Whether you want to install functional lighting for a garden path, or illuminate a water feature for purely aesthetic reasons, LED garden lighting can be a wonderful enhancement for your home.
In this article we will provide all of the information you need to plan and install the ideal garden lighting solution for your unique needs. We’ll cover the topic in the following order:
Part 1 – The different types of LED garden light
There are many different types of LED garden light, and the various areas of your garden will benefit the most from certain types of light fitting.
This section will provide a breakdown of the different types of garden light and the areas they tend to work best in.
Garden spike lights
Spike lights are mounted on top of a short spike, which is pushed into the ground at the desired location. They can be mains, battery or solar powered, so you have the freedom to choose the best option for your requirements and budget.
Prices can range from £5 to £35, and good quality solar or battery powered spike lights give you complete flexibility in where you locate them in your garden.
Use garden spike lights around garden paths, flowerbeds and lawns.
Garden bollard lights
Bollard lights look a bit like miniature street lights. They work well in larger outdoor spaces and are available in a range of sizes and styles.
As well as considering the size and style that you choose, you should also note how light is emitted. Some bollards provide 360 degrees of light, which is ideal for large, open spaces. Others shine in a single direction, providing a narrower beam of light and illuminating what is directly in front of it, rather than what’s around it.
Use garden bollard lights for driveways, wider garden paths and lawns.
Spotlights can be mounted in an elevated position on walls or trees and angled downwards, or placed at ground level on a spike pointing upwards or level. They can provide a wide beam of light to illuminate a large area or a narrower, more focused beam.
Spotlights are generally mains- or battery-powered. There are also solar-powered options, but these will not provide as high a light output.
Use outdoor spotlights to illuminate paths, driveways and lawns from above; and trees, bushes and walls from the ground.
Garden wall lights
Garden wall lights are different from spotlights in that they are decorative light fittings that both provide light to an outdoor area and look good in their own right.
Most wall lights are mains-powered but there are solar- and battery-powered options as well.
LED floodlights emit a very wide beam of bright light, and are usually used as security lights with a PIR sensor.
Generally, using floodlights in your garden will simply wash out the effects of any other lighting, however they can be used in a similar fashion to spotlights when positioned at ground level.
If you have a large tree or wall that you want to light up, a floodlight at the base of the feature might be more effective than a spotlight.
In-ground lights are essentially a spotlight that is embedded in the ground, with the face of the fitting sitting flush with the surface of the ground.
In-ground lights are most commonly used in driveways and paths, and IP68 rated fittings can be completely submerged in water features.
Deck lighting fittings are similar to in-ground light fittings. The difference is that they are shorter as they will be fixed into wood rather than the ground. They can also be used as ground lights if conditions allow, for example in small flowerbeds or rockeries.
Step lights are fitted to the face of steps to illuminate the surface of the step directly below the light. They can be mains-, battery- or solar-powered.
LED candle lights
Candlelight is ideal for creating a warm, cosy atmosphere in the evenings. LED candle lights provide a realistic effect, last a lot longer than real candles and aren’t affected by the wind! Use with patio furniture or along the edges of paths and water features.
String lights and lantern lights
String lights and lantern lights are used for decorative purposes, and can be used along walls, tree branches, bushes and gazebos. Opt for battery or solar powered lights for an affordable and versatile solution, or invest in mains powered for permanent use.
Part 2 – Planning your garden lighting project
We can now get on with planning your garden lighting project.
When you are making your plan bear in mind that a little goes a long way. Only light your garden’s best features and choose the most appropriate light to do that.
You might find it useful to print and use this worksheet as you work through these steps.
Planning: Step 1 – Break your garden down into sections
Using this guide, you will make your plan by breaking your garden down into sections. Each section will require a slightly different approach, although there will be some overlap in lighting techniques and fittings used.
To begin, break your garden down into the following areas:
1. Lawns and flowerbeds
2. Garden paths, patios and driveways
3. Decking and steps
4. Trees and bushes/shrubs
5. Walls and decorative features (including water features)
We will now look at each area individually. IP ratings will be mentioned in this section. If you’re not familiar with these there’s a full explanation of IP ratings here.
Lawns and flowerbeds
Spike lights can be used to good effect in lawns and flowerbeds, in addition to spotlights on the ground or mounted on spikes. Bollard lights can also be used on larger lawns, where a wider splash of light is required.
Garden paths, patios and driveways
Smaller areas can be effectively lit along or around the edges using spike lights. These provide illumination and look good.
For larger areas, including driveways, bollard lights are very effective. You can also use spotlights fixed to a wall or tree if the area is large enough (too small an area and the splash of light provided by these lights would be too much).
Finally, in-ground lights can be used in all three of these areas.
Decking and steps
As previously explained, deck lights and step lights have been specifically designed for these areas:
Trees and bushes/shrubs
One of the most effective ways to light trees and bushes is with a spotlight situated on the ground, utilising either in-ground lighting or a spotlight mounted on a spike. The best option is a spike light with a multidirectional head, which are quick and easy to install, and you can get the angle of the light just right.
For larger trees and bushes that require more light, an outdoor floodlight can be used instead of a spotlight.
String lights and lantern lights can also be used to create an attractive decorative effect by wrapping them around the branches of trees.
Walls and decorative features
Garden wall lights are both decorative and functional, and are available in a variety of styles. They are usually mains-powered but solar-powered wall lights are also available.
You can also highlight a wall by shining light onto it, rather than from it, using the same technique as with trees and bushes.
