Thaumas P. Ehr, Landscape Architect

Outdoor Lighting

Some people say that “night is the opposite of day”, well to some extent it’s true until you have to do something at night: like drive, work or protect property—then you have to change the opposite to see and to do this you need light. Without getting into a lot of physics, light at night usually involves a function like seeing to drive, preventing theft or illumination for walking or esthetics. It also comes from a source like a lamp or fixture and has a certain wattage or intensity. It has a specific color: yellow/pink from an incandescent bulb, bluish/white from a metal halide or LED bulb and orange/red from a mercury vapor bulb. Each one of these bulbs has specific applications, qualities and temperature of light.


In most residential applications incandescent or metal halide/ LED lamps are used. Mercury vapor lamps are generally used in commercial, industrial and municipal applications where a lot of light is needed in a large area (think parking lots or roadways).

In residential lighting, building security is the chief concern along with walkways. Entry doors are lit with specialty fixtures to compliment building styles and can be activated by motion detectors to save energy and give would be intruders a good scare. With sophisticated alarm systems window illumination has pretty much been eliminated except for architectural effects.


Walkway lighting should be directed to where you are going and provide enough light to guide and not draw attention to the fixture. Understatement is the best rule of thumb, too much or too many lights make for a bright and distracting display. (Have you ever seen a swimming pool that has too much light in it? It looks like giant piece of turquoise and makes you look like a Martian swimming in it!)


Landscape lighting is another matter and subtlety is best here too. Trees, palms and cactus can be up-lighted or down-lighted depending on whether you want to emphasize trunks, leaves or pads. It is best to keep the wattage between 20 and 75 watts and indirectly pointing at the plants (never at the observer) for optimum results. The color of the foliage generally determines the color of light: mesquites, palo verdes and cactus look good with either incandescent or LEDs, palms look best with metal halides. Sometimes they are used in combination on larger landscapes.


A few local places that have great outdoor lighting and make a great after dinner stroll are The Boulders resort in Carefree, The Royal Palms on Camelback and The Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain south of McDonald Dr. All of these resorts have very subtle and dramatic lighting that is easy to replicate in your home.

EHR Estate Management will make sure your lighting system is operating in top shape: bulbs, wiring and light direction will be monitored as well as on/off timing for both indoors and outdoors. As licensed landscape architects we can suggest improvements in your lighting scheme to protect, enhance and improve your property value.


Please feel free to call me regarding your lighting needs and specific situation.


Best Regards,

Thaumas P. Ehr