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.

Why In the World Would You Want to Light Up Your House?

This was the question asked by one attendee who stopped briefly at our booth at a Home Show. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for us), he kept moving. While his question was sarcastic in nature, it was actually a good question.

Architectural accent lighting, also known as “up lighting”, accentuates the beauty of your home, creating attractive curb appeal at night. Perhaps more importantly, it adds to the security of your property. A home that is lit is much less likely to be broken into by an unscrupulous, unexpected visitor at night. Your home is a major investment; why not see it both during the day and evening? Imagine coming home after a long, hard day at work, or after running endless errands, and your home is beautifully lit, the lights coming on whether you’re home or not.  Pretty homes become warm and welcoming at night with subtle and elegant architectural accent lighting.

Landscape lighting illuminates the walkways and driveways, improving the safety of these areas, and can enhance the visibility of the beautiful landscape along the borders.

How about the back yard? Lighting of decks and patio areas, garden lighting and tree scenes, pergolas, arbors, water features and pool areas convert your dark back yard into a beautiful environment to further enjoy the outdoor living spaces during spring, summer, and fall evenings. And when old man winter brings those long, dark nights, imagine your home elegantly lit, not just for the holidays, but all through the year. Snow and ice on trees is amazing on up-lit trees in the winter.

Think back to the last time you were on vacation in a nice, warm resort. Were the grounds nicely lit enhancing your enjoyment of the evening outdoors? If they were, you most likely were able to enjoy those outdoor walkways and areas without fear of tripping or falling. If they weren’t lit, call or email us and let us know where you stayed so we can contact management to correct such a situation!

Each of our customers has different reasons for installing professional landscape and architectural accent lighting. We are sure you may have a couple of reasons yourself. Enhance the safety, security and beauty of your home and surrounding property today with outdoor lighting.

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.

In Landscape Lighting, You Get What You Pay For

Some years ago, I met someone who was trying to sell me their services. They used the phrase “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”. In the landscape lighting business, this statement is very appropriate.

Time and time again, we see projects done by homeowners, irrigation companies, landscapers and some who pretend to be in the outdoor lighting business who have little (if any) skills in landscape lighting design, and the design that they did for the customer  (if they did one) shows it. Not only is poor design common (i.e., lighting up the wrong objects), but poor quality landscape lighting fixtures are also prevalent. Also quite common is the end result of yellow light output instead of the white light output from Halogen bulbs, or the harsh, bluish-white light that comes from using the improper or cheaper LEDs. The trouble is, most of the time the homeowner or consumer does not know the difference between good or bad quality in landscape lighting.

Cheaper fixtures, which are either painted or copper-dipped aluminum can be purchased, but they will peel or fade long-term, as opposed to real solid copper or solid brass fixtures, which will not. Improper LED selection will also result in a poor lighting effect. One must pay attention to the Kelvin rating on most, if not all, LEDs. For a natural lighting effect, be sure to use LEDs with a Kelvin rating of between 2700˚ – 3000˚K. LEDs in the 4000˚-5000˚K will result in a cooler or bright bluish-white light. And try to use LEDs that are properly designed (heat sync wise) and rated for 50,000 hours average life. Generally, all cheaper versions lead to longer term problems and a lot more maintenance and cost for the homeowner in the long run.

I use the analogy all the time, that there is a big difference in price between a BMW 7 series and a Chevy Impala. Both are good automobiles that will get you to wherever you are going in roughly the same amount of time. But the quality of the BMW, the drive, the comfort, the finish, the status, all warrant a much higher price than the Chevy.

Consider this if you are thinking of having a garden lighting or landscape lighting system installed: “The bitter taste of poor quality lingers far longer than the initial sweetness of the cheaper price”.  And so it is in almost all things. Cheap versus more expensive, you decide. But remember, you get what you pay for.