calm and relaxation or is something brighter with high illuminance levels needed for safety or security reasons? Are there specific ‘zones’ that need attention, for example paths or seating areas? Whatever your intention, spending time detailing your requirements should help you to fully identify your needs.

Once you’ve decided on what and where you require illumination, next it is time to identify the types of products you require. As a rule of thumb, a range of different lighting techniques should be considered and combined to really bring a garden design to life. Here’s a short guide on what products work best for specific garden features:

STEPS: Using cross lighting (positioning an LED at either side) from the flanking step walls is the best technique to use on steps as it projects a beam of light across the space. Depending on the width of the steps this can be done at each level or on alternate steps.

PATHS: When it comes to paths there is an extensive choice of lighting options to consider. Up-lights are a great solution; spaced opposite or diagonally apart and on either side of the walkway, they provide effective illumination of the area. Low height bollards are another great option which, if directional and well positioned, can control illumination to the pathway areas only. In more open areas of the garden, ground recessed LED marker lights are another great option or alternatively recessed inground lighting can be used

PATIOS: When it comes to patios, the combination of lighting effects is infinite. Assuming your patio is adjacent to your home, installing downlights onto the walls of the building is the most commonly opted way of lighting this area. Placing freestanding luminaires or bollards around the perimeter of the patio is another great option that will provide general illumination or if the patio area has structure, installing downlights or spotlights to the columns can be considered. If the patio is surrounded by a low-level wall, low level recessed lighting is another great option that can be used to light the floor areas.

PERGOLAS: Depending on what effect is desired, pergolas can be effectively lit using either downlights or up-lights.

STATUES: Spotlights are the most effective luminaires to use to highlight statues and sculptures. You can choose whether to spotlight from above, from below or to opt for close offset highlighting. Spotlighting from above is used where statues or sculptures are intended for frontal viewing, spotlighting from below offers a more dramatic effect whereas close offset highlighting illuminates the structure from the inside.

TREES: The most common way of providing illumination to trees is by up-lighting. Luminaires are usually sunk into the ground or discreetly installed and camouflaged from view in either a symmetrical or asymmetrical pattern.

Effective installation
When it comes to the actual installation of a new garden lighting system, position, mounting height, spacing and distance are all important considerations. If your garden is mainly for leisure use, you’ll want to avoid glare and dazzling users so it’s important that luminaires are angled away from the line of sight and where possible are screened from view by plants, shrubs, boulders and objects. It’s the light produced by the fitting which is to be seen, rather than the fitting itself.

It’s also worth remembering that some larger light source fittings can create excessive amounts of heat during long periods of operation and should be positioned away from the users of the space – especially if children are likely to be present.

Energy saving
A final area of consideration in any outdoor lighting installation is energy efficiency and controllability. Given the current issue of rising energy costs and soaring electricity bills, you don’t want to waste money on lighting use when it isn’t needed so make sure you explore the latest technologies available alongside the use of LEDs.

Smart lighting systems for example enable every single detail of lighting to be programmed and automated so that energy is used only where and when it is needed. From controlling the times of operation to set elements such as brightness, intensity and colour temperature, smart lighting systems allow different lighting combinations, scenes and schedules to be created; regulating energy use.

If your outdoor space requires constant illumination, perhaps for security reasons, then solar powered luminaires could be a truly effective cost-saving option or alternatively, for spaces that require light only when in use, fittings with motion or presence and absence detection sensors could be an ideal solution.

Rachel Morris is the marketing manager at 4Lite