Installing low-voltage landscape lighting is a project that can enhance the aesthetic appeal, safety, and security of your outdoor living areas, such as your yard, garden, deck, dock, or patio. Before you begin, it is crucial to understand the fundamentals of landscape lighting. This article is designed to guide you through the process, ensuring you choose aspectLED products best suited for your needs.


Planning

Landscape lighting can improve your outdoor space. Some key questions to ask yourself in the planning stage of your project would be:


  • What do you love most about your yard?
  • How and when are you planning to use your outdoor spaces?
  • Is there a special architectural structure or feature you want to highlight?
  • When and where is security lighting most important?

Landscape Lighting Fixtures Types


    Spotlight Landscape Lighting
  • Spotlights: Spotlight fixtures highlight key features in your landscaping. These lights can be utilized to uplight or downlight your outdoor space.
  • Landscape Flood Lighting
  • Flood lights: These are spotlights with a beam angle of 60 degrees or wider, illuminating larger areas.
  • Pathway Landscape Lighting
  • Pathway lights: Installed to illuminate walkways and pathways, they also work excellently in large flower beds.
  • Hardscape Landscape Lighting
  • Hardscape fixtures: These are used to highlight specific architectural features when a low-profile fixture is desired. Commonly they are installed in retaining or free-standing walls or into steps.
  • In-Ground Landscape Lighting
  • In-ground lights: Ideal for up-lighting situations where the light source should remain unseen. These fixtures are installed into the ground or concrete so they are level with dirt, mulch, or walkways.
  • Recessed In-Wall Lighting
  • Recessed In-Wall lights: Installed into masonry walls, wood walls, and decks, to illuminate steps or patios.

Choosing the Best Landscape Lighting

Our team of lighting experts at aspectLED use their knowledge to source and deliver some of the top products in the landscape lighting industry. Our fixtures are made with premium components that will stand the test of time. The solid brass or copper constructions age beautifully, holding their functional beauty and durability for many years. Before we get started, let’s talk about some key landscape lighting terminology.


Key Landscape Lighting Terminology


  1. Beam spread or angle encapsulates how wide the light spans, selected based on the light's required width. This is often shown as 15 degrees, 30 degrees or 60-degree beam spread.
  2. Beam Angle
  3. Color temperature (measured in Kelvin) refers to how warm (yellow) or cool (blue) the lighting appears. Our most popular landscape lights are selected in the 2700K-3000K range.

  4. LED Light Color Temperature
  5. Lumen output indicates how much light the fixture provides, or in simpler terms, how bright it is.

  6. Beam Angle
  7. Wattage is the energy consumed by a fixture. When choosing a transformer, make sure you follow the 80% rule. This means that your lighting system has at least a 20% buffer, so you don't exceed 80% of its capacity.
  8. Efficacy embodies the ratio comparing power consumption to light output, measured in lumens per watt. LED bulbs, due to their enhanced efficiency, produce many more lumens while using significantly less power.

Landscape Lighting Types Explained


Lighting Techniques

Angled Uplighting

This method is best used when trying to light objects or features from one direction only. It's commonly used to highlight tall elements in your area such as treetops, flags, or large statues. Landscape spotlights (surface or stake) are best for this type of lighting, but you can also utilize certain spotlights, accent lights, and flood lights for this purpose as well.

Angled Landscape Lighting

Vertical Uplighting

This method is similar to the previous one except that the light source is directly underneath the intended lighting target. Uplighting in this fashion results in your feature being evenly lit from multiple viewing angles. This is very common for highlighting large trees where you want to show off the trunk as well as the branches. In-ground lights are best for this application, but you can also utilize certain spotlights, flood lights, and accent lights for this type of lighting.

Vertical Uplighting

Moonlighting

Moonlighting is a technique that when done properly will mimic the effect of a full moonlit sky shining through your trees. Multiple light fixtures are placed high within the branches of a tall or mature tree and aimed downwards to cast through its leaves and branches. The shadows cast by this method will create a unique and organic feel to your outdoor space.

Moonlighting a tree

Silhouetting

Silhouetting is similar to angled uplighting except the main goal is to purposely cast a shadow of organic or artistic elements onto a lighter background. Trees, small fountains, and intricate sculpture pieces can cast amazing shadows that will really stand out on a wall. This is best done when the light fixture is placed very close and directly in front of what you are lighting so that the shadows are as dark and sharp as possible.

Silhouette lighting a tree

Washing

Washing (also called wall washing) is when you flood a large area, usually a large wall on a structure or perimeter wall, with even amounts of light to illuminate as much space as possible. When done correctly, washing can provide lots of ambient light in an area that would normally stay dark at night. Take care to use it sparingly as overusing this technique will decrease the number of shadows in your space, which could negate your area's character and personality.

Washing a wall with light

Grazing

Grazing is a great technique to use if you have textured stone walls and want to highlight the stone itself. This works best on any walls with heavily textured and uneven bricks or stones. Grazing properly is when you place multiple light fixtures in a row on a flat plane and either shine them up or down to cast irregular patterns across the textured wall.

Grazing Technique

Path lighting

Path lighting is essential if you have any sort of pathway where anyone would be walking through your space. When lighting up those areas you want to make sure the walking path is easily visible and that your fixtures are as evenly spaced as possible. It can be very easy to overdo path lighting so make sure not to place too many or you end up washing your area with too much light unintentionally. Also try to avoid perfect symmetrical placement as that will make your walkways seem more like boring airport runways.


