Outdoor Lighting Expressions Illuminates New Wedding and Events Venue

Located in Charles City, Virginia, Burlington Plantation is a classic planter’s home built circa 1815 eleven miles west of historic Williamsburg, Virginia. It is an excellent example of both an 18th and 19th century working plantation.
The main house was started by the Edwin and Sara Major family in 1815 and initially completed in 1818. The Major family continued to occupy and improve the main house, doubling its size around 1840. After 1859 the property passed to John Mumford Gregory, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and Governor of Virginia for a short time during the Civil War. The property changed hands five more times over the next 130 years.
Today, Burlington Plantation is one of Virginia’s most beautiful and versatile new Weddings and Events venue, conveniently located between Richmond and historic Williamsburg. For further information, please click here: Burlington Plantation.

Outdoor Lighting Expressions was privileged to have had the opportunity to design and install elegant and subtle architectural accent lighting and landscape lighting for the entire property. The outdoor lighting will add significantly to the night time beauty of the facilities and common areas and enhance the evening enjoyment by guests for years to come.

Burlington Plantation Guest House

Burlington Plantation Ice House Bar

Burlington Plantation Stable Ballroom

Path Lighting

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Outdoor Lighting Expressions Sponsors Carnivale At Smith Mountain Lake

Every now and again, we have a chance to give back to the community and have some fun doing it. This past Saturday, Outdoor Lighting Expressions was a proud sponsor and participant in “Carnivale: A Night of Caribbean Magic”, at Smith Mountain Lake, VA. A benefit event for the Franklin County YMCA, the evening showcased three high-energy bands, The Knock Knock Marimba Band, The Toucan Pan Band and the Parrot Pan Steel Band. Most exciting for the musicians was the opportunity to accompany the evening’s headliner, renowned jazz singer Jane L. Powell. Hundreds of people came out to enjoy the sounds of the islands, dance a bit, form a conga line, and partake in the delicious food provided. Our own Clay and Lynn Johnston each had a part. Lynn had a blast playing in the Knock Knock Marimba band which kicked off the evening, and Clay showed off his Steel Pan skills as part of the Parrot Pan Steel Band that accompanied Ms. Powell.

It’s always gratifying to give back to the community in which we live and work. Here’s a sampling of how great the Parrot Pan Steel Band sounded with Jane L. Powell singing “Summertime” and the Knock Knock Marimba Band starting things off with African Celebration!

Click Here To Listen: Parrot Pan Steel Band Featuring Jane L. Powell

Click Here To Listen: Knock Knock Marimba Band Plays “African Celebration”

LED Landscape Lighting and Snow

This past weekend, most of us in the Mid-Atlantic States experienced a significant snow fall as a result of winter storm Jonas. In our area, we received somewhere between 14”-16”. Saturday morning, all of our landscape lights were completely buried in snow. So when we do get a significant snow, what happens to our LED Landscape lights?

LEDs feel relatively cool to the touch as compared to halogen fixtures which run almost burning hot.  LEDs are made up of electronics. And even though they feel relatively cool, the electronics generate heat. In the construction of most LEDs, the metal body of the LED and the fixture itself serves as a heat sync which draws the heat off of the LED. When the landscape lights are buried under snow, the heat generated by the electronics slowly melts the snow around the lighting fixture.

In our case, with 14”-16” of snow on top of the fixtures, we had no lighting effect around 6pm on Saturday night as the lights were still buried. By 11pm, some of the fixtures had melted the snow and started to illuminate the trees and house once again. By Sunday night, most of the fixtures had reappeared producing the full lighting effect.

Snow with Lights

So if you are worried about your LED lighting surviving under the piles of snow, no need, as long as your fixtures are well-made. Properly designed low voltage LED landscape lighting fixtures will keep the moisture out of the fixture and should produce years of trouble free service to keep your property looking beautiful at night, no matter what the weather.

Professional vs. Amateur Outdoor Lighting Design: Why You Should Work With a Professional Outdoor Lighting Specialist

Most consumers think that all lights are equal and undervalued or don’t even think of the importance of proper lighting design. We run into this all the time but particularly in the spring when Irrigation and Landscape Professionals pretend to do landscape lighting. Many times, their premise is that while they have your yard all torn up or trenches open, they can run wire and put lights in the ground so you don’t have to rip up the yard again. So the homeowner says “go ahead”, not realizing how bad or mediocre the lighting project is about to become. The homeowners end up using a generalist to do a specialist’s work. I recently received a brochure in the mail asking me to register for a conference that provided 3 hours of landscape lighting training that would teach me all I had to know so that “Even I Can Become a Landscape Lighting Professional.” I am sure I could take a 3 hour course on how to plant trees or install an irrigation system but would that make me a landscape professional or irrigation specialist? This is what some companies are offering to get people to push their lighting fixtures.

