Setting the Scene: Put Your Outdoor Living Spaces in the Best Light

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It's summer time, which means it's time to focus on the outdoors and creating an inviting energy-efficient home environment. Curb appeal is essential, whether you are selling or buying a home, or giving a warm welcome to friends and family. According to the American Lighting Association, consumers should look for outdoor lighting products in a family of sizes so they can maintain a theme throughout the residence. Lighting manufacturers now offer many stylish, as well as economical and energy-efficient, outdoor lighting options.

Photo coutersy of Hubbardton Forge

Size is most important for aesthetic reasons

Curb appeal is essential, whether you are selling or buying a home, or giving a warm welcome to friends and family. According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), consumers should look for outdoor lighting products in a family of sizes so they can maintain a theme throughout their residence.

“When people are looking to upgrade their outdoor lighting, starting with the front of the house usually helps guide them through the complete outdoor lighting package,” explains Toby Boyd of Philips Professional Luminaires, which manufactures the Philips HADCO Landscape and Hanover Lantern lines. “Remember, when guests visit, the first thing they notice when they arrive is the front of the home – and it’s also the last thing they see when they leave.”

In choosing a new lighting package, size is as important as style and color. As a rule of thumb, if only one fixture is going to be used at the entrance, Boyd recommends it measures one-third the height of the door. If installing two fixtures, make each about one-quarter the size of the door.

However, the key to good illumination is not only the size of the fixture, according to Joe Rey-Barreau, education consultant for the ALA and an associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s School of Interior Design. “Size is most important for aesthetic reasons,” he explains, adding, “Any outdoor lantern should be rated for a minimum of 75 watts of incandescent or 20 watts of compact fluorescent lighting. If there are fixtures on either side of the door, these recommendations would apply to both lanterns.”

Complete your front yard lighting scheme with pathway and area fixtures that illuminate the walkway for safety. “Subtlety is key here,” Boyd emphasizes. “You do not want it to appear as if you are lighting an airport runway. Staggering the lights on each side of the walkway will help accomplish this.”

To maintain the aesthetic, do not opt for the pathway lighting kits from mass merchants. The solar- and LED-powered models sold there might seem like a bargain, but the light output is not adequate.

“Because LED is such a new and developing technology, the lower-cost products also tend to be low quality,” Rey-Barreau explains. “I’d strongly recommend consumers visit a lighting showroom where they can see a wider variety of models and styles plus evaluate the quality of the light.” At many ALA-member lighting showrooms, educated employees can show how the fixture will look in realistic settings.

Boyd agrees. “The rule of thumb differs for the front door compared to the fixtures used to illuminate landscaping around the home. The entryway focuses on style, size and color based on the theme you want to project. When lighting landscape applications, however, seeing what the fixture does at night is more important than seeing the fixture in the light of day,” he says.

Consulting with an ALA-accredited lighting specialist will yield maximum results because they will determine what is most important to you – such as patio, deck or pool area lighting or highlighting landscape features. “Some homeowners want a particular tree, statue or fountain to be the focal point,” Boyd says. A lighting professional will make sure there are ample light levels for every aspect.

Finding the Right Style for Your Home
With backyard “rooms” becoming a common way of extending living space, the lines are blurring between indoor and outdoor styles for furniture and lighting. Similarly, al fresco dining is more popular than ever and the addition of fireplaces and gas heaters has led to year-round enjoyment. As a result, the latest exterior lighting fixtures are designed to complement their interior counterparts, allowing homeowners to create a uniform appearance inside and out.

“As a general trend, cleaner looks are being seen across all styles – not just in contemporary collections,” says James Thomas, senior designer for Progress Lighting, a division of Hubbell, manufacturer of outdoor and landscape fixtures. “Today’s fixtures have less fluting and detail, and highlight more of a simplified style. Many companies are starting to offer versatile fixtures that can be used indoors as well as outdoors. For example, Progress Lighting’s new Parker model can be used with end caps if placed outside, but the top and bottom can be removed for indoor use as a wall sconce.”

Can Energy-efficient Lighting Look Attractive?
By now many homeowners have replaced at least one incandescent bulb in their homes with a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), and some have done the same outside.

“The choices in CFL bulbs today require decisions about shape, color and light output,” Rey-Barreau says. “An outdoor lantern should have no less than 20-watt capacity for a CFL source, but those colors range from a visually warm color to a very visually cold hue. It is best to always choose the warm colors for residential applications because it more closely matches the incandescent lighting in other parts of the house.”

The shape is a major consideration only if the bulb can be seen. If that’s the case, search for a CFL bulb that is in the familiar shape of a typical incandescent (this is referred to as an A-lamp). This type has the same relative efficiencies as the spiral shape, but has a covering over the spiral that makes it resemble an incandescent. You might not find this variety at a home center, but most lighting stores have it.

Additionally, many light fixtures are designed to hide the bulb. “Energy-efficient outdoor fixtures are available in many styles. Manufacturers typically use different glass patterns – such as frosted, antique distressed or seeded – to disguise the outline of the CFL,” Thomas adds. “There are also fixtures that offer more room to fit both a CFL or incandescent bulb, combined with a glass treatment, so consumers can choose which type of light source they want to use.”

If the light cast by CFLs and LEDs is not appealing to you, Thomas suggests using low-voltage halogen systems, daylight sensors and timers, which all provide ways for consumers to reduce energy consumption. “Because these technologies can be used with a variety of fixtures, people still have the flexibility to determine which designs best fit their homes and preferences,” he says.

To find the perfect solution for your outdoor lighting and landscape needs, stop in at your nearby ALA-member lighting showroom to examine the many solutions available. To find your closest American Lighting Association showroom, visit http://www.AmericanLightingAssoc.com.

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