From Living Lake Country.
On September 4, 1882, Thomas Edison introduced the world to electric lighting. When he switched on his electrical power distribution system, 110-volt direct current turned on 400 electric lights in offices on Spruce, Wall, Nassau, and Pearl streets in lower Manhattan. In 127 years, electric lighting has come a long way.
Oscar Peterson of Outdoor Lighting Perspectives in Watertown said that the lighting industry is changing to meet the demands of energy-conscious homeowners. New technology makes lighting the home inside and out more convenient, safe, and “green.” Landscaping usually brings gardening to mind, but outdoor lighting can have a large impact on curb appeal as well as security.
According to Peterson, outdoor lighting design is one of the fastest growing trends in home decorating, creating more beautiful neighborhoods and safer, more secure homes. “Ten years ago, virtually no one was doing outdoor lighting in a pleasing, effective manner,” Peterson said. “Today, the practice of outdoor lighting has become much more sophisticated and effective, resulting in systems that are practical and add to the beauty of a home as seen at night.”
The most common error that homeowners make with outdoor lighting, according to Peterson, is emphasizing the use of floodlights, either mounted on the home and shining down or placed in the front of the home and shining onto the façade. While floodlights may give a sense of wellbeing, they can actually create safety and security problems.
“When you have a floodlight shining toward your house and you look outside, all you can see is the glare from the floodlight, which can protect intruders from detection,” he said. “Plus, if the floodlight is on the eve of the house and shining out, you will be blinded as you approach the house and risk stumbling and falling.”
Floodlights illuminate both the area where they are directed and adjacent areas. The result is neighbors who must endure the bright glare of their neighbor’s lights. “Floodlighting also does nothing for the aesthetics of a home at night. When you are blasting 500 watt lights against a home, all of the detail and texture of the home is lost," he said. More savvy homeowners are selecting outdoor lighting systems with a series of energy-efficient, low-wattage lights strategically placed around the home. The lights are positioned on the ground and shine up on distinctive features, creating a pleasing effect and providing sufficient light to ward off intruders and assure sure footing.
“Uplighting provides security because you are placing lights in the areas where an intruder might hide, such as bushes adjacent to the home,” he said. “When you look from inside the home out, you are not blinded by lights, so that you can see if anyone is in the area. Even when looking from across the street, uplighting will create a silhouette of anyone next to your home.”
Carefully placed uplighting also contributes to safety, by providing sufficient light for navigating sidewalks and steps without shining directly into your face. Path lights assure walking safety without light spilling over into a neighbor’s yard. While practical concerns are essential with outdoor lighting, homeowners can also use uplighting systems to add to the beauty of their homes.
He advises placing lights to accent interesting architectural or landscape features. “You can accent the texture of the brick, masonry above windows, or other distinctive elements," he said. "It’s an opportunity to accent ornamental trees, such as Crabapples, River Birches, or Japanese Maples."
Stucco and clapboard homes also come to life at night with properly positioned, energy-efficient, low-wattage lights. They should be positioned no more than four feet away from the area they are lighting and positioned less than 30 degrees from vertical. Don’t forget the deck or patio, where outdoor lighting can add to safety, security, and enjoyment.
“For patios, consider using path lights around the perimeter, which will reflect light onto the patio,” he said. “With decks, we suggest lights with a shielded light source underneath the handrails. These lights provide just the right light for conversation and are much more pleasant than typical deck lighting with a bright light shining from the side of a home.”
According to Peterson, low-wattage halogen lights of 20-35 watts are much brighter than incandescent lights of the same wattage. "A properly installed low-wattage system will consume approximately 30 percent less energy than a lighting plan that emphasizes line voltage floodlights.”
What would Edison think of advancements in the industry? Is it worthwhile for homeowners to install modern outdoor landscape lighting? Peterson agreed that making the change won’t compromise comfort or style. New lighting technology can save energy, while creating inviting, comfortable spaces – making light greener and better.
Watertown-based Oscar Peterson of Outdoor Lighting Perspectives belongs to the Milwaukee/NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) Home Improvement Council, Inc. With over 900 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.