Rural area lighting

Rural areas like renovated farmhouses and ranches are a fast-growing market that need special lighting considerations.
Kevin Smith


Urban and residential areas are usually prime targets for landscape lighting contractors. With increased awareness and desire for outdoor lighting, it is a given that more populated areas will keep lighting professionals the busiest. Even though these more populated areas are predominant, I encourage you to remember the rural areas of our communities, especially now.

Rural areas are a fast-growing relocation option for many people who can now work from home. Getting out of the rat race is becoming a new goal for many people. Country living and renovations of old farmhouses and ranches are popular subjects for both DIY TV shows and social media posts. These areas need your lighting talents, too! For years, these more rural homes have been choice destinations for family gatherings and social events. Today, many of these rural properties are being turned into private event centers and rental properties.

As a lighting expert, it is always important to provide a diagnostic check of the light levels on a property, regardless of the location. With most rural properties, ambient light from streetlights is likely nonexistent, but do the due diligence to verify any other potential ambient light source. Before designing the project, investigate any existing fixtures around the area. Take note of the color temperature and account for that in your landscape lighting design.

Classic older farmhouses often have many rustic design elements incorporated. The outdoor lighting on the structure and around the area should reflect its charm.

Classic older farmhouses often have many rustic design elements incorporated. The outdoor lighting on the structure and around the area should reflect its charm. Perhaps the original fixtures need to be refurbished to keep the rich patina they would have had originally. For example, this may include converting an old 120V fixture to low voltage. It is important to consult with your licensed electrical contractor before doing a conversion.

On the other hand, modern farmhouses usually take on classic, industrial or modern design elements. For these properties, lean toward fixture options that offer clean, straight lines. You may consider a bollard with a hidden light source or an L-shaped path light for traverse lighting. Both classic and modern farmhouse properties will require your expert skills in selecting the right effects to complement the architecture and the landscape.

Perhaps the rural area you want to light has no power in close proximity. If that is the case, consider professional grade solar lighting options. The most recognized style of solar lights is onboard solar panels.

Fixtures equipped with onboard solar panels provide power to a series of rechargeable batteries. Typically, this kind of fixture is controlled by a small photocell that is built into the fixture or panel. These fixtures provide a quick and easy installation if there is no electricity to power a transformer. Remember, the sun constantly moves during the day, so it is important to install these fixtures in areas with little or no shade. Professional grade onboard solar products can be equipped with high-quality panels that can be moved to face the sun in different seasons. Some products also use larger battery systems, which allow for longer run times. The light sources in such professional products as these allow for higher outputs and better color renderings.

Remote panel systems are very similar to a standard low voltage lighting system. This style of system requires a solar panel, a controller, a battery and a fixture. All these components must be engineered for the run times and load requirements. The solar panel needs to be attached to a pole with an adjustable mounting system, and it works best when facing true south and away from any shaded areas. Using a swivel mount allows contractors to adjust the panel for the proper latitude and longitude, as well as for different seasons during the year.

The size of the solar panels is determined by the size of the battery required. Batteries for these systems are specified by the amp hour rating. Amp hour ratings are an important factor when determining the amount of 12VDC load and the run time required for the system. In general, batteries for these systems are mounted in a weatherproof enclosure off the ground.

Controllers for solar lighting systems are generally easy to program and are available in indoor and outdoor rated units. You can select fixtures according to the project’s requirements. Most of the low voltage LED landscape lighting manufactured today will work on both 12VAC and 12VDC systems. Remote panel systems are a great solution for areas that are off-grid or too far from a standard power supply.

If rural landscape lighting seems to be an untapped market in your area, perhaps a weekend ride to the country might be in order. Remember, as a lighting professional, your job is to remind all potential customers (regardless of where they are located) that lighting is a necessity and not an option!

Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at

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