This applies to other decorative features you may wish to illuminate, such as statues and water features. Remember to check the IP rating for anything you will be using in, on or near a water feature.
If you have garden furniture, you can add the finishing touches to your lighting project with wax LED candles or solar-powered lantern lights, either free standing or hung from a porch or gazebo.
Planning: Step 2 – Experiment
You have now organised your project into the various areas you want to add lighting to, and you have an idea of the types of light fittings you want for each area. You now need to ensure you have a clear picture in your mind of what you want to accomplish.
A very effective way to do this it to use a torch to experiment with different angles of light on the various features in your garden and compare the effects they produce. Also, take note of the shadows created and consider how they affect the overall look.
This will allow you to complete the bulk of your plan, by identifying which lights you will be using in each area of your garden, and how many of them you will need.
Planning: Step 3 – Choose a look
You’ve now got an organised plan and a clear image of what you want to accomplish with light in your garden; you should now decide on an overall look for your light fittings. Mixing vintage light fittings with modern chrome designs might not result in the look you want!
Consider the overall environment when deciding on a theme. If you live in a modern new build, for example, contemporary garden lighting may complement the rest of your building and outdoor area; or, you may choose to go for a contrasting look and feel.
The point to remember is to make a conscious decision about the look you want to achieve. The final result will be better for it.
Planning: Step 4 – Choose a power source
Before you go shopping for your lights, you need to decide on the power source for each fitting you plan to use. The choices are mains, battery or solar power.
There are benefits to all three of these options, and choosing the right one could save you a lot of hassle in the future.
The immediate setback with mains-powered outdoor lighting is the time and expense of installation. You should always have this type of lighting installed by a qualified electrician.
They should be viewed as a permanent or long-term solution. If you change your mind about the type of lighting you want, the mains-powered options cannot be easily moved to a new location, or swapped, without a degree of inconvenience and expense.
The advantage is that once installed, the only maintenance required will be keeping them clean and changing the bulbs every ten years or so (if you opt for LED bulbs of course!). You also benefit from a steady and reliable power supply to your lighting. Battery-powered lighting requires fresh batteries when depleted, and solar can be inconsistent in the British climate.
Choose mains-powered lighting if…
You are certain about the positioning of your lighting and you are prepared to pay extra for the additional quality and reliability of this type of lighting, in addition to the cost of installation.
The most immediate benefit of the battery-powered option over mains-powered lighting is the reduced time and expense of installation. You also don’t need to employ an electrician to install them for you; and because they are easy to install, if you change your mind about where you want to position them, they can be relocated easily.
The main downside of battery power is that there will come a point when the quality of light emitted diminishes as the batteries lose their charge. You will then have to replace the batteries, which is an additional expense and less environmentally friendly than mains- or solar-powered lights.
Choose battery-powered lighting if…
You want the lower cost and increased speed and convenience of installation over mains-powered lights. They are also a good option if you are unsure about the final positioning of your lights and would like to keep your options open.
Solar-powered lighting has the same benefits over mains power as the battery-powered option does, but with the added benefit of not having to change the batteries. This is cheaper, easier and more environmentally friendly.
Choose solar-powered lighting if…
The lights you are using are primarily for decoration, rather than illumination. Solar spike lights, for example, look great lining the edge of a garden path and provide some illumination, but mains-powered bollard lights would emit much more light.
Part 3 – Bringing it all together: Implementing your garden lighting plan
Let’s recap what we’ve covered so far…
The first step was breaking your project down into different areas, and deciding which areas you wanted to add lighting to.
Next, you decided which types of light fitting you will use in the various areas, using a torch to assist you in identifying which types of garden light will work best in each area.
You then decided on the style you wanted for your light fittings, before deciding how each light fitting will be powered.
Review and finalise your plan … and go shopping!
Having completed the worksheet you should now know which types of light fitting you need, how each will be powered and how many you need.
It’s advisable at this stage to visit a garden centre or two so that you can see what the light fittings look like in person. This will solidify your plan in your mind and enable you to fully visualise the outcome you want for this project.
You can now source your garden lights. Shop around online and pay particular attention to the following four details:
Light colour and brightness
The light colour will be described as warm white, daylight or cool white; and the brightness will be denoted in lumens. The brightest garden lights will be 500 to 650 lumens in cool white.
For outdoor lights the minimum warranty should be one year, although an increasing number of manufacturers are offering longer warranties.
When you’re browsing products online, the photographs can be (unintentionally) deceptive. A lot of product photographs are on a plain white background, making it impossible to view with any sort of perspective, so make sure you check the size in the product specifications.
IP stands for “Ingress Protection”, and these are explained here. To summarise though, for garden lights you should go for a minimum rating of IP44, which is weatherproof.
There are three exceptions to this. The first is when lighting water features, which would require the maximum rating of IP68 for continuous submersion in water.
Secondly, in-ground lights will need to be IP67, due to the fact that they are flush with the ground and could be fully immersed in water when it rains.
The final exception would be areas that are particularly exposed to bad weather, such as a wall or fence that rain tends to be blown against. In this instance it would be better to go for IP65.
Find a bargain
Find the light fittings you want and then find the retailer you want to buy from. Look for extended warranties and free delivery.
When you have chosen the garden lights you are going to buy and decided where you are going to buy them from, do a quick Google search for voucher codes for the retailer you have chosen.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading this guide, and that it helps you to achieve a beautifully lit garden as quickly and efficiently as possible.
When you get round to shopping for your garden lights, be sure to check out our range at www.ledhut.co.uk/led-garden-outdoor-lights (and don’t forget to search for a voucher code!).