Well, it’s a very complicated question and I don’t think you’re going to like my answer. The best I can say is, it depends. But, that’s probably not what you wanted to hear. Since getting involved in the outdoor lighting world I’ve seen all sorts of pricing schemes from cost per fixture prices to all-inclusive package pricing. If someone tells you that they charge $250 per fixture or that they can install 12 Lights for $2500 it might be a red flag. What that tells me is that they are not considering your specific job and are just trying to sell the maximum number of light fixtures. That may not always be the case but be sure to check fine print. The truth is that it’s very difficult to determine the price of a job without seeing the particulars. Any reputable lighting company should be discussing YOUR job and not trying to sell you some package that they have put together to McDonaldize your property. Proper landscape lighting has way too many variables for that to work.
So, what goes into pricing an outdoor lighting job? Well, lots of things. For one there are varying grades of companies that you can hire. A company that focuses exclusively on outdoor lighting is generally going to be more expensive than a company that just offers it as part of business. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for those companies. They can be great if you are selling your house and you are just trying to maximize short term curb appeal; or you know you’re going to move in 3 years and the longevity of the system isn’t really a concern of yours. A lighting designer should be asking you those questions in the very beginning and should inform you right from the start if you really need their services. There are some projects that just don’t require that sort of expertise and if yours happens to be one of them there may not be any reason for you to spend the extra money.
Another thing that could drastically affect the cost of a project is the materials that are selected. Prices can vary widely from inexpensive plastic fixtures you might find at a big box store to much higher priced solid CNC-machined copper or stainless steel fixtures. You can also rack up quite a bit just by using different types of wire connectors and cable. You would be surprised how much difference good cable can make in ensuring the life of a landscape lighting system. Materials used will play a huge role in the overall cost of a job.
Difficulty and size of the job will also be a factor. It’s pretty easy install a few lights in a mulch bed with a nearby GFCI outlet for a transformer. It’s much more arduous if you have to add an outlet and run wire 200 yards across a lawn and tunnel under sidewalks to position the fixtures. Likewise fixtures that are staked into the ground will be less expensive to install than those mounted high in treetops or in a deck or pergola. In-ground fixtures are also more challenging and require drainage which will add labor and material costs to the job. Larger properties also generally require more design work. This is another reason to be weary of a “per light” package. Sometimes the bigger a project the LESS it is per light. Sometimes it’s more. There are just WAY too many factors to account for.
The best advice I can give you is be up front with your budget. A good lighting designer will be able to take your budget into consideration and come up with a plan that works for you. A good rule of thumb is that your outdoor lighting should be somewhere within about 1-5% of the property value. But as I’ve said, it’s very hard to determine without looking at a specific job. If you are in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex and would like to schedule a consultation please call The Outdoor Lighting Guy at 214-901-1197.