What You Need to Consider When Using LEDs for an Outdoor Lighting Project

LEDs in the landscape lighting business are here today and continue to improve and evolve. While we initially bucked the trend several years ago to begin using LEDs in landscape lighting projects, we did so not because of reliability issues, but because of the color of the light output. Being a true professional Outdoor Lighting Designer, we were used to creating a very natural lighting effect using low voltage halogen bulbs. Many of the early LEDs consisted of chips and electronics that generated a cold, bluish-white or cooler white light, giving a very bright and sometime haunting lighting effect.

Today, advances in chip technology have enabled many manufacturers to produce landscape lighting fixtures that have a warmer white light, creating a similar effect and light output closely resembling halogen. As a result, 100% of new landscape lighting designs and installations that we complete now use high quality LEDs. But beware. All LEDs are not created equal.

So what do I look for in an LED outdoor lighting fixture? Many things, which include the following:

  • Color of the light output: For a natural lighting appearance, LEDs should produce light in the range of 2,700˚K to 3,000˚K. This will give you a more natural lighting effect similar to the older halogen bulbs. Avoid anything that is rated above 3,500˚K which starts to create a cooler or colder bluish-white light. The home below was illuminated using 5.5 watt 3,000 ˚K, LEDs.

  • Average Life: In the past, most outdoor lighting companies used halogen or incandescent bulbs with an average life of between 700 hours – 2,000 – 4,000 hours. Compare that to today’s LEDs. Most of the LEDs that we use are rated for 50,000 hours – more than 10 times that of halogen. This enables you to use the lights longer each day and to reduce maintenance.
  • Energy Efficiency: In past practice, we were accustomed to using 20w, 35w or 50w halogen bulbs. Today, our 20w bulbs have been replaced with 3w – 4w LEDs. Our 35w bulbs have been replaced with 5w-7w LEDs and our 50w bulbs with 8w-10w LEDs. All result in reduced electrical consumption and energy savings of between 80%-85%, making it possible to use your outdoor lighting system longer each evening if desired and at substantially less cost. If you look at the photo below, this home has 14 lights illuminating the architectural features of the home. If you assume 5 hours per night of usage, the approximate annual cost in electricity for this home owner is approximately $25-$30 per year.

 

  • Warranty: Beware of the “Lifetime” warranty on LEDs. 50,000 hours is a lot of hours and years of service. With an average life of 50,000 hours, your landscape lighting LEDs should last a long time – generally 10 or more years. Most reputable LED manufacturers, Landscape Lighting manufacturers and Landscape Lighting Companies warrant LEDs for at least 3-5 years under normal use and are not willing to absorb a Lifetime Liability.
  •  Integration: Many manufacturers produce LEDS that are completely self-contained. If improperly designed, heat build-up will shorten the life of the LED. If something malfunctions in the LED, the entire LED must be replaced and in some cases the entire fixture. While we use LEDs of this type, our preference is to use LEDs that have replaceable components including the optic, LED and electronics, which are all separate.  This reduces the impact of heat on the LED and increases the useful life of the LED.
  • Beam Spread, Beam Distance and Lumen Output: Understanding the characteristics of these three LED ratings can either make or break a project. You want to make sure the object you are lighting will be bright enough but not too bright. Lumen output is critical to know so you know how bright an object will be when illuminated. Beam spread and beam distance is also critical to make sure the object is going to be properly illuminated. Will the beam be too wide or too narrow? Will the beam reach the top of the object being illuminated?

Wattsman Ornamental Trees

 LEDs, if properly understood and selected appropriately, can create great lighting effects when lighting the architectural features of the home, landscape and outdoor living areas. With many things to consider, please feel free to call Outdoor Lighting Expressions if we can be of assistance, or should you have any questions as you design or consider a landscape lighting project.

 

 

What To Look For In An Outdoor Lighting Contractor

There are a lot of people out there who pretend to be in the outdoor lighting business, particularly electricians, landscapers and irrigation people. All are probably really good at doing what their principal business is, but in many cases, they are not particularly good at Outdoor Lighting. So here is a short guide of what to look for in considering and selecting an Outdoor Lighting Professional.

