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Outdoor light can make a huge difference in your home’s feel and appearance. But what kinds of lighting should you consider, and where can you go to get help setting them up? We’ll be looking at the answers to those questions in this article.

Why is lighting in your backyard important?

Before getting into the details of outdoor lighting ideas that might help you, we need to know why this kind of lighting is important. Why does it matter if your backyard is illuminated? After all, at night time you’ll most often be indoors, where lights are kind of a given in modern houses. However, landscape lighting can be just as significant for several reasons.

  • First, backyard lighting helps you extend the time you can spend outdoors. Especially in areas where it gets dark early in the spring and fall seasons, you might find yourself with nice weather but poor lighting conditions, meaning that you’re not able to use your outdoor spaces comfortably when it gets dark outside. Backyard lighting can help you fix this by keeping your outdoor space inviting, even after the sun sets.
  • Next, backyard lighting also helps you create a more secure space. Not only does it feel nicer and more secure to have your space lit well, but it can actually improve your home’s security. Many crimes of opportunity, such as theft, are easily discouraged by adequate lighting. You can’t guarantee these results, but you can certainly make your property a less attractive location for illicit activity.
  • Finally, it just looks nice! Nobody really gets enjoyment from looking at a dark field, but a well-lit backyard can provide lighting and attention to points of interest and beauty, allowing your landscaping to look its best no matter the time of day.

How do you illuminate a backyard?

Generally, your backyard can be illuminated by lights placed in the ground, on nearby structures, or on strings hanging overhead. Path lighting can also be a great lighting idea to make it easy to navigate your backyard in the dark; by lining paths and sidewalks with path lights, you can make it easier to see while you’re walking around and you also provide a nice focal point for the yard.

Path lights are also a nice opportunity for incorporating solar lighting since this kind of accent lighting is often very simple to install anywhere you want without needing to run electrical wiring to the LED light sources. Solar lights are a convenient and cost-effective way to put lighting sources wherever you need them in your yard.

You can also consider many other kinds of lighting: tiki torches, whether they are actually lit on fire or simply an electric imitation; hanging lights that drape down from the home or any kind of overhang; or even tree lighting, whether that’s illuminating trees from below or shining out from the tree branches.

Of course, some of the decisions that you make about landscape lighting ideas will depend on what effect you’d like to create in your backyard. Let’s look at a couple of examples that might sit on opposite ends of the “vibe” spectrum that outdoor lighting can help you create:

How do you make your backyard feel cozy?

When you’re trying to make your backyard feel like a peaceful, personal oasis, there are certain techniques that can help. With cozy lighting, your goal should not be to brightly illuminate every square inch of the yard but rather to make the yard feel surrounded by lights that keep the edges and corners from getting too dark.

You might start by lining your fence or garden wall with lights. These could be ground-based, upward-facing lights, or you could put lights on top of the fence and have them shine either upwards or downwards. This will create a gentle barrier of light that shows you the edges and sides of your yard, which helps create a cozy feeling by keeping away any dark spots without needing to set up a massive floodlight in the middle of everything.

The same principle can apply to lighting patios in a cozy way; you don’t have to make them as bright as daylight or even as bright as an interior room, but some lights lining the patio base or overhang will help create a sense of safety and calm invitation.

When you’re trying for a cozy feeling, you probably want to choose lights that have a more “natural” orange or yellow coloration rather than more modern “cold” lights that are more white or blue. Warmer lighting reminds people of candles and campfires. Of course, a fire pit could also be a great addition to a cozy yard if it’s possible and legal for your area.

How do you light a dark backyard for a party?

On the other hand, maybe your backyard will be the hosting space for a party. In that case, you probably want a slightly different approach to your lighting—or a very different one. Although it depends on the party and the partygoers in question, parties typically will have motion and color in their lights.

An array of unmoving lights that evenly illuminate your yard is probably not the most aesthetically pleasing choice for a party situation. Instead, try changing the colors of your lights (by replacing bulbs or using programmable lights, for instance) to something festive. A Christmas party might merit green and red lights, for instance, or a Fourth of July celebration might be a good time to use red, white, and blue. On the other hand, a party that’s just for fun, without a specific event to celebrate, might be a good time to go with a wide variety of colors or patterns in your lighting.

