Matt Gohlke / Pools

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Backyard pool lighting can be done for aesthetic reasons, with safety and security as additional benefits.

Many options available for outdoor lighting

One area that is often overlooked by designers is backyard and pool area lighting.

Backyard lighting can be beautiful, and it can be enjoyed year-round. When daylight saving time ends, many people arrive home after dark, which gives them only the weekends to enjoy the beautiful landscaping and pool environment that they have spent thousands of dollars to create.

In addition to the aesthetic benefits, safety (to avoid injury) and security (to deter trespassing) are other benefits of lighting.

After determining your motives for outdoor lighting, take a tour of your backyard and determine what you would like to illuminate. Then stand inside at the back of your house and determine what you’d like to see when viewing the backyard and pool area at night.

The next steps are to determine what type of lighting technique would best provide the look you desire, what type of fixtures would best serve your needs, and how to properly control your lights.

Types of lighting

Uplighting, as the name implies, involves lights aimed upward to illuminate. This is a particularly good method of illuminating trees.

Downlighting works very well to create light over outdoor activity areas, such as patios.

Spotlighting tends to work well when trying to light waterfalls, statues and occasionally plants or small trees.

Pathlighting is often done for safety as well as aesthetics.

Moonlighting is most often done by mounting the lights in mature trees, with the fixture pointing downward. It tends to create a natural shadowing effect similar to a full moon.

Types of fixtures

Decorative fixtures typically add to the landscaping during the day as decor.

Lanterns typically produce a soft light.

Path fixtures create lighting for pathways at nighttime and serve as decoration during the day.

Mounted or hanging fixtures are mainly used for decoration, but they also provide some light benefit. The mounted variety are usually mounted on a post or an exterior wall. Hanging fixtures are less common, but are also used occasionally.

Functional fixtures, which are typically hidden from view, provide lighting benefits only.

Ground-mounted fixtures are very common and are used to highlight structures, objects or plants.

Surface-mounted fixtures are typically mounted on a building or tree to provide general lighting or accent lighting.

Ground-recessed fixtures are mounted below grade (flush with the ground) and typically used for highlighting trees, statues, etc.

There are many resources for outdoor lighting information, including the following books: The Landscape Lighting Book by Janet Lennox Moyer, The Art of Outdoor Lighting by Randall Whitehead and How to Design & Install Outdoor Lighting by William H.W. Wilson.

There are many different considerations to take into account when planning and implementing backyard and pool area lighting. Therefore, it might be helpful to consult a landscape architect or lighting expert to help determine the best solution for your backyard and pool area lighting needs.

MATT GOHLKE owns Gohlke Pools, which has earned national awards, certifications and recognition in the pool industry. He can be reached at 940-387-7521 or matt@gohlkepools.com.


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