Common mistakes made by pretender non-specialists include:

  1. Improper Fixture Selection – Frequently they only use 1-2 fixtures.
  2. No understanding of the photo metrics, color of light output and how different fixtures produce different lighting effects.
  3. Incorrect fixture placement – lights light up the wrong areas or objects.
  4. Wrong color of light output with LEDs – bright white or cold bluish-white.
  5. Inadequate lighting of objects – lighting up only trunks of trees instead of casting light into the tree canopies, or throwing light into windows on the home in lieu of actually lighting the interesting architectural features of the home.
  6. Improper wiring techniques including connectors that are not waterproof nor designed to last for years.
  7. Little or no Design Skills to properly design an outdoor lighting system.
  8. Inability or lack of desire to service customers when a bulb or LED goes out or a wire gets cut when they are busy conducting their real business of planting tress and shrubs or putting pipe in the ground.
  9. Inadequate pricing due to the use of “cheap” fixtures and cheap labor.

While these comparisons may sound radical, would you trust your dentist to work on your heart, a plumber to do fine carpentry work or if you are a golfer, can you play golf as well as Phil Mickelson? Outdoor Lighting Design and Installation is, in many ways, more of an art form and requires specialized training, years of experience and technical know-how to do and to achieve a professional look in a subtle and elegant manner. For most folks, your home is your single largest investment. If you are thinking about a lighting project, do the job right by hiring a professional who knows and understands proper lighting deign techniques. The end result will be well worth the added expenditure.

Here we have provided some examples of both good and bad landscape lighting projects. See if you can tell the difference. First, let’s look at the good. Notice how each home or landscape area is well lit, evenly and elegantly, accenting the architectural features of the home or focal points of the landscape, while providing safe and secure lighting on stairs and walkways.

Good Lighting 1

 

Good Lighting 2

Good Lighting 3

Good Lighting 4

Good Lighting 6

Good Lighting 7

And now the bad. Compare the diffences!

Bad Lighting Example 1

Notice the “hot spots”, dark spots, glare, and uneven lighting. Improper placement and incorrect use of fixtures. Entrance is very dark, light is guaranteed to be shining into these windows inside the home. A very common amateur mistake.

Bad Lighting Example 3

No description necessary. This walkway is a blinding mess with no appeal

Bad Lighting Example 2

Incorrect placement or angle of fixtures will cause lighting to be intrusive, shining into windows of home. Front entrance is dark, hot spots on columns.

Bad Lighting Example 4

What exactly are these supposed to be doing?

Bad Lighting Example 5

We call this effect “The Big Dipper”. Solar lights on a walkway. Who can see to walk?

Bad Lighting Example 6

Aesthetically unappealing – light source is overly evident.

Don’t let this happen to you. Make sure you’re going to be happy with the end result. Do your homework, and talk to a real outdoor lighting designer before you have your lights installed or install them yourself. Remember, you wouldn’t want your eye doctor to clean your teeth or ask your dry cleaner to fix your car.

Believe It Or Not, Spring Isn’t That Far Off

Winter WindowSometimes when it gets this cold, it’s hard to imagine warmer weather will ever get here. The winter months are actually a great time to spend a little time taking a look around your home and property to see what might need to be “spruced up” or replaced before spring. When the weather warms up and the time comes to begin enjoying your outdoor living spaces again, many homeowners find that they are in need of repairs or service, and wished they had called to have the work done before they needed to use whatever might need attention. This applies to almost everything you use in warmer weather, including your patio, deck, porch, outdoor furniture, grills, heating and air conditioning units, lawnmowers, pool areas and of course, your outdoor lighting system. Is your outdoor furniture dirty or in need of repair? When’s the last time you gave your grill a good cleaning? Is your lawnmower tuned and ready? Will I need any new pool accessories? Are all of your appliances in working order? Are your roof and windows in good condition? How much mulch or planting materials will I need? Are all of your outdoor lighting fixtures working?

You may find that many businesses give “winter discounts” on work during this time of year simply because they are not that busy, especially those that do outside work. You may even save a few dollars by getting ahead of the game.  By repairing, replacing, and sprucing up during the winter months, you insure the things you use during the spring, summer and fall are ready to go when you need them.

So make a checklist of those items/areas that might be “put away” or are not being used quite as much at present. Take a few minutes to look at each one and see what might need some attention.  Take inventory of what you’ll need. Then call your professional and have it spruced up and ready for when winter’s frost turns to summer’s sun. You’ll be glad you did.

All LEDs Are Not Created Equal

More and more, Outdoor Lighting Expressions is being asked about LED lighting in lieu of traditional landscape lighting, which has historically been done with quartz halogen bulbs. We have moved away from quartz halogen and we are now exclusively using LED lighting in all of our new architectural accent lighting and landscape lighting installations.

LED offers several advantages, mostly dealing with energy consumption and longer life, as compared to halogen bulbs. The LEDs we install only use 20-30% of the energy that is required by halogen. For example, where we used to install 20 watt quartz halogen bulbs, we are now using 3 watt LEDs.  And where we installed 35 watt quartz halogen bulbs, we now use 5 or 6 watt LEDs. As far as the average life of the LEDs, most LEDs are rated for 50,000 hour average life versus a typical 4,000 hour average life halogen bulb. That’s over 12 times longer!

