Automatic Garden Lighting

Automatic Garden Lighting

More and more people are using their terraces and gardens as an extension of their living space. Good garden lighting is indispensable for those who want to enjoy their garden in the evening or during winter. A well-lit garden enlarges the interior living area and creates more visual space. There are many ways to switch on garden lights. Which one would be ideal for your specific situation?

Courtesy of Theben
Courtesy of Theben

The Switch

The simple light switch is the traditional way to operate garden lights. It is best placed inside the house at a location where you can see the garden. However, it is sometimes easy to forget to switch the lights on or off. With a simple switch, you also have to bear in mind that darkness falls at different times throughout the year. The same goes for dark mornings in the wintertime. You may want your garden lights to be on when you wake up, but certainly not in the summer when the sun is already up.

It is not readily apparent when lights are on during the day, especially with low energy consuming compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and LED fixtures. This can result in unnecessary energy use. A switch with an indicator light will notify you when the garden lights are turned on. However, to act on it, you will have to pay attention to it. In short, a switch is perhaps not the best way to operate garden lighting.

Motion Sensors

Motion sensors are often installed on the terrace, but you will seldom encounter numerous motion sensors scattered around the garden. It is common however to have the garden lights automatically turn on and then off after a pre-defined period, for instance, if you are walking from the terrace to a garden shed. When coming back, the light may already have turned off, and may not switch back on because the motion sensor is too far away.

Multiple motion sensors are a perfect option when going out of the house or returning. If desired, the sensor can be combined with a switch to ensure the lights remain switched on for a longer period. Motion sensors activating lights also help ward off intruders.

Maybe a Light Sensor?

A light sensor can switch on outdoor lights when the light intensity drops below a certain threshold. When the sky clears up, the sensor will turn off the lights. However, leaving the lights on throughout the night is probably not necessary.

It is possible to use a switch to interrupt the light sensor when going to bed and avoid wasting energy. However, there is the risk of forgetting to switch the sensor back on the next morning. The result is that the light sensor does not operate automatically the following evening.

Is a Timer Clock a Solution?

A timer clock enables you to automatically switch off the lights at night when you are asleep. However, it is not always practical to use a timer clock to switch the lights on in the evening and off again in the morning. This is because the time when darkness falls and the sun comes up differs from day to day and season to season. At some point during the year, the programmed time will be either too early or too late and require manually changing the timer. The best solution is to combine a light sensor with a timer clock. The light sensor can switch the lights on in the evening or off in the morning, as long as the timer has a closed contact. The clock determines the time the light sensor is operational and ensures the lights are turned off during sleep.

The Seasonal Clock Solution

Today, clocks are available with a seasonal function. The specific geographic location is set during installation, activating an internal memory of sunrise and sunset. Combined with an additional switch, times can be programmed so that the lights can be turned on and off at particular times throughout the year. In this case as well, a traditional switch can be desirable to control the garden lights during sleeping hours.

Control by an Integrated Home System (IHS)

An IHS offers the ultimate in control. A light sensor attached to the system uses the IHS’s internal clock for its automated controls. The system can be programmed to switch lights on and off, even for a specified amount of time.

If you hear someone sneaking around in the backyard at night, a bedside switch can offer a solution. This switch will turn on the garden lights without you having to go downstairs, for instance to turn on the switch next to the sliding doors to the terrace. This is much safer.