Outdoor lighting is the first impression of your home. When you have guests, a family gathering, or party of some kind, what is the first source of light that they will see? Your outdoor lighting! So it would make sense that you wouldn’t want to make a bad first impression, right? Outdoor lighting can do a lot more than just sit on the wall and provide light for an area. These days outdoor lighting fixtures are works of art, that both functional and stylish. Gone are the days of glass and brass outdoor lights with hardly any variation. Today outdoor lighting comes in every style from modern to traditional, contemporary to rustic. Whether you want a dark finish like bronze or black, or a bright finish like Nickel, chrome or white, it’s all available.
One common problem with outdoor lighting is life, both with the light bulb and the life of the fixture itself. If you live close to the ocean you may want to consider using the Vivex family of products from Maxim Lighting. They boast a non-corrosive, uv resistant material which is perfect for the corrosive marine air. Cast Aluminum and cast brass fixtures are the strongest and most durable outdoor lights you can buy. When purchasing an outdoor light consider a fixture that uses and LED source or Fluorescent source. Fluorescent light bulbs last up to 10,000 hrs vs 2000 hrs for a standard light bulb. And, LED lights last 50,000hrs vs 2000-10,000 hrs of the others. You can find light fixtures made specifically for LED or fluorescent or you can retrofit these types of bulbs into existing light fixtures.
Outdoor Lighting Tips
At what height should I mount the electrical boxes on either side of my garage door? When planning for lighting on the sides of the garage door a good rule of thumb is to place the electrical boxes approximately 7’ from the ground. If you have a brick exterior, about 3-4 bricks down from the top of the garage opening is also a good place to start. Of course you have to take into consideration what type of lighting fixture are you going to use. Will the light project up from where it mounts or will it extend down from the mounting point, or is it in the middle? Choosing your outdoor light fixtures before you install the electrical box is always recommended.
Most people tend to under-size their outdoor lights. Drive around any neighborhood and take notice of the light fixtures on their homes. On a standard size garage door, your light fixtures should be between the heights of 15”-22”, width’s will vary with the height. Entryway doors will also be in this same range although some front doors require smaller heights due to restrictions. Back doors, porches, side doors and man doors are ok with a much smaller size, 8”-15” tall.
What Is Photocell Lighting
Photocell lighting is a light sensing apparatus that is either built into the light fixture that you have or purchase, or is a separate piece that you can screw into the socket of any outdoor light fixture to create photocell control. A photocell is a type of resistor. It is calibrated to sense the amount of light coming in contact with the circuit. When light is present the electricity is allowed to flow freely thru the circuit. When no light is present it’s very hard for electricity to flow thru the circuit. So, if you have a light fixture with a photocell, the light fixture will be allowed to turn on when it gets dark, and will then turn off when it gets light. Do you ever forget to turn your outdoor porch light on at night, or off in the morning? Installing a photocell takes all of the remembering out of the equation. Install the photocell, turn on your switch and forget it.
The most common place to use photocell technology is outdoor lighting. Commercial applications benefit greatly from it since there are usually dozens if not hundreds of outdoor lighting fixtures that need to be controlled easily. Street lighting is a great example. Installing photo control saves a town or city on electricity costs as well as replacement lamp costs. Street lights must be on during the dark periods of the day. Trying to control hundreds or thousands of light fixtures with timers or other controls would be almost impossible. Because each light fixture can turn itself on and off independently it saves considerable amounts of money. Using photocell control around your home is also a great idea. Commonly used for porch and garage lighting it allows a home owner piece of mind that their home is lighted at night. This provides security, as well as much needed light for guests that may be coming to your home. Landscape lighting also uses photocell control. Without it, a homeowner would be constantly adjusting timers and switches to make sure their landscape lighting turns on at the correct time during the year.
Where To Use Motion Sensor Lighting
Motion sensor lighting is just as it say’s, it senses motion to trigger a light fixture to turn on. An electrical signal is sent to the motion sensor until motion is sensed, allowing the electricity to flow thru the circuit, activating any type of light fixture at the end of it.
Motion sensor lighting is most commonly used in homes for outdoor lighting. Usually connected to a flood light, it provides security in dark areas around your home. It provides hands free operation allowing you to just walk to an area and have a light turn on. It is a deterrent for would be burglars or thieves, since most thieves will only break into homes that are not lit, and also animals. Once the light fixture is triggered by the sensor it surprises those unwanted individuals and animals, scaring them into running away. Motion sensors can be purchased as a unit with lights attached to them or as a separate unit that can be wired to turn on several light fixtures. Most motion sensors are adjustable for sensitivity and light levels, making sure that you are dialed in for optimal performance.
Motion sensors have also become a great way to conserve energy. Lutron has developed several motion sensor light switch controls that can be retrofit into any home or office. When a person enters a room the light fixture is triggered to come on, no reaching for a light switch. After you have vacated the room, the sensor switch will trigger the outdoor light fixture to turn off when it senses no movement. Perfect for kids rooms or play areas! In these days of wanting to “go green”, these light switches are a great way to conserve energy and save money at the same time.
Why Use Dark Sky Lighting
Dark sky lighting was established back in 1988 as a way for the world to preserve and protect the nighttime environment. Before the use of electric outdoor lighting, the sky was filled with beautiful stars and lit by the moon. Because of electric outdoor lighting and the growth of urban populations the view of this beautiful sky has been reduced to rural areas. The International Dark Sky Organization was created to stop and preserve this atmosphere for future generations. Light “pollution” is a large problem and only getting worse.
So what is a Dark Sky Lighting Fixture? Basically, dark sky lighting requires that the light source coming from a lighting fixture be hidden and covered. Dark sky light fixtures will have a solid top with a light bulb or LED source hidden underneath, forcing the light down toward the ground instead of up into the night sky. The harsh glare from the filament of a light bulb is never seen, only the soft glow projected onto the ground. This doesn’t mean that there is less light, it’s just focused down to the areas that need to be lit, not wasted into the sky. Technological advances in outdoor lighting over the last decade have given dark sky lighting a huge boost. With the advances in LED lighting it’s much easier to get a lot of light from a very a small source, allowing manufacturers to hide the light source and create beautiful designs. What used to be an annoying “glare bomb” is now a beautiful piece of art.
There have also been several studies showing the benefits of Dark sky lighting. Nighttime lighting has been shown to affect the mating, migration, and predation behaviors of many animals. The affect that outdoor lighting at night has on our sleep patterns is also of concern. Our bodies require certain periods of light and dark during a normal day. Exposure to artificial light at night decreases our levels of melatonin, causing several adverse affects.