The Bright Ideas Blog

Design inspiration and outdoor lighting tips and advice for homeowners

Questions I Wish I'd Asked Before Planning My Landscape Lighting

Your landscape lighting system should be tailored to your needs: Understanding the way you enjoy your outdoor space is essential to an enjoyable outdoor lighting design.

This is why its important to ask the right questions when planning your landscape lighting project. Asking the right questions will help you be sure your lighting system will bring you enjoyment for the years to come.

Quick story

I was walking a property at night with my client after completing his landscape lighting project when he turned to me and said "I wish we had done our lighting this way the first time". 

This client wasn't knew to landscape lighting. He had a low voltage system installed 12 years prior to me meeting with him. 

My client's old system was installed when he had his beautiful outdoor living space planned and built by a landscape contractor. 

Twelve years later, the landscape was still looking gorgeous, but the lighting didn't. In fact, the lighting was beginning to look like something out of a dystonia novel.

But why?

Three reasons: The lighting design wasn't tailored to the way the space would be used / enjoyed, the system didn't receive any regular preventative maintenance, and low quality fixtures and components were selected. 

In other words, the design didn't make sense, the system was falling apart, and many of the fixtures were full of water / corroded.


Ask about design

If the design, what we actually see and experience at night, fails to create something beautiful, dramatic, and functional, than what was the point having lighting done?

Ask your local lighting designer about their design process. Whats their philosophy about outdoor lighting?

The design process for a lighting designer can be different depending on who you are working with. The biggest thing is to find a designer who is interested in how you use and experience your outdoor living space and not the number of fixtures they can sell you. This is the key to having an outdoor lighting experience contoured to your needs. 


If landscape lighting isn't the main focus of the company you're working with, if landscape lighting is something they sell to you in a lighting package, or if there is a minimum number of  fixtures required to have your system installed, take a step back.

Click here to learn more about selecting the right company for your next lighting project.

A good designer is less concerned with the number of fixtures they sell you and more concerned about the number of fixtures that will be necessary to create the best lighting effect. 

If they hand you a catalog and ask which fixtures you want, and where you want them placed, be wary.

A good lighting designer will have a more artistic approach to their design. They won't ask you where you would like the light fixtures placed or where you'd like them aimed. That's what they are there for.


However, they will ask you what you'd like to see captured, and make recommendations on what they think will work well for the space. 

For example, do you have an outdoor kitchen or dinning area? If so, does it get used for entertaining? Where do people spend their time in your landscape? How do you spend your evenings on the patio? What do you want to experience looking out your window at night? These are good questions to listen for. 

Ask About Service

Landscape Lighting Systems require preventative maintenance.

I'd highly recommend asking your outdoor lighting expert what service programs they offer to help maintain your outdoor lighting after its installed. If they seem confused by the question, or insist that your lighting doesn't need to be maintained because its LED, that is a big red flag.


LED technology has changed so many things about the lighting industry. However, LED technology has not changed the service requirements of outdoor lighting systems.

Repairing a failing lighting system is no walk in the park and can be quite involved on systems that haven't been looked after. Like changing the oil on your car, having a full annual service performed on your landscape lighting system is minimum preventative maintenance that will keep your lights looking great all year long. 

Click here to learn more about why maintaining your outdoor lights with annual maintenance will improve longevity.

Inquire about quality

A lighting system is doomed to failure if it isn't engineered and built from materials that will last in the harsh outdoor environment. 

Melted Broken Corroded Fixtures

There are varying levels of fixture quality on the market. The sad truth is that many of the fixtures readily available don't tend to last.

Click here to learn more about fixture selection.

Luckily, there are some good rules of thumb to follow. First, be sure to get your hands on the fixture that will be installed.

If you have no other means of evaluating the quality of a fixture, hold it in your hands. Simply looking at a picture in a catalog doesn't cut it. You need to feel it for yourself. Does the fixture feel robust and sturdy when you hold it? Does it have some heft behind it?

It might sound silly, but the quality of a fixture will become immediately apparent when you hold it in your hands.

If its flimsy fixture and doesn't seem like your best option, you'll know it right away once you pick it up. 

The way a fixture is engineered is important too. It needs to be sealed to keep out moisture. moisture is the enemy of low voltage systems.

Here's a tip: We highly recommend using fixtures built from non ferrous metals like copper and brass. Non ferrous metals do not rust or corrode. fixtures built from these materials simply stand up better.  


There are three things to remember!

A quality system is dependent on the culmination of three things: a beautiful lighting design, a long term plan for keeping your lights working at their best, and a quality fixture that will last a lifetime. When you ask your questions about landscape lighting, keep these three things in mind. 

Looking for perspective lighting specialists?

If you have an upcoming project you'd like help with and live in Utah, give us a call (801)440-7647 for more information about scheduling a free consultation.


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