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Using Light to Make the Most of Your Outdoor Living Space

Light colour and light strength

The outdoor living area shown here has picture-perfect lighting for backyard entertaining.

Rather than how attractive a light fixture is, the important point to focus on is the ‘light colour’ it emits and avoiding tones that are too yellow or too blue. The best lighted scenes have no visible fixtures at all! The proper ‘light strength’ is equally important to consider.

Avoid trying to opt for fewer lights with brighter bulbs, as this will ruin the ideal mood by creating garish hot spots. Often it is most appropriate to add more lights of lesser brightness.

A Kelvin is a unit of measurement describing a light source’s hue. In terms of colour temperature, natural moonlight has a slightly cool tone 5500K. This hue provides the most natural effect to outdoor lighting. Firelight is at the other end of the spectrum, with a warm yellow of 2000K. Combining the cooler light of the moon with the warm glow of actual fire flame can create a spectacular effect.

A lumen is a unit of measurement describing the light contained in a certain area. The higher the lumen output, the brighter the light. It is important to keep in mind the brightness level a fixture emits. Too low won’t provide enough effect, but too high may be glaring and wash out a plant or architectural feature. Your designer should consider any street lights near your property, as all luminosity appears brighter when contrasted to a darker backdrop.

Which type is right for your property?

Below are the three main types of lighting systems available, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Low voltage

A low-voltage lighting system using a quartz halogen bulb is less expensive to install than an LED (light-emitting diode) system, but will end up costing more over time on your energy bill and to replace bulbs.

Limited wattage-per-bulb and voltage-drop concerns when running long lines of light can be other disadvantages. That said, low-voltage lighting systems are readily available in a wide variety of fixtures and produce a true white light.


Available in numerous light colours/strengths, LEDs are extremely energy-efficient and offer very long bulb life. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, an LED system costs more initially than low-voltage. However, since LEDs use only a fraction of the energy of a halogen or incandescent bulb, the return on investment (ROI) over time can be quite significant.


Though this lighting method is inexpensive and comes in a multitude of light colours, it may not be appropriate for most applications. In many cases, the light output of solar lights can be too dull and they can have a relatively short life span.

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