There is much about landscape lighting that surprises (and delights). What is not so delighting is the surprise about how much a professional charges to illuminate their property. For the die-hard DIY’ers, the cost may be hard to understand. Let’s try to understand it.
Some homeowners are surprised when told that a significant amount of the lighting project fee is for the lighting design. They may just want a few lights along a path or to highlight a few trees, what’s the big deal?
They may also be surprised when told that their home and property may require 20 or 30 lights instead of the 10 they anticipated. Is the contractor going overboard?
The answer to these questions can be found in the understanding that good landscape lighting design is a fine art that accomplishes many things at the same time. A skilled and experienced landscape lighting designer goes through a process starting with setting goals then devising a strategy to achieve those goals. There are numerous lighting techniques that can be employed and many lighting effects that can be achieved. The knowledge, skill and artistry required for a great lighting design is considerable and requires a significant investment of time and energy.
The difference between a great landscape lighting design and a mediocre one can be clearly seen and felt by the homeowner. A great landscape lighting design creates a nighttime experience perfectly tailored to your wants and needs. Do you want to feel warmly welcomed and secure as you drive onto your property at night? Do you want to see the beauty of your home illuminated in a way that is dramatic yet subtle? Do you want your trees rising out of the darkness in ways that are both brilliant and natural? The possibilities are endless.
If you hire an experienced landscape lighting designer, your investment will reward you every night for years to come.
How do you participate in the landscape lighting design process?
We strongly recommend that homeowners actively participate in the lighting design process. Most important, and the first step in the process, is the setting of goals.
Goals can categorized in the following way:
- Safety. Lighting is important to ensure safe passage throughout your property. Pathways, stairs, decks, docks, patios and recreational areas all need to be illuminated to prevent tripping and falls. Keep in mind that elderly residents and visitors require a higher level of illumination than younger people. In your discussions with your designer, be sure to identify all areas of your property that are likely to be navigated at night.
- Security. Most homeowners rely upon high-intensity security lighting or post lights to prevent unseen intruders from entering the property. That type of lighting is both unattractive and largely ineffective. These glaring lights leave areas of complete darkness and make it more difficult to see intruders. Talk with your designer about replacing your existing security lighting with lower intensity lighting that illuminates larger areas of your property.
- Beauty. The landscape lighting designer does two things: 1. Selectively reveals beauty that already exists on your property; and 2. Adds beauty through the creative use of light and shadow. Identify the architectural and landscape features that you would like to see illuminated at night. If some of these are more important than others, tell your designer, he or she can direct the viewers experience to accentuate these features.
- Nighttime Usability. Let your designer know if certain areas of your property will be used for certain activities or functions. The designer may be able to offer you additional lighting zones that can be called into play when needed. For example, if you occasionally hold parties in a lawn area, the designer can put the party lighting on a separate switch. The same could be accomplished for recreational areas such as putting greens, basketball courts and so on.
- Energy Efficiency. Discuss with your designer about ways he or she can design your system for optimal energy efficiency.
Hopefully, this article has convinced you that Landscape Lighting Design is a fine art best left to a professional who has the passion, skill and experience to do it right. I also hope that if you hire a pro, then you work with him or her to design an illumination scheme that will enhance your nighttime experience to the max.