Consider outdoor lighting to accent your home

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published April 12, 2017

 Landscape lighting in the spring and summer can accent a home’s architecture and outdoor living spaces.

Landscape lighting in the spring and summer can accent a home’s architecture and outdoor living spaces.

Shutterstock image

METRO DETROIT — When outdoors this spring and summer, you don’t have to be in the dark when the sun goes down.

There are plenty of outdoor lighting options for your backyard, front yard, patio, driveway, walkway, deck or flagpole.

The national chain of Lowe’s Home Improvement offers several options.

“Landscape lighting can accent a home’s facade and landscape features, even at night. You can also use accent lighting to highlight a home’s architecture and outdoor living spaces by introducing uplights, downlights, well lights and spotlights,” Matt Michaels, Lowe’s spokesperson, said in an email. 

Path and stake lights, for instance, can illuminate walkways to prevent accidents along footpaths. Deck lights also can be a lighting option. Outdoor lighting fixtures are available as hardwire, plug-in or solar units. By using a light sensor, the fixture determines the time of day and operates only in the evening. 

“This is an especially useful feature when used in combination with motion lighting, as to avoid paying for electricity used unnecessarily in daylight hours,” Michaels said. “If you don’t have motion fixtures or dusk-to-dawn fixtures, homeowners should consider using a timer for outdoor lighting.”

Many different colors and styles are available, including antique copper, polished copper, black, verdigris, pewter, antique brown and brass. Verdigris or black also suit consumers who want their light fixtures to blend in with surrounding foliage. Some trends include vintage chic, industrial, linear and nautical.

“There are several types of lights and fixtures that enable homeowners to light up almost anything they’d like. For example, wall lights mount on virtually any vertical surface and cast an ambient glow. They’re great for illuminating recessed areas, pathways, walkways and stairways,” Michaels said. “They also help eliminate shadows in recessed areas of architecture or hardscaping, therefore reducing the risk of tripping and accidents. Because these are accent lights, you should use low-wattage bulbs. Higher wattages create glare and can be harsh at night.”

Kathy Cooper, outdoor lighting specialist and sales for Rocks ‘n’ Roots Landscape and Pond Supplies, located in Washington Township, said the popularity of outdoor lighting “has really spiked in the last couple years.”

“Our lights have really taken off, especially since the LED lighting has come out,” Cooper said. “With LED, you can use some color bulbs. The clean white gives a nice, crisp bright light. It stands out. The warm lights give a soft accent.”

Rocks ‘n’ Roots carries a large selection of low-voltage lighting.

“Low-voltage lights are very easy for anyone to hook up,” said Cooper, who works one-on-one with homeowners to show them how to install them. “You can get a beautiful accent with low-voltage lighting.”

A transformer is needed for the outdoor light fixtures. A wire connects from the transformer to the lights; the transformer can be planted either inside or outside the home. 

“The transformers are sold in wattages. You can bury the wire under some mulch or some stone where you want your lights to be,” Cooper said. “To keep moisture off the transformer, mount it a foot off the ground. Make sure you don’t go over your wattage of your transformer.”

Some homeowners use spotlights to accent large trees, while spotlights also can be shone between windows to illuminate the front yard, Cooper said. Outdoor Deco string lights have become fashionable. 

“These are the lights you will see at bars and restaurants,” Cooper said. “They kind of hang over your gazebo or patio.” 

Another popular trend are solar-powered lights. The national home improvement chain Menards, which has a Warren location on Van Dyke Avenue, sells solar-powered lights. 

The solar lights are able to absorb direct sunlight throughout the day to energize their batteries. When night falls, these lights will automatically turn on and remain lit anywhere from eight to 10 hours.

“We do have quite a few for sale,” said Race Cameron, assistant general manager for the Warren Menards. “Most of our solars are LED lights; they take a lot less power to run and are more energy efficient. They are very good for the climate we live in.”

Since the solar-powered lights need to receive sunlight to work properly, it is recommended to place them in areas that receive plenty of direct sunlight during the day and away from tall trees, shrubs or anything else that could interfere with their exposure to direct sunlight.

“They automatically turn on at dusk,” Cameron said. “The solar lights are weatherproof, and you can get a lot of light in a very small area.” 

Solar-powered outdoor lighting can be used to outline a sidewalk or path, frame the front door, and accent the landscaping or garden beds. Solar-powered lighting requires minimal maintenance, is versatile and can be placed in most places where sunlight is prevalent. 

Solar lighting sold at Menards is available in a variety of shapes and styles, from low-lying path lights to bright task lights. The solar panel lighting is good at picking up sunlight even on cloudy days, Cameron said.