The Basics of Solar Landscape Lighting

These days, it seems like everyone is going green. From hybrid cars to organic gardens, the green movement seems to be spreading everywhere you turn. Landscaping is no different, and scores of inventive “green” ways to improve your landscaping are popping up all over the country. Chemical-free pesticides, organic mulch, and natural lighting sources are all par for the course when you choose to be “good” to the earth.

The benefit of solar landscape fixtures is that they provide long lasting lighting for your outdoor space with minimal upkeep. Plus, the money you’ll save on your electric bill will be significant if you keep your outdoor space lit all night. There are a few fundamentals you will need to learn if you want to switch your existing landscape lighting to solar; it’s nothing too difficult to master, and you can have your new fixtures up and running in less than an hour.

Understanding Solar Landscape Lighting

When your yard is sparse and winding, solar lighting is a fantastic option. You don’t have to fuss with wiring, plugs or outlets. You can situate fixtures anywhere along your landscape – down paths, along fence lines, or lining sidewalks, for example. There’s not a more versatile accent lighting than solar, and you’ll enjoy the design freedom that plug-free fixtures allows.

Solar landscape lighting works by storing and generating its own power reserves during daylight hours. At nightfall, the solar cells activate by converting the stored sunlight into natural electricity necessary to shine. A light-emitting diode (LED) bulb is powered by the electricity produced by the solar cells thanks to a small battery located inside the fixture.

Small lantern-style solar fixtures you stake into the ground are not the only models on the market today. Solar technology has become increasingly less expensive, longer lasting, and more efficient. This means many different versions are on the market, large and small, and they’re for sale and widely available at affordable prices. You can find models designed for use atop fence posts, beneath covered walkways, and more traditional versions you stake into the ground.

Power & Lighting

LED bulbs last for quite a bit of time, and their low-power glow makes them prime candidates for solar technology. That’s why you’ll find solar-powered LED lights stocked most frequently in home good stores. Halogen and fluorescent bulbs are also options, but their harsh, high-powered output drains solar energy faster than LED lights. It’s possible to use fluorescent bulbs for your solar landscape lighting, but it’s a better choice to stick with LED unless you have a real need for high-powered lighting.

The great thing about the new rechargeable battery technology is that the models hold a charge more readily and provide light much longer into the wee hours of the night. You’ll only need to change the battery once every couple of years or so, and you’ll have minimal upkeep other than that. Cleaning the solar panels is the only other real chore (if you can even call it that), and you must only do this once every few months.

Solar lighting is easy to install, a breeze to maintain, and looks great in any landscaping motif. It’s green and energy efficient, and new technology has increased output and lowered the price. Why would you use anything else to light your outdoor areas?

How to Create the Perfect Outdoor Kitchen

Ah, the summer evening cookout. It sounds great in theory, but sometimes firing up the grill and running in and out of the kitchen multiple times throughout the night can become a real drag. People who enjoy grilling outside frequently during the warmer months are opting to invest in an outdoor kitchen to remedy this issue.

Not only does an outdoor kitchen look great in a landscaped backyard, but it’s also a fabulous conversation piece that’s sure to keep the dialogue flowing among partygoers on many a hot evening night. Most outdoor kitchens have a few key features in common.

Fridge

A refrigerator… outside?! Yes, this is not an uncommon feature. Many modern outdoor kitchens include a fridge, and it’s a great appliance to have if you want to “nix” the mad dash to and from your regular indoor kitchen. Plus, you can stash cold drinks for your guests within arm’s reach. One caveat, however – when it gets cold outside and your outdoor kitchen has hunkered down for the winter, consider unplugging your fridge until spring reappears. It’ll be safer during non-use and cut down on your energy bill.

Ceiling

Cooking outdoors is great, but if you design your space in an uncovered area, you’ll become a slave to the elements. Rainstorms will limit your fun quite severely, so fight back by including a ceiling feature in your design. Many people choose a removable pavilion-type covering, although others choose to build a more permanent cover that resembles an extension of their existing deck space.

Grill

The infamous grill—no outdoor kitchen would be complete without it. This feature should be a given, but the new outdoor kitchen emerging in landscaping magazines is boasting bigger, better, more breathtaking grills for your space. There are models with marvelous stonework, dramatic tiling, or gorgeous brick columns – the design choices are endless.

Sink

The complete outdoor kitchen needs a sink to really sing. Imagine making drinks then spinning around and washing your hands, all without leaving your backyard. A sink will round out the outdoor kitchen area and bring completeness to the space. Some opt for deep basin-style sinks made from weatherproof materials. Others choose stainless steel hand sinks, which are great for braving the elements as well.

Electricity

You can’t blend pina coladas without a plug, right? What if you’re outdoors all evening and you need to charge your phone? Electrical outlets are necessary for an outdoor kitchen. Install outlets in easily accessible, safe places and install protective hinged coverings for the outlets when they’re not in use. This will shield them from harsh winds and rain during a storm.

Your outdoor kitchen is an extension of your landscaping and your home, which is why you should plan and design carefully before breaking ground. The size of the kitchen, the existing landscaping, and your family’s needs are important things to ponder prior to the project. Considering which of the above features are important to you is the next step.

Outdoor Security Lighting – Does it Really Work?

Outdoor security lighting prevents or deters criminal activity. However, studies in the UK, United States and Sweden show that improper arrangement and use of these lights can actually lead to an increase in crime such as vandalism and theft. Here, we explore the reasons for security lights failing their basic test of viability and how you can avoid making these mistakes in your own landscape lighting plan.

Low-level Lights

The problem with failing to install your security lights high enough is that they can easily be sabotaged. Prevent this from occurring by installing your outdoor security lights at an elevation high enough to deter criminals and vandals from disabling or destroying them. However, make sure that vandals can’t gain access to the lights by simply climbing onto an adjacent structure. In cases where placing lights at a higher elevation is not possible, project the lights within mesh boxes or polycarbonate shields that are strong enough to resist physical assault.

Unshielded Lighting

This is another major concern because bright, unshielded lights that point towards the outside of the property can actually create a glare that works to the advantage of criminals. Outsiders can’t see what’s going on within the property because of this glare, and this makes it ideal to carry out illegal activity on your property without anyone’s knowledge. Unless you have CCTV installed, this could pose a major security risk. The solution is to either reposition the lights or use shields and housings for bright perimeter lights. Cutting off the glare by angling the lights either towards the ground or targeting them inward will help, as will installing housing that cuts off the glare and increases visibility from the outside.

Exposed Connections

The third high-risk area is the power supply to the security lights. Any lighting system adequately elevated and shielded is still subject to power supply tampering, rendering the entire exercise a waste. Therefore, the physical line and the access controls should either run under the ground or within protected conduits that are tamper-proof.

Other Considerations

For better security, several medium power lights are more effective than fewer high-powered ones; they help cut glare, can reduce overall power usage and will remain bright even if one or two stop working. Position the lights so there are no ‘blind spots’ or dark areas that are counter-productive to security. Install CCTV if you want more security that can capture any activity during the night or day. Security lighting is obviously only useful at night, so you can address daytime security with a closed-circuit recording system. Install motion detection equipment to save on power costs so that the lights don’t need to be powered all the time – these systems may be expensive in the short run, but in the long run, they will save you hundreds of dollars in power costs, if not thousands.

Remembering these pointers will allow you to achieve a much higher level of security for your property, while at the same time help you optimize your power usage.