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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

A Few Examples of Good vs. Bad Outdoor Lighting

What we find in most cases is that a perspective customer really has no idea of what represents good landscape lighting design versus bad landscape lighting design. We have put together this short video with some really bad examples of outdoor lighting which we have seen in our travels. The video also shows corresponding good outdoor lighting design examples which we completed recently as a comparison between good versus bad. Click on the link below to view the video.

http://youtu.be/USXf-bZ-XIs

Thank you for visiting our blog. If we can be of assistance now or in the future, please feel free to contact us.

 

 

The Value of a Professional Lighting Designer

It is not uncommon for us to hear “we are trying to determine the value in considering your proposal”. Well, there are a number of factors to consider in a professional outdoor lighting design and installation to illuminate the architectural features of your home, landscape and outdoor living areas. These would include the quality of the product, the experience of the company, the professionalism and workmanship of their designers and installers, the warranty and perhaps the most important, the skill and artistic ability of the outdoor lighting designer. Comparing price from company to company is very difficult, and almost impossible to come up with a true “apples to apples” comparison. The Landscape Lighting Designer’s skills are the most difficult to measure.

From my own vantage point, landscape lighting design is learned from multiple sources. These include formal and informal education, conferences, seminars, trade shows, seeing other professionals’ work, and many years of actual hands-on experience in doing outdoor lighting design. There is a lot to proper landscape lighting design and many factors to consider in creating a subtle and elegant night scape.

Desired effect and the objects to illuminate help me to determine the appropriate lamp or LED to select. One needs to understand the customer’s goals and objectives, their taste in lighting, the objects to illuminate, required beam width, required beam distance, color of the light output and the desired effect in order to determine the appropriate lamp to use. Once the light sources have been determined, then the appropriate fixture or fixtures can be selected to achieve the best outdoor lighting effect. The following two photos show good and bad comparative lighting effect. Notice in the example on the left, lights were placed in front of the windows, throwing light into the home. Peaks of the home were ignored and dark. The far left corner of the home seems to be nonexistent. The project on the right was designed by Outdoor Lighting Expressions. Notice how the areas outside the windows are lit and not the windows themselves, the smooth transition of light from one area to another, as well as illumination reaching the upper peaks.

The photo on the left is an example of poor lighting design and amateur skills. The home on the right is an example of proper lighting design, and a demonstration of the value a good, professional lighting designer can bring to the project.

Good Lighting of Home ExamplePoor Lighting of Home
 

 

 

 

 

Next is the fixture placement. If you are illuminating the architectural features of the home, one should focus on the interesting architectural features of the home, such as columns, peaks, corners and not lighting up windows, which results in throwing a lot of light into the home. Architectural accent lighting focuses on the home’s features whereas flood lighting illuminates almost every aspect of the home with lots of light infiltration into the home. We typically advise against flood lighting. Notice how the columns and peaks of the home below are well illuminated.

Hartman Front Final This project was accomplished by picking appropriate LEDs including wide floods and narrow spots of different wattages and strategically placing the lighting fixtures to achieve the desired effect.

Illumination of trees is also done very poorly by many inexperienced in lighting design, such as placing the fixture too close to the trunk of the tree which ignores illuminating the canopy of the tree. Many times by only using one light, the tree is lit on one side even though the tree can be seen from both sides. And trees with large canopies can sometimes require as many as three to four lights to illuminate the entire canopy of the tree. In the example below, each tree has two lights on the tree to maximize the effect of the landscape lighting.

Wattsman Ornamental Trees Walkways are another common problem area with some lighting designers. It should be simple enough and one should know that you should not be able to see the light source on the path lights and to also avoid the runway-type of effect, The lights should be evenly spaced and staggered from side to side if and when possible.  In these examples, the photo on the left is a good example of proper walkway lighting. The photo on the right shows poor fixture selection and placement.

Good Walkway Lighting ExamplePoor Walkway Lighting Example

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outdoor Lighting is an art form and if designed properly should create a beautiful, soft and subtle lighting effect. Smooth transitions, little if any light source visible, proper color temperature of light output and all interesting features properly illuminated. Only a professional outdoor lighting designer fully understands these principals.

 These are just a few elementary examples of what a skilled, artistic and experienced landscape lighting designer can bring to your outdoor lighting project and the value incorporated in their proposal.Our experience in landscape lighting has shown that cheaper is not better. You get what you pay for, and the skills and artistic ability of the Outdoor Lighting Designer can make or break the end result of a landscape lighting project. The old saying of “The bitter taste of poor quality lingers long after the cheaper price is forgotten” is very true in our business.

Thank you for visiting our blog. If we can be of assistance now or in the future, please contact us at Outdoor Lighting Expressions.