The British love affair with gardens is quite literally flourishing. Recent research reveals that we spend £7.7billion each year simply maintaining our outside space. Perhaps that is why interest in garden lighting has blossomed. Bringing the outside – inside during the winter and of course maximising the long days of Summer – when they eventually arrive.
As with everything – garden lighting has its own tips and tricks. As elsewhere LED is having a major impact. Miniaturisation of lighting sources has changed the design approach.
In general (and If the budget can stretch), always specify and install as high a quality fittings as possible for exterior lighting. Solid marine grade stainless steel, solid copper, quality powder coating is a standard choice. Specify as high an IP rating as you can find; always IP65 in very exposed areas and IP44 as a minimum.
On a ‘project’ site – a little knowledge can command respect. Learning more can pay dividends in front of clients or when briefing a scheme to an installer. So take a deep breath and let’s venture out into the garden.
There are two main types of exterior lighting to consider – dedicated LED and Low voltage.
Low voltage lighting (12V) has been around for ages and makes sense for outdoors as 12V cables can be run surface mounted and within foliage. This saves having to use steel wired armoured cable everywhere which only adds to the cost.
Low voltage also allows long runs of cable avoiding voltage problems. Voltage drop is where the power within a cable weakens as it gets further away from the source (the transformer) and the lighting fittings are given less ‘juice’ than the ones closer to the transformer – resulting in less delivered light.
Do you really want to use LV when LED is surely the sensible choice? Well low voltage 12V fixtures can be converted to LED by fitting a 12V LED lamp or 12V LED module. Low voltage wiring runs to fixtures from a transformer with fittings running in parallel, meaning that the cabling doesn’t have to return to the transformer.
Dedicated LED fixtures are built for the purpose with superior lamp lifetimes compared to retro fitting 12V LED lamps. They are typically smaller fittings and therefore useful as discrete light sources.
Constant current LED requires to be wired in series. Unlike low voltage wiring, a loop is required from the power supply unit (the driver) to each fitting, daisy chaining in and out and then back to the driver.
Whether a LV lamp or dedicated LED, think about beam widths and how wide you want the span of light to be when illuminating within the garden.
The colour of light with LED is down to your aesthetic choice. It pays to think broadly in terms of colder and warmer whites. An example would be to throw a colder light up into a tree or canopy of foliage and use a warmer inviting light at a lower level.
A favourite technique that works so well at night is to hide a source completely (as shown in the spike light with hat above) and introduce pools of reflected light onto surrounding planting and walkways.
As with all lighting designs the intention is to draw the eye to specific areas and to allow darks and shades elsewhere. Remember, variety can be the spice of design. Call us when you need help to venture out into the garden. We have all the recent fittings and lamps to provide you with a wide pallet of design choices.