A Landscape Lighting Introduction
My name is David Prew and, as the owner of the Plantscape Solutions, my goal is to treat every client’s homes as I would my own. I take it upon myself to be the sales guy, lighting designer, and the person in the trenches doing the installation with my team.
Walking landscape with clients and listening to their feedback is how every job starts. Every client is different and what every client wants the end results to look like is different. Using client feedback coupled with almost 20 years of landscape lighting experience is how the design process starts.
At most companies there are multiple cogs in the wheel from the sales guy, to the designer, to the install team. Multiple steps in the food chain just leaves more room for error where what the designer envisioned and what gets done isn’t always the same thing. I’m a bit old school picky and enjoy being there from start to finish on every job to ensure that it is done exactly how I envisioned. You deserve nothing less.
Landscape Lighting Goals
The goal of landscape lighting is the highlight the features in a landscape in a natural way. More is not always better. The Las Vegas strip with lots of lights glaring is never the goal.
Every property is also different and always requires a custom designed plan to suite the specific features found in that particular landscape. There are also many methods to lighting a landscape.
Categories of Lighting
Up lighting a home is what comes to mind when lots of people think about landscape lighting. Trees can be up lit along with many other landscape or architectural features.
Down lighting from trees or other objects can create lit areas of interest in a landscape or gently light dark pathway or other traffic areas.
Path lights are a great way to light traffic areas and are probably the most popular type of lighting.
Besides merely illuminating areas lighting can create atmosphere and areas of interest out of objects or areas that appear to be average by days but quite spectacular at night.
Glare & Hot Spots
The goal with landscape lighting is to conceal the source of the light as much as possible. You want to see the target being illuminated but not the source. When you can see the source of the light it creates glare which is not good.
The light also needs to evenly cover the target. When too much light is concentrated on an area it creates what is called a hot spot. This creates an overly lit and unnatural look. Light needs to be applied evenly and gently to get the proper effect.
Plantscape Solutions Designs and Sells Fixtures from Companies like WAC Lighting and Kichler
Both Kichler and WAC lights are popular but WAC is becoming the light we use by default the most. WAC has been in the interior lighting business for many years and just a few years back moved into the landscape lighting segment.
Many of the WAC lights allow for adjusting the beam spread, beam lumen output, and even the kelvin temperature on certain fixtures.
For certain applications color changing lights are available that work with an app on your smart phone.
Outdoor Lighting Standards
We are members of the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals (AOLP) and adhere to standards that go above and beyond what most companies are willing to do.
Our projects use the patented landscape lighting heat shrink process that is endorsed by world renowned landscape lighting designer Jan Moyer. Anything Jan endorses you can be assured is top notch quality.
This heat shrink process uses a combination of a solid crimped connection in conjunction with heat shrink. The crimping process creates a very high strength connection. The heat shrink keeps out corrosive moisture and maintains a highly conductive connection that prevents voltage drops or shorting. When repairing existing systems cupric oxide buildup is often found on the wires which looks similar to carbon buildup. The cupric oxide resists some splicing methods but the problem can be fixed with the crimp & heat shrink process.
A crimping tool is used to splice the wires together. Then a section of heat shrink tube is places over the connection. The last step is to use a special heating torch to heat and shrink the tube over the splice. This creates a very conductive connection that will stand the test of time.
Traditional Tree Staples
Annual maintenance of your system is a great way to make sure cables in trees are adjusted each year. The tree brackets in trees also require annual adjustments. These are all services Plantscape Solutions offers.
LED Retrofit Bulbs and LED Fixtures
The days of using incandescent bulbs are long since over. Some of our older incandescent Kichler systems that were installed 10-15 years ago have been converted to LED by simply changing the bulbs. This is called doing an LED retrofit.
With landscape lights it’s possible to buy incandescent fixtures and install them with retrofit LED bulbs or buy actual LED dedicated fixtures. There are benefits of going the retrofit or LED fixture route. Either type of LED system will produce a more consistent light output then possible with an incandescent system. Power consumption will also by up to 85%.
The benefit of choosing the retrofit LED fixtures are a lower cost and having the ability to change to a higher powered bulb as size of the material in the landscapes grows. The Kichler LED bulbs come with a six year manufactures warranty which is hard to beat. A big drawback of the old incandescent bulbs is the lifespan can be as short as six months with frequent use. With Kichler LED bulbs getting ten years of use is not uncommon. Below are some examples of retrofit fixtures that we have used for many years.
LED fixtures are sealed units that keep out moisture and unwanted pests like fire ants that can ruin a fixture. Kichler calls it’s LED lights the Design Pro LED line which utilize Radiax Optics. These LED fixtures will produce a slightly more refined and uniform light spread then you can achieve with a retrofit bulb. Here are some examples of the many types and styles of Kichler LED fixtures available.
With incandescent bulbs the lumen output (brightness) and Kelvin Scale (light color) is totally dependent on the of voltage level. As the voltage goes up the lumen output increases and the color of the light actually changes from a warm white to more of a bright white. The ideal color is usually about 2700 Kelvin for a warm white look.
A few volt variance in a landscape lighting zone can greatly alter the lumen output and Kelvin range causing distortion a well trained eye will notice. Because incandescent lights use more power there is usually going to be a two volt variance in your average system even under ideal conditions.
The computer chips in LED fixtures and LED retrofit bulbs will both adjust to the voltage input level and deliver very uniform lumen output and Kelvin scale color. Technology has definitely improved the quality of landscape lighting and reduced the power consumption in the process.
The fixture labeled “A” in the picture below was installed by another company but after only one year the finish was coming off the fixture and it needed to be replaced. All quality fixtures are made in a mold that creates a durable cast fixture. The failing light was actually a cheap stamped fixture made from thin sheets of metal similar to how a disposable tin can would be made. Small little screws and some luck were what held the fixture together. The fixture had no seals or gaskets to keep out water and prevent corrosion. The fixtures was so poorly constructed all it took was your bare hands to crush the fixture like soda can.
The fixture labeled “B” is a quality cast fixture that was used as the replacement light and demonstrates the type of quality fixtures that Plantscape Solutions uses. The light was fully sealed with gaskets to keep moisture out and prevent corrosion. The fixture was constructed from solid brass and came with a lengthy manufactures warranty. The fixture is solid brass so it will never have problems with the finish. Our work is our reputation so we only sell and install quality fixtures that will make us look good for decades to come. A good way to tell if you’re dealing with a company with high standards is always look for the AOLP logo.