Some good questions to ask and consider might include:

    1. Are they a licensed contractor with a license that pertains to the Outdoor Lighting Business? Check out their license status at: http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/LicenseLookup/
    2. Are they insured, including workers compensation and general liability insurance to protect you, the homeowner, from a workers injury or property damage?
    3. Are they members of the Better Business bureau, have they been accredited and do they have any complaints in their records? Check out their business at www.bbb.org
    4. How long have they been in the landscape lighting business and do they have the experience to run a good business with the staying power to be there for future service and to honor your warranty?
    5. Speaking of warranty, what is their warranty? Does it include labor or just parts? What does it exclude? How long do they warrant the fixtures and transformers for? (10 years is a minimum standard with some manufacturers offering a lifetime warranty) How long do they warrant the LEDs for? (Make sure you are getting at least a 3-5 year warranty).
    6. Who does the outdoor lighting installations? Are they employees or sub-contractors? What is their average length of experience in installing landscape lighting and maintaining outdoor lighting systems?
    7. Are their references readily available?
    8. Lastly, but of high importance, is their outdoor lighting design expertise. Are they over-doing the design and trying to sell you a lot of fixtures? Are they suggesting that you light almost everything? Are they focusing on bright, or are they recommending subtle and elegant architectural accent lighting and landscape lighting? Are they putting lights in front of windows which will throw a lot of light into the home or are they focusing on lighting the architectural features of the home? What is the color of the light output if they are recommending LEDs?

An Outdoor Lighting project is something that is very hard to shop and to compare on an “apples to apples” basis. Many times it is a major investment in your home and one that should be enjoyed night after night and for many years to come. Make sure you are comfortable with the answers to the above suggested questions.

And remember, in the outdoor lighting business, as in anything else, you get what you pay for. Many years ago, I heard this saying and it is true for almost everything we purchase.  “The bitter taste of poor quality lingers far longer than the initial sweetness of a cheaper price”.

 

The Benefits of Outdoor Landscape Lighting

Thank you for visiting the Outdoor Lighting Expressions blog.

Several years ago while attending a show, one attendee walked up to me and said “I can’t imagine why anyone would want to do this”. I wanted to say, “Are you blind or do you just have no taste?”. But not wanting to be argumentative, I responded by saying, “I can’t imagine why anyone would NOT want to do this”.

Landscape Lighting and Architectural Accent Lighting can provide many benefits to the homeowner. The following are several that immediately come to mind:

First and foremost, Outdoor Lighting including Landscape Lighting and Architectural Accent Lighting will immediately improve the safety and security of your home and property. By illuminating pathways and lighting exterior staircases, one can immediately reduce trip hazards by enabling family members and guests to see where they are walking.

Blue Stone Steps 2Short Walk Darker 2

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of security, by illuminating the architectural features of the home and surrounding landscape, the property becomes significantly less likely to be visited by an intruder due to the illumination. Law Enforcement Officials and Security Experts will tell you that a criminal is much more likely to pick the dark or darker home to visit as opposed to breaking and entering a home that was well illuminated.

Drivit 1

Curb appeal enhancement is the principal reason most customers contact us. A home for most folks is their single largest investment and one of which they are proud. It certainly looks beautiful by day but what about the look of the home at night? Many are dark and uninviting. Proper highlighting of the architectural features of the home makes the home look warm and inviting at night, and significantly enhances the overall curb appeal of the property after dark.

Georgian

And then there is the love of the outdoors in many of us. Most of us enjoy being outdoors in the evening, particularly during the summer time sitting on the deck or patio or around the pool area. For the past several years, our business has lead us to illuminate great outdoor living areas, decks, patios, fire pit areas, gazebos, outdoor living areas – you name it, we’ve lit it. So if you enjoy the outdoors in the evening, why not make it look beautiful and eye-pleasing with carefully designed light scenes or light scapes? Properly designed outdoor lighting scenes can make a dark property look absolutely spectacular at night.

ABF Tiki Bar 1 (2)

Copley 2 (2) 

 

 

 

 

 

So tonight, walk around your property. Try to envision how beautiful your place can look with professionally designed and installed architectural accent lighting and landscape lighting.

Wattsman Ornamental Trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please call us if we can be of assistance in making a vision become a reality. You will be amazed at how beautiful we can make your property look with professionally designed and installed Outdoor Lighting.

Clay Johnston