An outdoor lighting plan is a blueprint for illuminating your garden, patio, and other exterior spaces. It involves the strategic placement of lighting fixtures to both improve aesthetics and enhance security.
A good outdoor lighting plan makes your yard look great at night. It highlights special features like trees, gardens, or fountains and sets a cozy mood for gatherings with family and friends.
Lighting up your yard also keeps it safe. Well-placed lights make it hard for unwanted visitors to sneak around. They also help you and your guests see where you’re going so nobody trips or gets hurt. This guide explains how to make such an outdoor lighting plan in six steps.
1. Start With a Drawing of the Area
You should start an outdoor lighting plan with a drawing of your yard. That helps you see the whole space at a glance and figure out where you want the lights to go.
A drawing makes it easier to spot the key features you want to highlight, like a big tree or a garden path. It also helps you avoid mistakes, like putting too many lights in one area and leaving another spot too dark.
2. Consider Your Goals
After you’ve made a drawing of your yard, the next step is to think about your lighting goals. Common goals for outdoor lighting plans include:
- Highlight Architectural Features: Focus on special parts of your home’s exterior, like the front door or unique architectural details, to make them stand out.
- Improve Safety: Light up paths, steps, and tricky areas to prevent trips and falls, making it easier to walk around your yard at night.
- Boost Security: A well-lit yard makes it hard for intruders to sneak around, giving you extra peace of mind.
- Create Social Spaces: Add lights to patios or decks to make these areas welcoming for evening hangouts or dinners.
Knowing your goals helps you pick the right types of lights and decide where they should go. For example, directional lights like our CAST Classic MR-16 Bullet Lights may be your best bet if you’re looking to spotlight a beautiful fountain or statue.
On the other hand, if you want to make a pathway safer to walk at night, then you might go with our Small Mushroom Path Light.
Having clear goals makes it easier to create a lighting plan that works for you.
3. Define Your Lighting Needs
After you’ve identified your goals, consider your specific lighting needs. Your needs will vary depending on what you want to accomplish.
For instance, if your goal is to improve safety, you’ll need to identify all the areas that could be hazardous in low light, like stairs or uneven pathways.
On the other hand, if you want to create social spaces, think about how you’ll be using the area.
Depending on the activities, you might need brighter lights for cooking but softer, more atmospheric lights for a seating area.
For highlighting architectural features or garden elements, you’ll need to consider the angle and intensity of the light. A poorly angled light can create glare or shadows, ruining the effect you were hoping to achieve. This is where ambient lighting like our Craftsman Series Bronze Deck Lights and accent lighting like the CAST Classic Wall Wash perform extremely well.
4. Position Your Lighting Fixtures
Once you’ve got a clear picture of your goals and needs, the next step is figuring out where to position your lighting fixtures. The placement of the lights impacts the appearance of your outdoor space.
When planning your outdoor lighting, practical considerations like optimal spacing and electrical capacity are crucial for achieving an effective and safe installation.
Regarding the optimal spacing for lighting fixtures:
- Pathway Lighting: Lights should be spaced approximately 6 to 10 feet apart to create even light distribution. The exact distance when lighting pathways can vary based on the brightness of your chosen fixtures and the level of ambient light.
- Accent Lighting: When highlighting features like statues or plants, it’s not so much about the spacing as choosing the right angle and distance to make the object stand out.
We always recommend using a qualified lighting specialist to create your outdoor lighting plan. They’ll have the experience and knowledge needed to make the best use of your space.
5. Place Your Transformers
The location of the transformer is another key element to consider in your outdoor lighting plan. Since transformers convert high-voltage household electricity into a lower, safer voltage for your outdoor lights, they play a crucial role in your installation.
The number of lights that can be connected to a single transformer depends on two factors: the wattage of the transformer and the combined wattage of all the connected lights.
For example, if you have a 300-watt transformer and each light fixture uses 20 watts, you can safely connect up to 15 lights (300/20 = 15).
