There are multiple reasons why we like to light our outdoors and gardens.
For some it is to create an outdoor room to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of one’s garden in a night atmosphere. For others it might be more for entertaining, or to be able to utilise the entire property after dark just as you do during day. And then there are safety aspects, enabling yourself and guests to wander around your garden without tripping over obstacles falling down steps or not knowing what is ahead of you.
Maybe you have a long driveway that is dark, a bit scary and you would love the peace of mind of having it well-lit at night. Perhaps you want the safety of having the area around your pool a lot easier to see at night so there is less risk of someone falling over or hurting themselves. Is your ideal end result that you will get to enjoy your beautiful gardens at night as well is during the day.
Whilst I predominantly like to focus on garden lighting designs for enjoyment through every season of the year, we must also realise that there is a very real and significant security component in all garden lighting. With a good lighting design your garden and outdoor areas will be warm and inviting, converting a dark invisible garden that might have been a black hole at night to a stunning night environment to relish on those lovely summer nights and relax in the outdoors.
Even on those wet winters nights it is wonderful to look out the window and see your outdoors sparkling with the fresh raindrops on the leaves, the richness of the timber deck as it is highlighted by the rain. As much as we enjoy this environment, as our eyes are drawn to the illuminated night scene it is equally as much of a deterrent to those that might be considering entering your property with the wrong intentions. Criminals do not want to be seen therefore they are more likely to avoid a property where there is a good level of illumination in the garden and an outdoor areas.
Over the last 10 years outdoor lighting and how we light outdoors, has been significantly impacted and changed with the use of LED bulbs/lamps. Pre-LED power consumption cost and impact on the environment was more of a concern as the outdoor lights at that time we using up to 10 times more energy therefore outdoor lighting and particularly security lighting tended to be on for short periods of time.
With the amazing energy efficiency of LED, the power consumption simply isn’t as big a concern as it was. To give an example; the average outdoor garden light with a 6watt lamp, if it were to be left on all night every night for a year, based on the average energy cost within the Auckland area would cost just under $5.5 per year. Given that energy costs through LED technology has reduced it has opened up some options that perhaps previously were not as attractive due to the cost.
We now have so many options for lighting and switching our outdoors. There are simple movement sensored spotlights that are mounted on the wall, so that when any movement is detected in the monitored area the powerful spotlights flood that area. Highly sophisticated outdoor lighting control systems offer a significant outdoor security component.
The sensor type floodlights are probably the most cost effective and give very good light however they do kill any ambience. As a lighting designer my preference is completely biased towards creating interesting and enjoyable night scenes by illuminating and highlighting features, hedges paths all the main components in your outdoor areas thus producing an enjoyable inviting and interesting night scene. This type of lighting can be automated and increase the security aspect with the use of appropriate switching various solutions.
• Day/Night switch: This is one of the simplest and most reliable options, other than a simple manual on off switch. These units detect when it is getting dark and switch the lights on automatically when it gets dark; they can be programmed to automatically switch off at a given time or the next morning when it is light. The advantage of these is that you will always have your lights on to enjoy your garden at night, and when you are not home you know that your property will be illuminated while you’re away.
• Outdoor lighting controller: An extremely effective solution is a complete outdoor lighting/security controller such as a SentriMaster. These units shoot an invisible beam across your driveway or any other area that you would like monitored. How they work is when the beam is broken either by a vehicle or a person during the hours of darkness all the lights will automatically switch on. These can be programmed to stay on any length of time and then switch off again. The controllers will often have the ability to control multiple zones, you might like to have the lights on all night and the garden lights switched on when the beam is broken. You can also have an audible warning so that you know when somebody is on your property. These controllers are the most reliable as they are not likely to have false triggers by cats and dogs.
• Movement Sensor: Commonly known as a PIR, this monitors an area for movement and when it detects movement and it is dark it will switch the lights on for a pre-programed amount of time. These units are generally a cost-effective option however they are prone to false triggers by cats and dogs.
There is no limit to what you can achieve with Garden lighting, with a creative approach you would be amazed what can be achieved resulting in stunning effects and night scenes. We are only limited by our imagination.