What most consumers don’t understand is that all LEDs are not created equal. Differences exist from manufacturer to manufacturer. These differences can pertain to the color of the light output, the amount of illumination produced by the LED (or what we would call lumen output or lumens per watt), the degree spread and beam length of the light produced by the LED. This, many times, is impacted by the optics used in the manufacturing process, as well as the method or quality of construction of the LED and how well the heat sink protects the driver of the LED. A poorly designed LED will have a much shorter life as compared to a well-designed LED due to the heat sink which disperses the heat away from the driver.

For now, if you are in the market for LED landscape lighting, work with a true lighting design professional who is particular about creating a natural effect and who truly understands the differences from one LED to another. Or if you are a do-it-yourselfer, do your homework very carefully to make sure you are using only high quality materials that will produce the desired lighting effect.

Why You Should Convert Your Outdoor Lighting System to LED

LED Beauty

Many of our customers have inquired about converting their older outdoor lighting systems to LED. And, many have had us do the conversion for them.  Perhaps you have also considered conversion of your own low voltage outdoor lighting system but weren’t quite sure how to do it or why to do it. This blog may help. Please continue to read on as we guide you through the facts to consider.

 75%-80% Savings in Electricity Consumption

 First and foremost is energy consumption. The LED’s we are using will save you between 75%-80% in electricity consumption. Our typical halogen well light uses a 35 watt halogen bulb. Our replacement LED’s are between 5.5 and 8 watts. That’s 27 fewer watts used per light per hour. Our customers have an average of 20 lights installed. Multiply the savings per light by the number of lights: 27 x 20 = 540 watts saved per hour. Assuming you run your system an average of 5 hours per night, the savings in electricity consumption is 2,700 watts less per night, or 985,000 watts saved per year, and that’s just for the well lights. Path lights with halogen bulbs use 20 watts per fixture, and the LED’s are only 4 watts. That’s 16 watts less per path light. At the end of the day, that’s a lot of electricity savings, and it all adds up.

Waterfront LED

Less Maintenance with Longer Life LEDs

The second reason is maintenance. Halogen bulbs we have installed have a 4,000 hour average life. The LEDs which we install today have a 50,000 hour average life. That is more than 10 times the average life of the halogen bulb. This means far less maintenance year after year and less bulb changes. And, the LEDs which we use come with a 3 year warranty versus a 1 Year warranty with the halogen bulbs. Potentially, you may never have to change a bulb again.

River Birch and Steps

Similar Lighting Effect with LED

Third is the lighting effect. We watched, we waited, and we tested various LEDs for 4-5 years before we ourselves offered them because the color of the light output was not as natural as halogen. But with product and technology improvements, the LEDs which we use today produce a similar natural lighting effect to what we all became accustomed to with halogen.  But be careful! All LEDs are not created equal and do not produce the same color of light output.

ABF Tiki Bar

Four years ago, I had our guys convert all of our own fixtures to LED while my wife was out of town as a test to see if she would notice a difference. A month later, we were coming home from dinner and she asked me, “When are the guys coming to change us over to LEDs?” I intentionally had not told her that it had been done as I wanted to see if she noticed any difference. Low and behold, she did not and was quite pleasantly surprised when I told her it had been done a month ago. The point to the story is that if you are concerned that our LEDs won’t look the same as your halogen bulbs, there is nothing to worry about. No bluish-white or “ghoulish” lighting effect here. Only a warm white, natural light, very similar to what you are accustomed to with your current lighting.

These two brick homes show how there is little difference in the lighting effect of halogen vs LED.

Minnich Kinloch Home Halogen

Halogen Low Voltage Lighting

Franklin Home LED

LED Low Voltage Lighting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the photos shown, with the exception of the one above, are projects which we have done over the last 2 -3 years with LED.

Chimney LED

Smaller Fixture Size & Conversion Options

The fourth reason is smaller fixture size. Most of the LEDs we use are smaller in size as compared to their counterpart in a halogen bulb.  As a result, many of the fixtures manufactured today are smaller in size and more easily hidden when planted into a bedding area or behind a shrub. One recommendation for you though is try to stick with fixtures that are manufactured with natural materials such as brass or copper. They will weather better and last longer. Here are a couple of photos of fixtures we like to use:

Sw7

SL1

 There are two options for conversion. The first is replacing fixture for fixture. The second is to use the same fixture but replace the bulbs with LEDs. If you choose the latter, make sure the current fixtures are water tight and not leaking. LEDS generally do not like water. And try to find and use LEDS that are designed for exterior use and for landscape lighting applications. Avoid cheap LEDs if you hope to achieve the longer average life. And, in either case, know what the operating voltage range is for the LEDs (most are in the 9-14v range).In any case, make sure your transformer is not supplying higher voltage levels as the LEDs will immediately burn out.

Maybe It Is Time For An Upgrade! 

 Lighting manufacturing processes and technology has changed very dramatically with LEDs. If you are reading this blog, my guess is that you have traded in one or more cars over the last 5 – 10 years. Maybe it’s time for you to trade in your in lights. Let’s all do our part to reduce electrical consumption and take a much “greener” approach to your outdoor lighting system.