Angie’s List: Should I install outdoor lighting?
Just as you rely on a well-designed lighting plan inside your home, you should pay careful attention to how you illuminate the exterior. Outdoor lighting can ensure your family’s safety, improve home security and enhance how you use the space.
Judicious use of outdoor decorative lights gives your home character. They can be used to highlight flower gardens, decorative architectural components and landscaping. Small, low-voltage fixtures work well along the edges of walkways. These fixtures can be powered by the home electrical system, or solar cells that collect and store energy during the daylight hours.
Handrails and stair steps can be accented and illuminated by rope lighting. Rope lights are plastic tubes that house a string of LED lamps. Often these rope lights are used on deck railings to create a festive look. They come in a variety of colors and are often inexpensive.
Small spotlights are often used for accent lighting. These fixtures can be manufactured with a spike that pushes into the ground for easy installation. The light head can be rotated and angled for precise positioning. These fixtures can be powered by solar panels or by the home’s electrical system. You can buy special filters to place over the spotlight to create festive colors.
LED bulbs make an excellent choice for outdoor lighting. LEDs use much less energy than incandescent bulbs, and will last for years.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Darkness is not your friend when navigating your property after dark. If walkways and stairs are unlit, you can easily stumble and injure yourself. Path lights, post lights, and walkway/stairway lights improve visibility and make your home look all the better. They all come in a variety of styles to fit your needs and aesthetic.
Many outdoor lighting products can help deter crime after dark. Architectural details of your home or landscaping installations create nooks and crannies where unsavory types might hide, and flood lights can fill in all those shadows. It’s best to use motion sensors on outdoor lights so you don’t overload your neighborhood with light (or burn up energy unnecessarily!)
Security lights shouldn’t shine through neighbors’ windows or create unpleasant glare. You also don’t want them to interfere with your own security cameras. A lighting expert can help fine-tune these placement details.
OUTDOOR LIGHTING CONTROL
You can use timers to switch on security lights at predetermined times, which helps create the impression you’re at home when you’re out of town. Photoelectric sensors detect changes in light, and provide automatic operation from dusk until dawn. They’re a good alternative to timers because they don’t need to be adjust as daylight hours fluctuate.
A combination light uses both photoelectric and motion sensors. They turn on the light at partial power at dusk, then activate it to full power when movement is detected.
Many security lights can be wired to smart home systems and controlled from your computer or phone.
Paul F.P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.