When it comes to warm summer nights, nothing beats the glow of a full moon for ambiance and outdoor enjoyment. Modern LED technology can’t exactly compete with lunar phases, but it definitely puts on a show of its own.
Used outdoors, light-emitting diodes — LEDs — can transform spaces for safety, security, relaxation and celebration. Mainstream for about a decade and produced in a wide variety of styles and finishes, LED lighting products are available everywhere from big-box home improvement stores to crafts stores.
They’re more energy efficient and use less voltage than halogen or incandescent lights, last longer, are cooler to the touch and offer quality lighting. For mood and ambiance, they are showstoppers.
“The difference is night and day,” said Scott Copple, owner of In Tune Landscapes and Lighting in Sonoma, who now almost exclusively uses LED lighting in his landscape designs for both residential and commercial projects.
The advent of LED lighting “was a big, big game changer,” he said. With so many advantages, and a wide variety of accent, path, post, hanging, step, submersible and spotlights, “There’s really no reason not to go to LEDs,” Copple said.
With creativity, do-it-yourself skills or assistance from landscape professionals like Copple, backyards, courtyards and even tiny balcony spaces can be transformed into beautifully illuminated retreats through the thoughtful use of LED lighting.
While the lights can be more expensive at the outset, they provide a substantial savings in the long run, about 80 percent less than standard incandescent lights, said Ryan Williams, a senior marketing manager with FX Luminaire landscape and architectural lighting, whose parent company, Hunter Industries, works with the California Landscape Contractors Association, a Sacramento-based nonprofit trade organization.
“The payback is quite easy to recoup, especially in California,” Williams said.
Adding even a touch of LED lighting can be transformative, extending views from the indoors and beckoning people outside.
Carefully placed exterior lights can add drama or whimsy, prevent stumbles along pathways and stairs or simply highlight garden features like fountains, statuary or specimen trees.
For those who want to bring some playfulness and fun to barbecues, block parties or potlucks that extend beyond dusk, decorative LED lights are available in numerous novelty forms, from birds and bees to butterflies and flowers.
For Paul Ford of Sonoma Valley, adding LED lighting was a win-win investment. On warm evenings, he and his wife, Gail, often retreat to their front yard patio to enjoy wine, hors d’oeuvres and a relaxing ambiance that extends well into the night.
He illuminated their private, fenced-in patio with white overhead LED string lights that add a sense of fun to their home in Creekside Village, an adult community adjacent to vineyards and farmlands southwest of Sonoma.
A do-it-yourselfer who designed his attractive outdoor spaces, Ford installed the lights and also modernized an old San Francisco street lamp he found at Food for Thought Antiques in Sebastopol. He used a waterproof LED floodlight inside the globe, set on a timer, to bring additional lighting and character to the couple’s patio.
An award-winning environmental artist and retired high school art teacher, Ford wanted to follow green practices in his outdoor design, and environmentally friendly LED lighting was the only way to go.