ALL ABOUT PATH LIGHTING BASICS
PATH LIGHTING BASICS
Path lights are often the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about landscape lighting because they’re the most visible fixtures in the system. Providing light for high traffic sidewalks and paths, they play a key role in increasing the safety in the landscape at night.
WHAT IS A PATH LIGHT
Path lights come in many different shapes and sizes, but the basic idea behind them is the same: placed next to a path, sidewalk, or low point of interest, they illuminate the ground. There are three main parts: (1) a stake to secure the light to the ground, (2) a riser that screws into the stake and (3) the fixture’s dome or hood which attaches to the riser. Sometimes the riser and the fixture are integrated into a single unit.
WHAT DIFFERENT KINDS OF PATH LIGHTS ARE AVAILABLE
Path lights come in many styles because they are visible in the landscape in a way that other lighting is not, so you can find path lights to match just about any architectural style or landscape design motif. Most path lights have a covered light source so that the lighting is indirect, although some use textured or frosted glass to provide more direct lighting. While the sky’s the limit with path light design, a simple path light will look great in almost any landscape.
WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY USES OF PATH LIGHTS?
As the name implies, path lights are great for illuminating paths or sidewalks. But they can also be handy for illuminating interesting low lying vegetation or rocks, hazard areas like steps or stairways, key points of interest like a house number etched into a rock, or anything else that’s low in the landscape.
WHERE DO I PUT THE PATHLIGHTS?
One of the biggest mistakes first-time designers and homeowners make with path lights is to use too many of them. This can create a “runway” effect on a driveway or sidewalk that doesn’t look good. The best advice with path lights is to use them sparingly. When illuminating a path or sidewalk, identify the key points where illumination is going to provide the most helpful information: curves and turns in the sidewalk, steps, edges, trip hazards, or other important points in the path. A few path lights will create pools of light that the sidewalk moves gracefully through, creating a lovely ambience. Too many lights will create harsh effects on the path or sidewalk, and disturb the integrity of the overall lighting design.
In general, you should leave some distance between the path light and the path it’s illuminating to prevent damage. Place the path light in a mulched area so that it won’t be destroyed by a lawn mower or weed-eater. This gives you some working space to place the light and make the connections without worrying about the lawn. Exercise caution when using path lights near driveways to ensure that they aren’t in a position to be run over by a car or snowplow.
In other applications, such as illuminating a rock or small sculpture, consider placing the path light behind or as out of the way of what you’re illuminating as possible, so that the riser doesn’t interfere visually with the indirect lighting effect you’re trying to achieve.
HOW DO I ORDER PATHLIGHTS?
Path lights are specified by fixture style, such as TL-PL-8-15-CB. Once you’ve decided on the style, you’ll need to decide on the finish. Black and brown (insert manufacturer’s names for these colors here) finish options are the most common—the brown option blends in with mulch, and black is generally unobtrusive. A sand colored finish can be great for beach or desert properties, and other finish options are available to suit different design themes. For applications in areas near the ocean where the salty marine air is a problem, you might choose bronze fixtures designed to resist corrosion.
Finally, some fixtures come with other options, including brightness for integrated LEDs and lamp options for standard fixtures. You will sometimes need to order the lamp separately. Additionally, if you need longer risers or riser extensions, these can be ordered either as an option or separately. Path lights usually come with the stake, riser, fixture head and wire connectors, so they’re ready to assemble and connect to the lighting system right out of the box.