|Tips from Pros
“A flashlight can be your best friend,” says Phil Kinzer of Intermatic/Malibu Lighting. To plan your design, walk around your
landscape, trying out lighting angles and positions. “You can even put a little collar around the flashlight to direct the beam.” Start with just a few fixtures, Kinzer adds, and experiment during your early setup. “It’s easy to move things around, and you can add on later.”
“Always buy or borrow a voltage meter to test your system,” advises Mike Hartman of Escort Lighting. “One of the biggest mistakes do-it-yourselfers make is ignoring voltage variations.” Voltage problems can equal frustratingly poor performance and greater maintenance costs.
Less is more, both experts agree. Good designs create soft, enchanting pools of light balanced across the landscape — not an airport runway or a prison yard. Especially along paths, “a 20-watt fixture is the most you’d ever need,” Hartman says. Path lighting can be effective even 20 feet apart, he adds. The lights in many inexpensive kits have very low wattage and are close together. “A professional designer typically uses only half as many fixtures.”
Remember that many lighting fixtures will be visible by day — especially on a front walk or patio. For round-the-clock appeal, choose fixtures that complement and enhance the style of your home.
Invest in quality. Metal outlasts most plastic, and it’s more beautiful. Compared to incandescent lighting, halogen bulbs burn whiter, brighter, and longer (they’re more like sunlight, but at a higher wattage, they may seem harsh).
Avoid putting fixtures directly in turf where they’ll take a beating from mowers and trimmers. Instead, position them in mulched beds or on vertical perches. For instance, try a downlight from a wall, tree,