TWINKLE AND GLOW
Adding light and ambience to your pool and garden
By Vicky Katz Whitaker
Copley News Service
You don't have to make a costly investment in a professionally installed lighting system to make your backyard twinkle and glow. Low-voltage lighting and a growing number of innovative energy-efficient solar products are making it easy to create outdoor effects without spending a lot of money.
"New technologies and a rise in popularity have made lighting techniques a key addition to outdoor projects," says the American Lighting Association, the trade association for the lighting industry. On its Web site, www.americanlightingassoc.com, homeowners can get the latest information on outdoor lighting trends as well as plenty of advice on where and how to place outdoor lighting elements.
Low-voltage lights are simple to install, cost less and are easily shifted to reflect changes in your landscaping, the ALA points out, noting that "decks, porches and patios can be converted into romantic evening retreats by concealing low-voltage minilights under steps, railing or branches." Even better, low-voltage lights are more energy efficient, carry a lower shock risk and have less chance of being the source of an electrical hazard.
Solar-powered lights have opened a new chapter in outdoor lighting, working well in gardens and garden paths, in fountains and ponds, even on outdoor tabletops.
One of the newest products is a solar-powered underwater lighting system and fountain that can transform a pool or spa into a dazzling light show. Manufactured by Great American Merchandise & Events and priced at less than $50, the AquaGlow Underwater Light Show and Fountain projects a kaleidoscope of light and color onto the bottom and sides of a pool or spa, simultaneously shooting streams of color-lit water above the surface.
GAME also makes the Underwater Light Starship, a floating disco ball with rotating light effects. The unit, which can produce 10 different light shows, is a larger version of another GAME product, Underwater Light Show, and operates on four AA batteries. It also has automatic shut-off options.
Also on the market:
- A remote-controlled floating solar fountain: The fountain can be switched on or off from as far as 18 feet away and is illuminated by a built-in light.
- Solar-powered string lights: Available in various lengths and numbers of bulbs, the string lights can be used outdoors, year-round. Because they're flexible, you can wrap the solar string lights around a garden arbor or trellis, hang them from a tree or along a porch railing, all without having to hunt for an electrical outlet. The string lights last eight hours at full charge.
- Solar garden stakes: Solar technology is also feeding the creative juices of designers of garden accents whose fanciful solar-powered stake flowers range from whimsical curlicues and starlight bouquets to cattails, sunflowers and bluebells as well as butterflies and humming birds. Some have interchangeable finials.
- Solar-powered post caps. The easily attached caps can define fences, decks and mailboxes.
Among other new solar products are floating globes, a bouquet of floating solar garden flowers that can be used in a pool, pond or spa, free-standing lamps for the patio, and several styles of hanging lanterns and table top lights. One manufacturer, Patio Living Concepts, has developed a large solar flowerpot, the GardenGlo lighted planter. The super-size pot, that has a separate control unit mounted on a ground stake for positioning in direct sunlight, is made of clarified resin and is available in six colors.
You can find many of these products at large chain and department stores, home centers, patio shops, and local nurseries They're also available online at sites such as www.improvementscatalog.com and www.gardeners.com.
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