If a garden is thought of as an extension of a home but outdoors, positioning appropriate lighting in the garden will allow it to be used or seen not only in the day but also at night. There are typically three sources of power for outdoor lighting: a mains supply, an electro voltaic supply or a battery supply. This blog will concentrate on what is needed for the mains power supply products.
Types of mains power supply
There are generally two types of mains power supply for outdoor light fittings: a 240V voltage and low 12V voltage. The latter types of fitting has the benefit of being able to be placed in more places in a garden e.g. near water and, with the use of external drivers, these fittings can be smaller LED ones which have a low running cost but can still provide intense light. The power consumption for a typical garden with LED lighting can be in the range of 50-60W. Mains voltage light fittings tend to be bulkier.
Typical types of lighting used in gardens and their effects
Path / patio lights
Simply, these are fittings that are typically placed along the edges of paths or patios so that they graze a low level light onto the path or patio. The fittings can be sunk flush into the path / patio or stand alongside them. If both sides of a path are fitted, the fittings are usually staggered.
An LED strip light can be placed underneath step treads and / or seating which is fixed to provide a soft glow below the step or seat. It can also be used in water features, for example, underneath the blade of a waterfall to light the water as it flows over the blade.
If there are feature plants and / or structures in the garden, an uplighter can provide a light so that they can be seen at night. The uplighter can vary in size and intensity depending on the size of the plant or structure that needs to be displayed.
Wall lights can be simple devices that just provide an outdoor light or fittings that can shine a beam of light up and down the side of a wall. The latter can have the effect of emphasising the structure of the wall and material of which it’s made. Having several of these located appropriately can make a building stand out at night. Fittings can also be placed in the side of step walls so that the tread can be seen from above also usually with a soft glow. They can also be placed in low walls to provide a soft glow at the bottom of the wall. These can be flush mounted which provide a smoother finish in a design, taking up less space.
Pendants, floor and table lamps
As per an indoor room, it is now possible to source pendants, floor and table lamps for use outdoors. These are especially useful if there is a dining or relaxing area in the garden. Pendants will evidently need something to hang from e.g. a pergola.
Choosing the right colour for different aspects of a garden is important. Soft, warm lighting might be appropriate for the majority of fittings e.g. path lights or wall lights. But if there is a special structure, for example a water feature, it might be fun and different to think about lighting it with colours apart from white e.g. blue, red or green. It’s also possible to be able to control the colour remotely using an app that provides a colour wheel.
Generally, it is best to install lighting at the same time as a major restructuring of a garden is taking place. A first fix process, i.e. cable laying, will usually happen when groundworks are taking place; the second fix process, that is placing fittings, fixing controls etc., takes place when landscaping is close to being finished. Testing usually takes place as soon as the circuits are connected to the residential supply.
Cabling, circuits and control of fittings
Armoured cabling is usually laid at a prescribed depth of 600mm below soft ground and 150-200mm below hardscape (patios, paths, hardstanding) with tape overlaid so it can be easily seen in the event of further groundworks; the cable will have a number of cores (individual plastic coated wires) which determine the number of circuits the cable can carry. A circuit may operate, for example, path lights while another circuit may operate wall lights so there is no need to have all fittings switched on at the same time. Controls are also now available to allow lights to be dimmed. The cable(s) will need to be connected to a suitable residential supply that can cope with the increased load that is likely to be needed. The circuits can be operated via internal or external switches or can be linked to remote control fobs or smartphone apps.
Quality of product is key !
The material the fittings are made from and their finish is very important since they will be placed in external locations that will have to cope with different climate and general garden conditions. It is probably wise to spend a little more to get a good quality product with a good warranty than to buy a cheaper product that may not last as long. Some of the larger manufacturers of fittings now have an extensive range of outdoor products available on their websites.
Rob Howard, Garden Designer