For the lighting professionals at Southern Landscape Lighting Systems of Marietta, the art and science of LED low-voltage landscape lighting involves both aesthetics and technology. The word ‘aesthetic’ comes from Ancient Greek and has to do with sensory perception. In some circles, aesthetics has come to mean the study of beauty and taste. Architectural landscape lighting is like painting with light and is its own art form. A few basic, concrete principles guide the lighting designer, but as is the case in much of what is perceived as ‘beautiful,’ the end product is the fruit of gifted, inspired, and knowledgeable lighting artisans staying within the boundaries of balance and dimension but pushing the limits, nonetheless, to achieve beauty. Lighting applications include uplighting, downlighting, bath/area lighting, and specialty lighting. These applications are useful for creating certain effects such as shadowing, highlighting, silhouetting, washing, and mirroring.
Sometimes, in a homeowner’s DIY landscape lighting project, chance will play into the creation of an aesthetically pleasing lighting effect. However, beautiful accidents are rare, and intentionality most often yields beautiful and tasteful lighting for homes in Marietta, GA.
Understanding Beam Spread
Lighting technology includes fixtures, wiring, software, physics, and geometry. The proper application and the desired effects must wrestle with the mechanics of beam spread. A lighting designer, then, is both an artist with a keen eye and a technician with an understanding of the physics and geometry of lighting techniques and technology.
Proper beam spread is determined by the width of the focal object being illuminated. For example, a tall, thin tree requires a narrower beam spread. The superiority of LED landscape lighting technology truly shines when it comes to beam spread. LED lighting technology provides a beam edge that is sharper, crisper, and more precise than traditional alternatives. The light beam holds its pattern, stays focused upon the object on which it is aimed, and does not diffuse or become washed out. The sharp, crisp light combined with the ability to manipulate light color enables the designer with expertise and technical skill to highlight key architectural features while selecting color temperatures that set the mood while simultaneously making the desired colors pop. The capability to illuminate with almost laser beam precision in tandem with the capacity to select specific color temperatures empowers the designer to create a nightscape that dances with vivifying drama.
Beam Spread Dimensions and Applications
- 10 or 15 degrees: Suitable for tall, thin porch columns or column-like trees
- 25 – 45 degrees: Great for medium height and medium width trees (General accent lighting often utilizes this beam spread.)
- 55 – 60 degrees: Best for shorter, wider landscape features such as a mature, well-shaped Japanese weeping maple, a broad-based fountain, or a holiday display such as a creche
- 120 degrees: Ideal for washing walls, custom murals, espalier, and other wide areas or objects
“Watts” Up with Lumens?
LED lighting technology that is accessible and affordable is a recent development. The first 60-watt equivalent light bulb was not available until 2010. Since then, mass production has improved product selection and greatly reduced pricing. LED light bulbs are standard in most homes. Along with the technology and product line came new terminology and usage. In the LED nomenclature, ‘lumen,’ previously referred to as wattage, is the new way lighting is expressed. A lumen is the unit of measurement for the brightness of light. LED lighting is measured in lumens. From the perspective of sustainability, LED lights provide the greatest output of lumens with the least expenditure of electricity. Lumen output should complement the object being illuminated. Errors in converting lumens to watts and vice versa can negatively impact the aesthetic effect of a LED landscape lighting design and installation.
A subtle, tasteful adjustment or a slightly nuanced design shift may have the neighbors asking, “What have you done to your home. It looks amazing!” The alteration may have been as simple as manipulating the warmth of the entrance lights so that the initial impact is more inviting and calming. Neighbors will find themselves driving the long way around the subdivision just to see what is new and to have their spirits illuminated by a beautifully lit home and landscape.