Question: How bright should the landscape lights be in our garden? Are there any guidelines? Kayla, Branson, Missouri
Answer: Kayla, people have many opinions on what they would consider to be “low or dim” lighting as well as “bright” lighting, especially in the garden landscape.
Many factors come into play to influence your own thoughts and feeling (along with your neighbors) on garden lighting. For example:
- Time of day
- Weather conditions
- Where and how the lighting is being viewed
- Purpose of the lighting – for example: playing games, lighting a walkway or lighting the patio for eating
- The general lighting of the surrounding area – light or dark
- Type of lighting you prefer
All of these factors make it difficult to make a broad statement that you must have X-amount of foot candles (how light levels are measured) to be considered “low or dim” lighting, bright or “medium” lighting.
I’ve always found “foot candles” to be a difficult method of description to use with homeowners in helping them determine the “landscape lighting level” they want or should install for their garden lighting.
However, foot candles are the “measurement standard” and it does help provide some guidance is how much light a foot candle is, how much light you will want in your garden and what types of lighting fixtures produce the desired lighting levels.
Let’s try to give you some general real world “lighting” definitions/examples to help you translate those lighting levels into ones best suited to your garden.
Dim or Low Lighting
For the landscape this would be about 1-3 foot candles, the kind of lighting you would experience during a full moon or the lighting under a street light on a sidewalk.
This lighting is that middle ground lighting, roughly in the 5-8 foot candle range. Less brightness than you would find sitting inside your house but brighter than the full moon or streetlight.
Most of the lighting fixtures used for garden lighting are in the 4-6 foot candle range.
This lighting would be footcandles of 8 or higher. These lighting levels are found mostly indoors. For example, office lighting is usually between 65 to 150 foot candles, while a small reading lamp puts out around 30 foot candles.
Rarely, will you need to bring the “bright lights” to illuminate the landscape. Bright lighting brings with it some special problems and issues. Click Here to read about – Planning Outdoor Lighting Needs
Washing out objects with over lighting, glare and bothering the neighbors. Staying in the “mid-range” of brightness in your landscape (about 5 foot candles) is about right for most landscape garden lighting applications.
I hope that helps give you some perspective on landscape lighting brightness!