Step Lighting

Similar to path lighting, step lighting is meant to safely highlight any stairs or steps in your area to allow for easier and safer movement through your outdoor space. Step lights are most frequently used for this purpose, but you can also use waterproof LED strip lights, recessed in-wall, or spotlights to illuminate your steps. Regardless of which products you end up using you will want to make sure that all steps are very clearly visible to prevent any tripping or other serious injuries. Avoid any lighting products or lighting angles that would result in heavy shadows over the top portions of your steps.


Landscape Lighting Components

The first major component of a lighting system is the fixture, which not only houses the light source but directs light towards the desired area. The next critical component is the low voltage transformer. This device serves as the power supply, converting line voltage current down to 12-volt AC. The remaining two components — the wiring and connectors — distribute the power from the transformer to the fixtures.


Additional Product Considerations

Some additional things that you should consider when choosing your outdoor products are:

  • Always look at the IP rating. The IP rating (Ingress Protection) of a product determines how well protected the fixture is against dust and liquid intrusion. The higher the rating, the better protected the fixture is against those elements. You should always aim to get fixtures that are at least IP65 or higher for outdoor lighting. Keep in mind that unless the product is rated IP68, they are not considered submersible and will need to have proper drainage around them to protect the fixture.
    IP65IP68

  • Consider whether you need fixtures that are made with 316 stainless steel. Most stainless steel fixtures are made with the more common 304 stainless steel, which stands up well to most types of corrosion, but doesn't have very high chloride resistance. If you live near the ocean, near any saltwater adjacent environment, or even near heavily salted roadways in the winter, then 316 stainless steel fixtures will withstand better against that type of environment. Some aspectLED fixtures can be special ordered with 316 stainless steel. Make sure to chat with one of our LED experts if you need this type of product

  • Integrated fixtures have a built-in LED board, eliminating the need for a separate bulb. However, if the LED board fails, the whole fixture needs replacement. On the other hand, lamp-ready fixtures take a bulb allowing for higher customization in relation to brightness, color temperature, and beam spread. If a light fails, simply pop in a new bulb. We offer both options for our landscape lighting here at aspectLED, so take your needs into consideration when choosing these lights.


  • Which type of power supply/transformer should I go with? This question can be answered by choosing where the power supply will be in relation to the lighting fixtures. If you are replacing old landscape lights you may already have a power supply or transformer in place to use. With an existing power supply/transformer the voltage type will need to be checked using a voltage meter or labels on the power supply/transformer so the lights that are purchased are of the same voltage type. Additionally, the electrical codes for your area may require a specific type of power supply/transformer. If unsure, check out the most up to date NEC requirements or partner with a licensed electrician.


  • Landscape lights may have different voltage type options available. Here are the options and the differences between the four types:


    1. 12VAC, Oldest and most popular standard since the late 1950's. Most outdoor lighting companies will offer their fixtures in 12VAC. This option does very well with longer wire lengths. If you already have an outdoor power supply, chances are that it's 12VAC.

    2. 24VDC, is very flexible with wire lengths and very popular for indoor and outdoor low voltage lighting. 24VDC fixtures are easy to integrate into existing indoor lighting control systems.


    3. 12VDC, is currently the least popular option for outdoor landscape lighting. Mostly only used in automotive/marine settings. Wiring lengths need to be shorter due to voltage drop tolerances being much lower. It is wise to only consider 12VDC if you already have an existing 12VDC power system in place.


    4. 120VAC, does not require a separate power supply/transformer. Line voltage outdoor fixtures are used mostly in commercial settings but can do well for residential projects. 120VAC fixtures are also very flexible with longer wire lengths. Depending on electrical codes for your area, to install this type of light it may require licensed electricians to install properly and safely.


    5. Electricity should always be worked on carefully so make sure you are safe! Always ensure that your power supplies are off and never cut or install live wire into your fixtures. Low voltage shocks still hurt!

  • Not all outdoor fixtures are created equally. Make sure you carefully review the specs of each product you're selecting, such as their power options, dimmability, and color options before you complete your purchases

Plan your Wiring


The primary reason you do not want to do this is voltage drop. The longer your wire and the more current you have running through it, the faster your voltage will drop from your power source to the end of your circuit. If your voltage drops too much from your power source (10% or more), your lighting will not work correctly and could get damaged. Another reason is if one of your lights in the first part of the chain goes out, all of the following lights will go out as well, which will make troubleshooting longer and more frustrating. And yet another reason would be the need for multiple potting setups. You may save some money on wiring but will quickly outspend the savings by having to buy and set up multiple potted junctions. Instead, we recommend that you setup a star topology:


Daisy Chain Layout Star Layout

With a star topology setup, all of your lights will have its own dedicated wiring going to one spot, so you won't have to worry about voltage drop as much. And because they are wired separately, if any one light goes out, the rest are unaffected. And lastly, you only have to waterproof/pot this one junction instead of having to do that for each light.


Conclusion

In conclusion, installing low-voltage landscape lighting is not only a valuable addition to your outdoor living areas but also an investment in the beauty, safety, and security of your property. By understanding the fundamentals of landscape lighting and carefully planning your project, you can transform your yard, garden, deck, dock, or patio into a well-lit sanctuary. Remember to choose aspectLED products for their durability, efficiency, and the ability to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your space. With the right fixtures and techniques, you can create a stunning outdoor ambiance that reflects your style and meets your needs. Start your journey to a brighter outdoor experience today!