Water features—fountains, waterfalls, ponds, water gardens—are often considered the crown jewel of landscape design. So naturally, yours can and should become a focal point in your landscape lighting design concept. There are two primary reasons to add water features to a landscape design. The first is a more practical application—a solution to noise pollution: street traffic, noisy neighbors, you name it. The other is to add an element of tranquility through the sound and visual beauty an aquascape.
The Two Best Lighting Techniques for Water Features
Water feature lighting has largely to do with what features will be included in a landscape lighting design: aquatic plants, aquatic life, statuary, and hardscaping. But, generally speaking, there are just a few types of landscape lighting fixtures and techniques used to light water features: downlights to create moonlighting, submersible lights to create a type of aquatic area lighting, and underwater lights to create uplighting.
Downlights to create moonlight: These fixtures are placed above the water feature—generally attached to trees—to create diffused, natural-looking light that mimics moonlight.
Underwater/submersible to create uplighting and aquatic area lighting: Waterproof light fixtures are placed under the water’s surface and/or the water feature and directed upward to create an uplighting effect that beautifully backlights aquatic life such as water lilies. These submersible lights can also be placed above, below, or at the water line to create a warm and whimsical lighting effect that emphasizes a body of water’s features such as aquatic life and underwater statues. Although CAST doesn’t offer this type of fixture, we recommend looking for pool and spa-rated fixtures for best results.
Other Factors to Consider
Light levels and beam angles: Lower light levels are typically used for lighting water features in order to adequately key in on the focal point while avoiding glare. Properly positioning the light fixture to achieve these objectives is very important here. Beam angles, on the other hand, are completely dependant on what’s being lit. If the focal point is a single waterfall or statue, a narrow beam is applied. If the entire feature such as a pond or pool is being illuminated, a wide beam spread or wash light would be applied.
Vantage points: A rule of thumb for landscape lighting is to consider where your landscape design focal points—including your water features—will regularly be viewed from. For example, if your water fountain will be enjoyed from your front porch or the bay window of your parlor, lighting the fountain should consider these viewpoints, window glare as well as curb appeal—what it will look like from the street.
Submerged or Not to Submerge? Underwater lighting is only as good as the water it’s submerged in. Meaning, if the water is murky, the lighting effect will be compromised and the light only will emphasize the cloudy, uninviting water. On the other hand, if the body of water is maintained regularly, keeping the water clear, submerging some lights as part of your landscape lighting design can be a great idea, offering radiant results—if you use a quality waterproof light fixture.
Expert fixture placement: In addition to using a top-quality underwater light fixture, it’s just as important to place it properly. Professional installation and placement ensure that the fixtures you’ve invested in capture the effect of the water feature—it’s tranquility, it’s movement, it’s zen. We recommend an integrated lighting design, incorporating a combination of submerged lighting, underwater lighting, and downlighting in addition to the rest of your landscape lighting design, which should include area lighting and other directional lighting.
The right fixture for the job: We cannot stress this enough: Selecting the right light fixtures is of utmost importance. Skimping here will only set you back in the long run, so pick a top-quality fixture that you can rely on for years to come.
Get Ready to Relax
With careful planning and research followed by professional installation and nighttime adjustments to get the lighting design just right, you will have a display of magnificent lighting effects that work harmoniously to create a memorable and enjoyable outdoor living experience. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the (water) feature presentation!
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