Selecting the right light level or lumen output can make all the difference in creating a beautiful and functional landscape lighting design.
When choosing the right lumen output for your LED lighting project (as opposed to watts, which are used for antiquated halogen bulbs), there are some key factors to consider. These include the desired effect and mood, your lighting objectives, and the size of the subject being lit.
Generally, we categorize the lumen output into four different light levels. Let’s review these output levels and how to apply them in landscape lighting design.
Levels of Landscape Lighting
You want to avoid intense or high lighting that might blow out a scene by washing out the subject, making it look visually unattractive and fatiguing to the eye.
Also, if you choose a light level that is too low, a lovely feature may be left unnoticed, or specific spaces may become dangerous to navigate.
Let’s take a closer look at each light level:
Light Level 1
Light Level 1 is our lowest lumen output range at 80 to 120 lumens. We recommend Light Level 1 for lighting subjects at ground level to about 6 to 10 feet in height. Generally, this includes back porches, decks, sidewalks, bushes, shrubs, hedgerows, and other plant materials.
We also recommend using wide beam angles to wash light evenly across these subjects.
The goal is to maintain cohesion by using low and wide beam spreads to wash low levels of light across plants and shrubs—as opposed to creating abrasive hot spots that leave other areas dark.
To achieve this effect, you can use our https://cast-lighting.com/landscape-products, like deck, area, and path lights, which are more suitable than harsh spotlights.
Light Level 2
Light Level 2 ranges from 140 to 180 lumens. The lumen output range is ideal for lighting subjects 10 to 20 feet high—like the soffit of a two-story home or the tops of tall trees. Understandably, the taller a subject is, the more light you will need to illuminate it.
Light Level 2 is generally used to create a shadowing effect on the facade of a two-story home and medium-sized trees. This works by placing light fixtures in the ground and shining them on the subject. You can use this light level to add more depth and dimension to your outdoor space. Level 2 lighting can also help you illuminate focal points.
Light Level 3
Light Level 3 ranges from 230 to 270 lumens and is used to light larger trees and three-story homes.
The three primary landscape light fixtures used for this application are spotlights, well lights, and uplights. Light Level 3 is ideal for hitting the soffit of these three-story homes and grazing light on the front of larger homes and mansions.
At Light Level 3, you can also apply the moonlighting technique by adding quality outdoor lighting fixtures in trees and soffits 20 to 30 feet in the air.
This technique results in a moonlighting effect, which is—you guessed it—an effect that mimics a full moon shining down on a property.
The moonlighting effect can sometimes be achieved at Light Level 2. But generally, this technique is done using Light Level 3.
Light Level 4
The lumen output range for Light Level 4 is an impressive 350 to 1,000 lumens. As a result, Light Level 4 is suitable for launching light up into 50- to 80-foot-tall oaks and pine trees.
It’s also an effective way to accentuate focal points of mega mansions, like peaks of chimney tops that stand 70 feet tall.
Light Level 4 allows you to create a unique and dynamic outdoor area with a combination of lighting fixtures and lighting layers. Spotlights, well lights, uplights, and moonlight fixtures are ideal for this lumen output range to create vivid uplighting scenes and moonlighting effects.
Layering Light Levels
As you can see, different lumen outputs are required for different jobs, lighting subjects of all sizes and shapes. All four light levels work together to create a magnificent exterior lighting design in unison with proper beam angles.
An outstanding landscape lighting design uses layers, depth, cohesion, and symmetry. This draws the eye from low-lit subjects to the brightest. Now, let’s see some key factors that will help you layer your outdoor lighting.
1. Lighting Objectives
Choosing your lighting objectives will help you determine how to create a lighting layer for your space. For example, if you aim to highlight trees and architectural features, you know that you’ll need to add Level 3 spotlights or uplights to your lighting plan.
Some key outdoor elements to consider when determining your lighting objectives include:
- Safety and precautionary procedures
- Focal areas
- High-traffic areas
Setting clear objectives with the above in mind will help you optimize your landscape lighting effectively.
2. Size and Layout
The size and layout of your property or the object being lit will also determine the amount of lighting you need. We already saw how each lighting level suits different outdoor areas and structures.
To achieve a cohesive lighting plan, consider the size of the area you want to illuminate. For example, a small patio will require more subtle but well-placed outdoor fixtures than a large walkway.
Additionally, you want to integrate lighting that flows with the layout of your outdoor area. So think about the best position for different lighting types. Mapping out the various areas of your property will give you a clearer view of landscape elements like trees, structures, facades, and so on.
You also want to pay attention to how the various lighting elements are positioned. You want to create a uniform and enjoyable transition between different outdoor areas.
3. Desired Effect and Mood
Finally, consider the desired effect and mood. Research reveals that light has a powerful effect on your mood. So being intentional about the mood you wish to create is important.
For instance, if you want a more subtle and relaxed outdoor area, you’ll capitalize on warm Level 1 lighting. If you want a vibrant and dramatic effect, you can infuse more Level 3 lighting in strategic positions—think trees, high walls, and other elevated structures in specific corners.
Creating a captivating landscape depends on how well you can combine the different light levels effectively. A well-illuminated landscape is not only pleasing to the eyes but also functional.
This landscape lighting guide looked into the four key light levels and how to apply them in your landscape design. You also learned how factors like lighting objectives, landscape size and layout, and the desired mood will help you make the best landscape lighting choices.
Understanding these basics makes you more informed and equipped to efficiently use different types of lighting in your landscape design.