We are open for business — and following all health and safety guidelines during COVID-19.

The Bright Ideas Blog

Design inspiration and outdoor lighting tips and advice for homeowners

Landscape Lighting Fails: Everything You Need to Know

5 Ways to Ensure Your System Fails

Some of the most common fails happen when people don't understand what goes into creating a beautiful and successful lighting system. It's our hope that by better understanding some of the mistakes people can make, you'll be able to avoid making them yourself when you begin thinking about the design for your own landscape lighting system. 


1. Glare 

Often, those looking to do landscape lighting don't take into consideration glare. No one enjoys looking into bright lights. The goal of lighting your landscape is to enjoy the effect that the light creates and not the light source itself. Eyelids, the shroud encompassing the fixture's opening, should always be utilized to block the glare from the view point. The view point, essentially, is the place where the landscape will be viewed and appreciated the most. 

To clarify, when we use the term glare, we mean being able to see the light coming directly from the lamp inside the fixture. This is bright and distracts the eye from the overall effect. 

Rotating the eyelid can help block the glare. You can rotate4 the eyelid atop the fixture so that it is fully facing the focal point. Using the eyelid to block lighti is an effective way to minimize the glare that might be seen. 

Utilizing the eyelid is an effective strategy, however, fixture placement plays a role too in eliminating glare. Don't try to use one fixture where two are needed (don't cut corners in the design.) 

When a flood light is used to try and capture two pieces, where a light is actually needed for for each piece, it will often result in a half backed attempt, it just will not look right. 


2. Lack of Planning (Designing with Fixtures vs. Planning with Lights.)

Designing landscape lighting will forethought about what everything will look like before it is completed. A common mistake is to focus on the fixture rather than the lighting effect. Selecting a fixture off the shelf of a big box store without any knowledge of the light output and beam spread is a mistake. Not taking the light output and beam spread into account can greatly hinder the effect one may have been aiming to create. 

Deciding fixtures should be done after undering what kind of effect needs to be created. The lighting effect should always take precedence over the fixture selection. After you have figured out lamp selections, determine which fixture will best help house that lamp in a way that will maximize the desired effect. 

3. Misused and Abused Path Lights

Even the most durable fixture will fail with the wrong application. For example, path light installation should be avoided in turf areas. When path lights are in turf areas, the likelihood of fixtures becoming damaged greatly increases. A lawn is a place where mowers, hedgers and other dangers exist that can ding, dent and damage your lighting system. Not to mention pose risk of injury to others. 

Always consider two things when figuring out fixture location; where the fixture should be placed to best create the right effect, and whether or not that location will potentially damage the fixture in the future. When a fixture is damaged or ruined because of poor planning, it ultimately fails to perform as intended, leaving you with an investment rendered useless and in need of repair. 

Path lights are misused and abused more than any other fixture. A path light is supposed to be used purposefully. They are meant to light specific things; pathways, steps, polls, decks etc. Unfortunately, in poor designs, they can be found in locations where they simply aren't necessary or supposed to be. 


4. Over Lighting

You know a home is over lit when you can see it from down the street. The goal of illuminating a  home is to create beauty and security, not an eyesore for the neighbors. Some home owners want to light every single aspect of their home and landscape. But believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much light. Lighting every tree and architectural feature is something that certainly works on the Las Vegas strip, but it doesn't look tasteful or elegant in a residential setting. When it comes to outdoor lighting, less says more. 

A good lighting designer will take into consideration key architectural features, and place fixtures strategically throughout the landscape. An experienced lighting designer will see how a beautifully dramatized scene will play on the contrast between light and shadow. In order to create a greater sense of balance and composition, they may opt to illuminate certain features while leaving others untouched. 

5. Under Budgeting

One of the biggest failures a homeowner can make is under budgeting for their outdoor lighting system. Having a realistic budget for quality fixtures and materials is of the utmost importance. Though many fixtures can create a similar effect, not all of them are up o the challenge of doing this for the long term. There are tons of cheaply created fixtures on the market that will only last as a temporary novelty before they begin having problems and the system as a whole stops working. 

Aluminum and composite are materials that have no business in the landscape, and yet, there are so many fixtures made of these materials that end up in people's yards.Fixtures made of these products simply can't stand up to the wear and stress placed upon them by the outdoor environment. An unrealistic budget leads to the purchase of products that will ultimately lead to a failed investment. 



Our recommendation is to only use brass and copper fixtures in the outdoor environment. This is a good time to talk about what we mean when we say quality. Brass and copper are both materials that have proven to stand up to the test of time in the outdoor setting. When looking at quality though, material isn't enough, you also have to assess the engineering and internal components. There are still plenty of cheaply built brass and copper fixtures available on the market, this is why it's so important to take a very close look at what you are paying for. 

So what do we want you take away from all of this information? 

A new lighting system is an exciting prospect. It will bring you beauty, safety, and value to your home and landscape. It shouldn't be something that you have to feel anxious about. We have created this list of fails to help you to feel more educated and better equipped when the time comes to pull the trigger on your landscape lighting project. 

If you would like more information, or to explore options for your outdoor landscape or architectural lighting, please feel free to reach out to us at our office anytime. Free Landscape Lighting Design Guide 

Landscape Lighting Installation | Landscape Lighting Design | Commercial Lighting | Landscape Lighting Maintenance | Hiring a Lighting Professional