To Zone, Or Not to Zone… Important Landscape Lighting Design Question

Preliminary Landscape-Outdoor Lighting Design with Zones

One of the first questions a landscape lighting designer or contractor must ask a client is how they intend to use their outdoor space – and what the primary motivation is for them to be adding this new lighting. One of the mistakes that inexperienced lighting designers make is to assume how the client will be using their outdoor living space and lighting. After all, the client is the one who lives there 365 days per year and not the designer.

Landscape and outdoor lighting provides aesthetics, safety, security, and usability for a homeowner’s property. Oftentimes, homeowners will want the lighting for all four of the above categories or as few as one; e.g., security. If security lighting is the primary purpose, then chances are the homeowner will want to have the lights operate from dusk to dawn – and from a control standpoint you would only have to have one zone.

 If the primary purpose of the lighting is for aesthetics only and the homeowners go to bed around 11:00 PM every night, then there’s no point in increasing their electricity bill to operate the lights until 3:00 AM if they are not awake to enjoy them. The same thing can be said for usability of the outdoor living space. If the pond has been drained for the winter and there are three-foot deep snow drifts on the back patio, most homeowners will not be outside barbecuing in the dead of winter – and probably will not be using their lights quite as much. As far as safety, most homeowners do typically like to leave a few of their lights on all night long whether they be carriage lights by their front door or a few landscape lights to light the way along the sidewalk. 

 

All of the zones have been programmed to turn on and off automatically, but the homeowner can turn off any of these zones manually using this 8-button switch. So even after the installation of the low-wattage LEDs, no energy will be wasted at this homeowner’s house.

 Most homeowners typically want to control their back yard lights separately from the lights in the front yard – and they typically have their front yard lights operate for a few hours longer. We have also installed quite a few systems where the homeowners operate the path lighting all night long but have the uplighting for the house and trees turn off at midnight or earlier. We once did a landscape lighting installation for a former Denver Bronco offensive lineman. We had lit up his kids’  jungle gym but he wanted to be able to turn those lights off when he had get-togethers at his house with his team mates. He didn’t want anything to get broken – neither the play equipment or his fellow team mates. For smaller properties that require fewer landscape lighting fixtures, there is typically not much of a need for separate lighting and control zones – and separate zones can unnecessarily drive up the installation cost for a small system. For larger systems, however, separate control zones can help a homeowner save money on their monthly electric bill while also helping the environment. 

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