How To's

How to Design Your Landscape Lighting in 5 Easy Steps

Landscape lighting is the ideal way to add drama, beauty and allure to your home exterior at night. Here are five steps for developing distinctive, functional designs to put your property in the best light when the sun goes down.

Step 1: Form Ideas for Your Landscape Layout

Walk the landscape during the day and night to select key focal points: A stoic oak tree, a tall, handsome palm, a majestic group of juniper shrubs. Or hardscape feature a stone wall accented with fine travertine capstones, a carefully crafted facade, or even water features. These are all great examples to give you an idea of what to look for when it comes to focal areas of your landscape. These are the main visual features, and the first level of light in the landscape. Once the key focal points are defined, modern exterior lighting can then be selected for other areas of the landscape, such as pathways leading through a garden, deck areas, porches and driveways.

WAC Landscape Lighting | YLighting
WAC Landscape Lighting from WAC Lighting

Step 2: Make a Sketch of the Landscape

Next, it’s time to sketch a drawing of the landscape. Begin the sketch by drawing a perimeter, adding buildings, decks, benches, trees, shrubs, vegetation, and decorations of any significance in the garden. Highlight all of the key focal points defined in Step 1, along with the approximate height and length of those objects. Draw in any existing landscape lighting. This will help you choose between a 120V or 12V landscape lighting system in the next steps.

WAC Landscape Lighting | YLighting

Step 3: Select Your Landscape Lighting Fixtures

It’s important to select the right fixtures for each designated area of your application. There are two key questions to answer here: Do I have an existing landscape lighting system? and How large is my layout?

Accent, flood and in-ground landscape fixtures by WAC Lighting can be controlled for color, beam width and brightness levels–though more on this later.

WAC Lighting manufactures both 120V and 12V landscape systems with two construction options: solid die cast brass and k-alloy aluminum. Both options are finished in bronze – solid die cast brass is available for enhanced protection against corrosion in coastal and marine grade environments. When deciding between 120V or 12V it is important to consider:

Supplying 120V to your entire landscape can be an expensive and tedious task, as installing 120V wiring in most places requires the wiring to be installed a minimum of 6ft below surface level in galvanized conduit. It is only recommended to use 120V if there is an existing 120V infrastructure in your landscape or if the fixtures selected will be installed very close to the home near an outdoor receptacle. For all other layouts, a 12V low voltage landscape lighting system supplied through a central power supply source is recommended.

Below is a list of common landscape lighting fixtures and a description of where and when to use them:

Path and Area Lights path-light Ideal for illuminating walkways to create safe and welcoming passages for guests or to add a beautiful new dimension to your home.
Accent (Spot) Lights spot-light create dramatic effects when up lighting or subtle moods when used for down lighting. These adjustable fixtures are perfect for precision illumination on tree trunks, garden structures and specific architectural elements such as porch columns, eaves, and dormers.
Wall Wash wall-wash-light A diminutive Wall Wash creates an even, wide flood of light on any surface including facades, fences and garden walls.
In-Ground Lights in-ground-light Great for path lighting down a long driveway, or illuminating a tall tree.
Hardscape Fixtures hardscape-light Choose low profile Hardscape fixtures, which are durable linear fixtures that can be easily concealed under architectural and landscape features, like stacked masonry walls, deck handrails, bench seating, outdoor kitchen counters/islands, columns, posts, and window ledges.
Submersible submersible-light Highlight ponds, wells, or other water features and backyard streams.
Step/Deck/Patio/Indicator deck-light Illuminate outdoor entertainment areas where foot traffic is prevalent.
Indicator Lights indicator-light Used to highlight the edges of a deck or patio. Indicator lights may also be used along the perimeter of a driveway or vegetation area to highlight the perimeter.

Step 4: Fixture Spacing

Spacing can be subjective– 6 feet of lead wire is typically provided across most landscape lighting products for final adjustment on the field.

Below is a list of common landscape lighting fixtures and a suggestion for spacing:

Lighting Types Spacing Tips
Path and Area Lights Try to keep around a 10’ distance between each path and area light. Keep in mind these are meant to guide users down a path, not fully illuminate the pathway.
Accent (Spot) Lights Small objects require 1-2 fixtures, while large trees with big canopies and multiple viewing angles may require up to 4 fixtures. The beam angle and light output on WAC Lighting Accent & In-Ground lights can be adjusted on the field, so it may be a good idea to order slightly more than you think you may need and adjust them on the field. Today you may be highlighting a sapling, but tomorrow that sapling may grow into a hearty tree.
Wall Wash Placing these 1ft to 2ft from the wall will cast a nice, even illumination. Spread them out approximately 6ft to 8ft apart.
Hardscape Fixtures Use a 3in size strip for short tight areas, 6in size to illuminate under deck hand rails, retaining walls, or steps. Larger sizes may be used where greater illumination is required.
Step/Deck/Patio/Indicator Illuminate outdoor entertainment areas where foot traffic is prevalent.
Indicator Lights Make perimeter borders of at least 2ft of spacing.

Step 5: Wire Runs, Power Supplies, and Final Layout

The final step is to bring your landscape lighting layout sketch to life. If you selected a 12V low-voltage system, it’s very likely you will have several runs extending from just one transformer to all of the landscape fixtures. From dry to wet, to underwater locations, your entire landscape lighting system can operate from just a single source. Most transformers will plug directly into a standard receptacle outlet. Based on the fixture runs and number of fixtures used in your project, select the appropriate transformer size with a maximum wattage capacity ranging from 75 to 600 watts. It’s a good idea to leave room for expansion so if you plant a tree or add a garden feature, you’ll be able to highlight it with an additional landscape fixtures without having to revise your existing setup. Make sure to include a timer and/or photo cell to automatically control your landscape lighting based on time of day.

Your final setup should be a list product which would look as follows:

WAC Landscape Lighting | YLighting
WAC Landscape Lighting from WAC Lighting

Your landscape lighting plan will operate with energy efficient LEDs, using the most advanced technologies for either low voltage or line voltage systems. Our groundbreaking LED Landscape Lighting will make your outdoor spaces beautiful and safe at night. And, if you need any more inspiration, don’t forget to check out our outdoor lighting ideas.

READ MORE » 20 Landscape Lighting Ideas You’ll Dig


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Harry Moshos

Harry Moshos

Engineered to last, and designed to illuminate beautifully – WAC Lighting and Modern Forms are making a difference in the world we live by designing and manufacturing modern upscale contemporary energy efficient LED luminaires. As the National Internet Sales Manager at WAC Lighting and Modern Forms - much like the brands and retail industry he represents - Harry Moshos is passionate about all things modern and innovative.

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