Light up your nights
Summer evenings are made for the back yard—with the right lighting out there, you can make the fun last a little longer.
But spring is a great time to start thinking about outdoor lights, not only to make sure you’re ready for the summer months, but to take advantage when the weather starts turning in March, April, and May! (Fingers crossed.)
Whether you just want basic DIY lights or professionally installed fixtures, you’ve got a lot of options to create a more functional outdoor living space. But you’ll get more out of it if you put a bit of thought into your approach. Below are a few key things to consider when you’re thinking about outside lights.
Look at what you’ve got already. Most homes already have exterior fixtures—and you might be able to optimize them instead of adding additional lights. For example, many people use bright, white lights in these fixtures for security purposes, but those aren’t exactly conducive to a laid-back al fresco dinner. If you are comfortable with having a bit less light, changing light bulbs can make a big difference in ambiance. (For more on this, keep reading.)
It’s also important to take note of your existing outlets. If you’re going to be adding non-permanent lights, where will you plug them in? Would it make things easier to have a couple of additional outlets installed?
Find the “just right” amount of light. You want enough lighting so you can see, of course, but not so much that it feels like the middle of the day at 9 p.m. (And if your neighbors are close, they’ll appreciate your restraint here as well.) “Lumens” are the measure of brightness—the higher the number, the brighter the light. But you don’t have to get too technical or buy a light meter. For example, a common string of “Edison” lights, which you’ve certainly seen, might emit 100 or 200 lumens per bulb.
Don’t forget the “temperature.” Just as you don’t want lights that are too bright, you probably don’t want them too white, either. A warmer glow will create a nicer ambiance, so check the Kelvin number of your lights. As it gets higher, it gets closer to the color of sunlight. For that amber hue, you’re looking for about 3500K or below.
Don’t forget about safety, either. Whether you’re installing new fixtures or just adding some strings of light, make sure that everything is rated for outdoor use—including the light bulbs and extension cords. The weather isn’t always nice, even in the summer, and you want your setup to be able to withstand some rain. Also, be careful about overloading your electrical system; if you’re planning on plugging in a lot of lights, it might be a good idea to have a professional electrician take a look first.
With just a little bit of new lighting (or different lighting), you truly can transform your back yard—for entertaining or just for yourself. And with new energy-efficient LEDs and other bulbs, once you’ve got your setup done, you might not have to worry about it again for years! For some other great thoughts enhancing your space, check out this previous post with our friends at Pacifica Landscapes. Enjoy!