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Outdoor Lighting - A Buyer's Guide

What you need to know about outdoor lighting for your lawn and garden

A well-designed outdoor lighting arrangement can make your lawn and garden safer and more attractive, but a trip down the outdoor lighting aisle of your local home improvement store can leave you bewildered by the numerous choices available.

Here are a few tips for choosing the right outdoor lighting for your lawn and garden:

  1. Size of area to be illuminated - Do you need to light a small, open area? If so, you'll probably better served by a single, attractive, centrally located post-mounted light.

    If you need to provide outdoor lighting for a larger area and/or an area that has large trees, fences, or other light obstacles, you'll need to consider separate, smaller lights that serve the various areas of your property.

    You'll find a wide variety of outdoor lighting solutions ranging from post-mounted lights to lower accent lights such as those you see along walkways and driveways.
  2. Convenience - Do you want to turn your outdoor lighting on and off manually, or do you prefer an automatic switching unit?

    The advantage of a manual switch is that you can turn your outdoor lighting receptacles on and off at your pleasure. The disadvantage is you have to remember to turn your outdoor lights on and off every time.

    The advantage of automatic switching models is they turn on and off by themselves.

    There are two main types of automatic outdoor lighting units:
      a - Motion activated - Outdoor lighting that is controlled by motion sensors is very popular because the lights only come on when something is moving in the immediate area. The disadvantage is these units are easily triggered by pets or other small animals.
      b - Dusk to dawn - These outdoor lighting units automatically turn themselves on when it begins to get dark, and off at dawn. The advantages offered by these lights include predictability and hands-off operation (they automatically turn themselves on and off every day at the proper times).
  3. Power source - Modern outdoor lighting units are available in two main varieties:
      a - Directly connected to a standard electrical outlet - Until recently, this was by far the most common type of outdoor lighting. The disadvantage of this type of lighting is the wire that you have to run (either below ground or on poles).
      b - Solar powered - These units are powered by a battery that is charged during the day by solar panels.
      The advantage of solar powered units is you don't have to bother with stringing wires between the outdoor lighting and your house. This convenience comes at a higher per-unit cost however. Another disadvantage is the battery will eventually degrade and need to be replaced.
Conclusion: By carefully considering how your outdoor space is laid out and which outdoor lighting features are most important to you, you can end up with a lawn that is very attractive and safe!

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