For more energetic parties, overhead lights are often a good option. Of course, your goal is not to make everything perfectly illuminated but to give partygoers well-lit spaces between dimmer zones of the yard. This lets people choose how bright they want the space around them to be and is a nice balanced approach that can also let colored lights shine from the sidelines without drowning them out.

These are just two slightly more detailed examples of how the situation and feeling that you want for your yard can really make a difference in what kinds of lighting will be effective. You might have a totally different goal and therefore need a totally different approach; if you’re not sure where to start, that’s a great time to contact some experts who can help you with your lighting plans and installation.

Should you hang string lights?

String lights are a very popular lighting choice for many outdoor areas, and they might fit very well with what you want to do in your yard. Just like lining your fences or seating areas with lights can help you make a cozy, enclosed feeling for your backyard, hanging a string light can create the same effect overhead. It creates the illusion of a cozy, enclosed space while still leaving it open to the outdoors and the fresh air.

In other cases, they might still be a way to get lighting up above areas that are difficult to reach with a single light; you can hang string lights from your house to a tree, for instance, if there’s no point of interest in between the two areas, and provide some basic lighting that would otherwise be difficult to get into that spot. You can also get outdoor string lights to hang around your patio or as deck lighting to help create a false wall that visually separates the patio from the rest of the yard.

How to waterproof outdoor lights?

If you don’t have much experience with electric work, it’s probably best that you buy lights that are already waterproof. In fact, this is a good idea either way. Make sure that any extension cords or outdoor outlets you use are also waterproof and designed to be used outdoors. It’s also often a good idea to limit your use of extension cords and to hide any that you do use under overhangs when possible. This not only hides the cords from sight, but also helps shelter them from the elements.

What type of lighting do you want for your home exterior?

Outdoor lighting ideas for front of house areas and home exteriors, in general, are going to be a little bit different. For instance, your goal with some parts of this kind of lighting is probably going to be more about straight illumination or security than about aesthetics. Of course, this is no reason to choose lighting that makes your home look anything less than its best, just a reminder that the kinds of lighting typically used for home exteriors are going to be very different than those used for gardens and landscaping.

Security lighting, for example, might be installed to shine down on driveways or walkways near the home, providing security both from unwanted approaches to your home and from dangerous navigation of poorly-lit areas.

However, as mentioned already, this doesn’t have to be your only goal with exterior home lighting. This kind of lighting can also help you increase your home’s visual appeal and make it a beautiful sight at night. Many kinds of exterior lighting are designed to illuminate the home itself, whether that involves soffit lighting (which is installed under the edge of a roof to shine down on the walls and home) or uplighting installed at the base of the wall.

Lights along the roof’s edge are also a great option for this, as they outline your home in a glow that can be set either under, on, or over the edges of the roof. These kinds of lights are also often programmable so that you can change their coloration or patterns depending on the holiday (or even your current mood, if you want!).

What is best for illuminating gardens and landscaping?

Generally, if you’re trying to illuminate your landscape, you have two options: uplighting and downlighting. As their names suggest, these are methods of illumination that involve lights pointing either up or down on points of interest.

Uplighting is normally easier for open areas of your yard since these kinds of lights are installed low to the ground and shine upwards (for instance, onto a tree trunk, rock, fountain, or other vegetation). This gives the points of interest in your landscape a chance to literally shine, and the light will also bounce off into the area around, giving softer illumination to the surrounding parts of the yard.

Downlighting is also possible for illuminating areas which need lots of light; security lights are a great example of downlighting, though obviously one that may be a little harsher or brighter than you’d like for your entire garden or landscape. Because of this, downlighting is normally used closer to the house or in areas where people will congregate (patio lighting ideas often include at least some downlighting, for instance).

How can JellyFish Lighting help with professional lighting?

If your home could use customizable LED lights for any event, consider our professional options. Our one-size-lights-all track works with our mobile app to light your yard for any occasion, in any weather. Contact JellyFish Lighting today for advice and estimates about your home and yard’s lighting needs.