A Bright Idea

Outdoor lighting can do more than just illuminate the way. Properly designed, it can add beauty, safety, drama—and value—to your home.

Lighting your property is certainly more than just creating a path to your front door or a spotlight on your back deck; in fact, landscapers agree, outdoor lighting design has become a nighttime art form.

There are three ways to think of outdoor lighting, says Tanek Hood, a landscape lighting expert in Manahawkin who works primarily on Long Beach Island. Hood recently completed a series of courses toward certification with the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals. A landscape designer first, Hood took his work to a new level, he says, adding photons to his quiver. “We’re educated so we don’t make costly mistakes. We’re landscape contractors but also landscape lighting designers, so it’s integrated in everything we do.”

Lighting professionals divide outdoor illumination into three different categories:

Existing lighting. This comprises the overhead beacons in your entry alcove or the carriage lamps that flank your garage. It’s pretty standard stuff, says Hood, but aesthetically the key here is to match the architectural style of your home.

Safety lighting.
Also called utility lighting, this is pathway illumination that helps you safely navigate around your home. Safety lighting is often motion-activated and scares away wildlife. The key with safety lighting, says landscape designer Rich Cording, whose firm, CLC Landscape Design, does work all over Northern New Jersey, is to avoid the “runway effect.” A common mistake, he says, is that homeowners “install a whole bunch of path lights and it looks like a landing strip.” Instead, Cording says, you can install uplights on a small tree—a dogwood, for instance—“and it creates a glow all around the area.”

Beauty lighting.
This is what creates ambience; an overall aesthetic for the front or back yard. Beauty lighting changes the appearance of an exterior space dramatically as the sun goes down. It can include anything from uplighting a pergola to underwater lighting in a hot tub. Beauty lighting is often integrated with safety lighting, says Hood.

“Good lighting doesn’t have to be a big investment,” says Hood. Most smaller jobs run between $3,000 and $5,000. “Ultimately, outdoor lighting adds a quality of life,” he says. “And it most definitely adds to the value of your home.”


Tanek Hood
Reynolds Garden Shop, Manahawkin

Rich Cording
CLC Landscape Design, Ringwood


New Leader? LED

For outdoor lighting, the shift is on to the energy efficiency of light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.

“We’re right on the edge, at the tipping point actually, to a major transition in landscape lighting,” says Rich Cording of CLC Landscape Design. “In the next two or three years, over 50 percent of landscape lighting will be LED. In another 10 years, 100 percent will be LED.” Why is this important? LEDs use one-fifth the electricity of traditional lighting, says Cording. “As electricity prices keep going up, this is a major cost savings.”

Additionally, LED lights last significantly longer than traditional bulbs—upwards of 15 to 17 years, compared with 2 to 3 years. With companies now offering 10-year warranties on LED lighting, it’s a win-win situation, Cording says. “Everyone wants low maintenance, and the closer we get to no maintenance, the better.”

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