Light the Way

by Amanda Hamm Hengel | Jul 16, 2014
Light the Way …From the pages of House & Home…

Outdoor lighting can take your yard to a whole new level.

Now that we are in the middle of outdoor entertaining season, it’s likely you’ve discovered a few things about your backyard you’d like to change. After trying to fit all the hot dogs and hamburgers and corn on your grill without much luck, you may have decided you need a larger cooking space. After sinking into the grass one too many times with your lawn chair, it’s possible you’re already planning to add some pavers to your yard. And while the sun does set pretty late this time of year, after unsuccessfully trying to flip your burgers by flashlight or having a shadowy conversation with your neighbor in the chair next to you, you have probably decided you need to add some outdoor lighting to your repertoire.

Outdoor lighting can serve a number of purposes. It can help you see specific areas of your yard better, it can offer ambiance and mood lighting for special gatherings and it can help keep you from walking off paths or tripping on stairs. For all that it offers, outdoor lighting has become more popular over the years. In fact, Steve Compton, owner of CKC Landscaping in West Chester, Pa., says that a poll taken by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) shows it has become something people have come to appreciate.

“Of the people the NAHB polled, 41 percent called landscaping lighting highly desirable when they were talking about home appeal,” he says. “Almost half said they wanted to see some type of landscaping lighting package. It’s obviously very popular.”

If you’re ready to join the masses and add some type of outdoor lighting to your home, our experts have some suggestions for you to keep in mind when you finally take the leap.

Doing it DIY Taking on a DIY outdoor lighting project can be a process. It involves a lot of factors, and there is plenty to take into consideration. Why you want to add lighting and where, what kind of lighting and the type of fixtures you want to use, are all questions you will have to ask yourself. Your answers to any of these questions will determine in what direction you take your project.

“There are so many styles of lighting, depending on the landscaping or hardscaping products you have,” notes David Nyce, store manager for Bergey’s Electric in Hatfield, Pa. “We have pieces that can go into the floors, under the edges of decks or skimmed in, and on rock areas.” There are also options for adding lighting to the rails or benches of your patio or deck, as well as stairs.

While there are many options for how you light your outdoor space and the types of fixtures you use, there is one kind of lighting that is popular today—LED. “We recommend LED lighting,” says Peter Twaite, owner of Archadeck of Morris-Hunterdon in Califon, N.J. “That’s pretty much where the market is right now; everything is LED.”

While LED lights are certainly energy efficient—“[They use] two watts of electricity, providing as much as 35-50 watts of lumens,” notes Diane Marrazzo, co-owner of Marrazzo’s North River Landscape in Wycombe, Pa.—Jeremy Sviben, owner of Botanical Lighting in Medford, N.J., says he would be cautious of the new varieties available. “LED as a light source has been around for years, typically as marker/indicator lights, and typically in the red/green color,” he says. “But the warmer color white that most resembles the light color of a standard incandescent/halogen light source, the 3,000 to 2,800 Kelvin, is relatively new within the last five to six years.

“Basically the lighting showrooms and dealers that sell irrigation and landscape supplies are really pushing this relatively new technology,” he continues. “So as with anything new, we should proceed cautiously.”

One lighting option that is popular but may not be best for your intended use is solar lighting. All of our experts say solar lights, while eco-friendly, do not cast the kind of light necessary to light up a patio or create ambiance among your landscaping. “While solar options have been around for a while, they are not any more common,” says Tom Kerins, owner of TNT Productions in Springfield, Pa. “The reason is that most solar products cannot produce sufficient light to take over for hard-wired lighting sources. Most solar outdoor lights use a very small quarter- or half-watt LED that does not put out much light at all.

“If you are looking to simply mark a path from the street or your driveway to your door then a solar solution may be for you,” he continues. “But if you’re looking for good lighting that adds drama to your home, accents the construction of your home or your landscaping, or you need to see while cooking that burger, then wired sources are the way to go.”

When installing your lights there are also some things you want to be aware of, says Paul Gaspar, owner of Moonlight Complements in Clark, N.J. “Always be aware of glare/placement coming from the lighting being installed, so it does not disturb your neighbors or the areas you are to spend your time at during the evening hours,” he notes.

Gaspar adds while lighting is useful for everyday purposes, it also serves as a nice safety feature. “The safest home is going to be a well-lit home,” he says.

“Motion sensors on flood lighting around a home are a nice feature; however, the range is sometimes too small that a would-be burglar can easily stay clear of being in the areas of sensing. Simple lighting around the perimeter of the property and home would scare away anyone afraid of being seen near a window.”

Consult a professional
While adding outdoor lighting may be something you think you can do yourself, our experts suggest consulting with someone who does it everyday may be the best course of action.

“You can mess some things up if you don’t know what you’re doing, especially with more complicated lighting systems,” Compton says. “If you’re going to use direct hub systems, for example, where four or five fixtures go to a hub which goes to the transformer, that stuff can get a little bit complicated.”

Along with electrical experience, professionals who work in outdoor lighting everyday will have a better idea of what kind of lighting will work for your project. “We typically ask what their envisioned use of the space is and how they want the lighting to look,” says Kerins. “Some folks are looking for dramatic party lighting. Others are looking for security lighting. Others want strictly utilitarian lighting for sitting outside and grilling a burger.”

If you do decide to have a professional install a lighting system for you, “make sure you’re getting a quality fixture,” says Wes Carver, owner of Wes Carver Electric in Lansdale, Pa. “Ask to see a sample. If it feels like junk in your hand, it’s going to perform like junk on your lawn. You want a sturdy, well-made fixture.”

Of course, Carver admits, doing the project on your own, or having a landscaper put in a system you purchased from a chain store, may be less expensive than hiring an electrician, but peace of mind is worth the cost.

“The system and methods we use require a lot less connections, which is ultimately a plus from a maintenance standpoint,” he adds. “We make sure we use the right voltage for fixtures, which also makes a difference in the longevity of the system.”

Marrazzo adds that you should be sure that whoever installs your lighting returns after dark to make sure everything is working the way it should. “Be sure the installer returns in the evening to make sure any necessary adjustments are made, such as better angling of the light beam up or down a tree, adjustments to returning light glare, or if the bulbs could be reduced in wattage if they’re too bright, or increased in wattage if they’re too light.”

There may be a lot of things you’d like to do to your yard to make it truly stand out, but adding lighting will truly take it to the next level. It will make all of the hard work you put into your yard stand out, and create a space that you will enjoy spending time in even more.


Archadeck of Morris-Hunterdon
Califon, N.J.
(908) 832-1411

Bergey’s Electric
Hatfield, Pa.
(215) 723-5518

CKC Landscaping
West Chester, Pa.
(610) 436-1810

Marrazzo’s North River Landscape
Wycombe, Pa.
(215) 598-1412

Moonlight Complements
Clark, N.J.
(732) 382-5278

TNT Productions
Springfield, Pa.
(610) 328-0374

Wes Carver Electric
Lansdale, Pa.
(215) 855-3340

Published (and copyrighted) in House & Home, Volume 15, Issue 1 (July, 2014).
For more info on House & Home magazine, click here.
To subscribe to House & Home magazine, click here.
To advertise in House & Home magazine, call 610-272-3120.

Article continues below


Author: Amanda Hamm Hengel


Family Fun

Live from the White House


Stepping Up to the Plate

Local Story

Lingering Questions

Still Fresh

Under the South Jersey Sun

Riverside Retreat

Against All Odds

Like a Girl

Going Her Own Way

Fall In

Aiming to Please

Walk of Fame: Natalie Hope Sommermann