House to Home: Several options light external paths in landscaping - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

House to Home: Several options light external paths in landscaping

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Posted: Friday, June 6, 2008 1:32 pm | Updated: 9:19 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Lighting is one of the most important elements to think about when designing rooms, inside or out. Lighting is practical and decorative; a variety of lighting options allows us to work and play safely and creates a mood that enhances the way we live. When planning your exterior lighting, begin by checking out the most up-to-date lighting systems. They not only offer a total range of styles, but most important, they are designed to preserve energy. Here's a look at the newest light products available. Choose your exterior lighting carefully to take full advantage of all its benefits.

Solar garden lights are powered by the sun's free energy and are the easiest to install. The solar charging panel, which is part of the light unit or attached by a cord, requires sun to charge during the day. The light given off is soft, most commonly used along paths and stairs, and to gently highlight gardens. There has been a rapid advancement in bulbs, and it's now possible to get a brighter solar light using LED or low-voltage fluorescent bulbs.

Incandescent lighting is the most common source but is also the most energy hungry. It's not necessary nor desirable to have high-wattage lighting outside. Cut back on electrical output by using motion sensors for high-wattage security lighting.

The hot trend today for landscape lighting is toward installing low-voltage transformers. This means a transformer takes your home's 120-volt electricity and drops it down to 12 volt. Look for low-voltage light products to match up with the low energy system. There's plenty of choice in all styles of garden lights, including the Oak Trail chandelier, lit by 6.5 watt low-voltage bulbs. The chandelier can be hung from a tree, inside an arbor or canopied structure.

Fluorescent lighting has evolved, too. No longer simply the kitchen's under-cabinet staple, low-energy fluorescent bulbs are designed to fit into all outdoor lighting designs, including lampposts, garden lights and accent lights. There's also a fluorescent bulb that sheds a warmer light.

LED (light-emitting diode) lights got a lot of press over the past holiday season, but they are not just for holiday decoration. The energy-saving properties of this light source are huge. LED lighting uses 12 volts like the low-voltage incandescent lights, but they shine with a far brighter light. The color thrown off by LED lights is seen by some as too sharp or bright, certainly not soft, but this is changing.

Well-planned landscape lighting will prolong the time you can enjoy your exterior spaces. Product style options have grown with the times. Rural, Colonial, Craftsman, Art Deco, Modern - make a selection that complements the architecture of your home and garden. Lamp colors and finishes are just as broad, from brass, bronze and copper to pewter, stainless steel, nickel and chrome. Visit the Internet as well as your local lighting stores to give yourself the widest selection.

Always make safety a priority. Whether you hire a qualified electrician or do it yourself, make sure all electrical cords and fixtures are designed for exterior use. Bury all cords, wires and conduits to keep people from tripping over them, and identify their location to avoid damage from digging.

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