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Landscape Lighting Basics

Stay Out After Dark With Landscape Lighting

By Henry VanHengstum


To some people, “landscape lighting” means going to a big box store, buying a few random solar lights and placing them in the garden or along the walkway.

But these kinds of lights are merely decorative, adding nothing but a little sparkle here and there. True landscape lighting gives you so much more…

  • Allows guests to linger after dark so you get to decide when the party ends!

  • Keeps everyone safe by having paths, stairs and walkways properly lit.

  • Deters intruders and nocturnal animals by keeping your yard well-lit.

  • Makes your landscape look magical with strategic lighting fixtures.

People want to spend more time outdoors and landscape lighting makes that possible… and new, energy-efficient lighting systems are making them more affordable than ever.

There are a variety of fixtures and materials to choose from, each used for a specific purpose. I’ll give you a rundown of the most popular ones in this post!

Green lawn with lighting

Landscape lighting 101

Some lights are functional and used for specific tasks while others provide accents and highlight certain aspects of a landscape… and some lights do both!

  • Downlighting and uplighting — Bullet lights (a kind of spotlight) can be installed in trees or on a rooftop to cast a shadow on the objects below, enveloping them in a magical glow. Care must be taken if you intend to cast the light upwards from the ground — some municipalities are “dark sky compliant,” which protects the night sky from “light pollution.”

  • Undercap lights — These lights are installed under the “caps” of hardscape features, such as stone walls that surround fire pits and patios. The light fits under the cap and casts its light downward, creating a delightful glow.

  • Post lights — These are similar to the solar lights from the big box stores, but they are made of sturdier materials and are connected with a low-voltage wire, so you’ll still have light even on cloudy days or in shady areas. Perfect for lighting up a path or walkway. 

  • Inground “pot” lights — These lights are also used to light up a path or patio, but instead of being on a post, they are level with the ground. The galvanized aluminum finish means they’ll never rust and look great in a modern landscape. They are less obtrusive than post lights and can be placed inside a pergola or other outdoor structure too!

  • Step lights — These lights are installed beneath the risers of stairs or steps, which helps people find their way and prevents them from being injured from trips and falls.

  • String lights — String lights are the classic way to add ambiance to any outdoor space… as well as some fun and pizazz to your parties!

  • Water feature & custom lighting — You can add light to just about anywhere in your yard to highlight special water features, like a fountain or waterfall. Or change the mood entirely by using different colour combinations.

How much does landscape lighting cost?

Landscape lighting has many variables that can affect the cost. Here are some of the most common ones listed as questions.

  • What materials is the fixture made from? — Most lighting systems are made with powder-coated aluminum, which is cheap and reliable, but not as long-lasting as other materials, like stainless steel, which resists corrosion better than aluminum.

    Fixtures made from copper or brass are considered premium. These metals are strong and durable with gorgeous colour and patina — and are a perfect choice if the fixture itself is meant to be a focal point in your landscape. Custom metals are also available for special “one-off” projects.

  • How many lights are in your landscape? — Obviously, the more lights you have, the more it will cost.

  • Will you need an electrician? — You’ll need an outdoor receptacle where the transformer will be installed. Outdoor lighting also requires ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI), so if your home doesn’t have this (many older homes don’t) you’ll need the services of an electrician.

  • Will your system need to be designed? — A designer will draw up a comprehensive plan, finding the best fixtures for your project and placing them where they will give the biggest impact.


If you were thinking of installing your own lighting system, these are just some of the decisions you’ll have to make — plus you’ll have to hire someone to do the actual work!

Select Lighting’s in-house team has the artistic and technical know-how to make your property safe, secure and looking absolutely gorgeous at night — while letting you party into the night!

So, if you’re ready to “light up your life” or just want to discuss a few ideas, give us a call or fill in our online form. We're always happy to come out, assess your property and talk about the many options available.

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