Leave some room for flexibility. It’s a good rule of thumb to keep the total wattage of your lights at around 80% of the transformer’s capacity.
Finally, always check local building codes and consult a professional. Some localities have particular regulations regarding where to place transformers. That’s important for things like proximity to water features for pools.
6. Determine the Wire Runs
The final step is determining the wire runs that connect the transformers and lighting fixtures. The layout of your wire runs should be as straightforward as possible to make maintenance easier. You can use T-connectors or hubs to streamline a complicated layout. For safety, and often by code, you should bury low-voltage wires around 6 inches under the ground. That is deep enough that you won’t have to worry about hitting a wire when gardening. Two other important considerations are the length of wire runs and the thickness, or gauge, of the wire. These two considerations are closely connected. Longer runs of wire may result in a voltage drop, leading to dimmer lights at the far end of the circuit. Meanwhile, the wire’s thickness, or gauge, impacts how efficiently electricity is carried.
A thicker wire carries electricity more efficiently over longer distances—standard gauges for outdoor lighting range from 12 gauge to 16 gauge, with 12 gauge being suitable for longer runs.
When choosing your wire, consider CAST No-Ox® Marine-Grade Tin-Coated Landscape Lighting Wire as a premium option. Its high corrosion resistance ensures long-lasting performance. It also retains conductivity longer than all copper wire. The wire comes in various gauges and is available in spools of both 250- and 500-feet.
4 Common Outdoor Wiring Methods
The wiring method you choose plays a crucial role in both the functionality and reliability of your outdoor lighting plan. Understanding your options is critical to creating an efficient and safe outdoor lighting plan.
The daisy chain method is one of the simplest ways to wire outdoor lighting fixtures. In this setup, each light is connected in a series, one right after the other. This configuration makes for easy installation, as you simply connect each new fixture to the last one in the line, forming a “chain.”
However, the daisy chain method has a drawback: It can result in a voltage drop toward the end of the chain, causing the lights to dim. This happens because the electrical current has to travel a longer distance as it moves down the line, losing some of its strength along the way.
A daisy chain is best suited for shorter runs or low-wattage lighting setups.
2. Hub Method
In the hub method, multiple lights are connected to a single junction point, or “hub,” which is then connected directly to the power source. This setup allows for a more consistent voltage supply to each lighting fixture, helping to avoid the issue of voltage drop common in daisy chain configurations.
While the hub method may require more wiring and potentially more hubs, depending on the layout, it often results in a more reliable and efficient lighting system. The hub method ensures each light receives consistent power, maintaining uniform brightness across all fixtures.
3. T Method
The T method offers a compromise between the daisy chain and hub methods. In this setup, fixtures are connected in a “T” shape, with a main wire running from the transformer to a central point in the lighting layout. From this central point, secondary wires extend like branches of a tree to each fixture.
The T method minimizes voltage drop by keeping wire runs relatively short and direct, making it a suitable choice for medium-sized installations. It also allows for a little more design flexibility, as fixtures can be easily added or adjusted along any of the “arms.” The method does require careful planning, though.
4. Combination Method
The combination method blends elements from the daisy chain, hub, and T methods to create a customized wiring solution tailored to the unique requirements of your outdoor lighting project. This approach is good for complex or large-scale installations.
The main advantage of the combination method is its adaptability. You can optimize voltage distribution, ease of installation, and future scalability in one layout.
There you have it. That’s how to plan your outdoor lighting. Once again, we recommend working with an expert for the best results. You also want to buy durable products that will last for years to come to ensure outdoor lighting fixtures last.
Our lighting fixtures are not just designed to meet your immediate needs; they’re built to stand the test of time. Crafted for durability and timeless appeal, our products offer an unbeatable combination of reliability and aesthetic versatility. You can review our Classic and Craftsman ranges directly on the site or contact our friendly team for more information.