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Why Uplighting Is an Absolute Essential for Your Outdoor Lighting System

It’s safe to say that lighting sets the tone for most occasions… and for those cozy non-occasions, too, when you’re not entertaining or “doing” anything, just relaxing. The right kind of lighting strongly influences the mood and comfort level. Some lighting types and fixtures are essential, while others are secondary. You can make do without an interior dome light in your car, but you can’t drive at night without headlights. When it comes to outdoor lighting, uplighting is an essential part of the system. 

What is uplighting?

Simply put, uplighting is placing light fixtures on a surface and angling them so they throw the beam of light upwards. 

It’s not that complicated. 

In fact, the angle of the beam is the primary difference between uplighting and other types of outdoor lighting such as downlighting (light goes down!) and washlighting (light goes mostly across!). 

What fixtures are used for uplighting?

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty now. 

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re either a homeowner, or own an office building, restaurant or event venue. We will cover the purpose of uplighting for these specific settings. However, let’s first briefly identify the different kinds of outdoor lighting fixtures you can use: 

  • Bullet lights are pole-mounted or surface-mounted spotlights with a focused beam. The fixture itself is shaped a bit like a bullet, hence the name. Bullet lights can have a very narrow beam or a wider one, and some bullet fixtures are adjustable so the beam can be narrowed or widened as needed.
  • Wash fixtures are most often used for wash lighting, with a low angle so that the light mostly goes across the flat surface on which the fixture is mounted. It’s often used to give walls and other flat surfaces a lower, diffused rush of light across their surface. However, wash fixtures can also be used for areas that would look best with a softer uplight diffused across a wider area. 
  • Well lights are fixtures which are buried or planted in the earth and pointed upward. They’re typically used to cast a gentle, focused uplight. You don’t want the beam to be too bright with well lights since they’re typically used where people are walking or to highlight perimeters or stairs. 
  • Flood lights are a high-intensity type of spotlight with a wider beam than bullet lights. We don’t generally use flood lights for uplighting; they’re more often put in place for security lights, with beams angled downward. However, these fixtures can be mounted and angled to provide uplighting if the situation warrants. 

When choosing the right fixtures, choose high-quality screwable or weldable fixtures made out of marine or powder-coated aluminum. You can also go with copper, bronze, and brass, which last indefinitely and will eventually develop a gorgeous patina. Make sure that all the lights are spaced and angled properly to prevent any shadows or dark spots or light being directed inside.

Exterior uplighting for your home

If your outdoor uplighting is not too great, it can lead to people on the outside having a variety of impressions, from the relatively benign “Surely nobody lives in this dump,” to “Yeah, that looks like a mighty good place to rob.”

Yes, the external lighting of your property can even determine how safe it is. Just so you know there’s no exaggeration, a study by Urban Labs, UChicago posits that increased levels of lighting led to a 36% decrease in crimes. 

With the right spread of fixtures and balanced intensity, you can have the much-vaunted uniformity that lends most homes their attractive look, while helping you on the security front. Uplighting for your home should start with the home itself: exterior uplighting across the front of your house will increase curb appeal and create a beautiful nightscape. 

Then, you can work towards adding strategic uplighting to landscape and features outside your home. 

For instance, you can place uplighting fixtures along the foot of an oak tree, allowing it to flaunt its beautiful structure, the motion of its leaves, the life that resides upon its branches at night. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Looks nice, too.

Uplighting for commercial buildings

For commercial spaces and office buildings, outdoor lighting can keep your establishment from having a drab exterior and lead to a better impression for guests. 

For a lot of commercial spaces, that first impression is the only chance you get to create a sense of welcome and professionalism. Uplighting helps create uniformity and a polished aesthetic, from dusk to dawn. And, as mentioned above, outdoor lighting helps reduce the chances of crime. Professional exterior uplighters can help design a lighting system that will not only enhance safety and security, but also make your commercial building more appealing to tenants, customers, and guests.

Uplighting for restaurants and event venues

Let’s say you’re strolling down the block one particular evening looking for a nice fine-dining restaurant and come across two situated next to each other. One is dimly-lit on the outside and looks shadowy and a little shoddy. The other has sleek lighting fixtures and a warm glow across the exterior. Which one will win your business? Most likely the latter. 

As with residential houses, the first place to start with restaurant or venue uplighting is the exterior of the building. Create that uniform look which makes your business stand out and leads guests to the entrance. Then try adding well-placed outdoor uplighting to highlight a sculpture, landscape features, seasonal plantings, hardscaping, water features, and trees. Even if your restaurant is indoors, the feeling of a spectacle unfolding will add enormously to the guests’ experience.   

All in all, uplighting is a foundational part of an outdoor lighting system. When done right, it adds depth and elegance. Want to get started with professional installation? Get in touch for a free consultation. If you want to tackle uplighting yourself, start with one project at a time. The only thing you shouldn’t do is take your outdoor lighting (no pun intended) lightly. 

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