Creative Ways to Conceal Landscape/Architectural Lighting Fixtures and Wiring

Column Lighting Dilemma - Shrubbery.jpg

Column Lighting Dilemma – Shrubbery at Columbine Valley Project

It seems like every new lighting design and installation has its own unique challenges, and some jobs have more than one. At this recently completed low voltage LED landscape/architectural lighting project in Columbine Valley, the homeowners of course wanted to uplight each of the four columns for dramatic effect. The inner two columns were easily uplighted with the Outdoor Lighting Perspectives BB-03 6W LED well lights with tempered glass lens covers – and those fixtures were mounted at ground level.

Stick-Light Solution for Lighting Column That Is Blocked by Shrubbery

Stick-Light Solution for Lighting Column That Is Blocked by Shrubbery

However, it was not possible to use our standard ground-mounted well lights for the two outer columns since the shrubbery in those locations occupied the entire space in the planting bed. Fortunately, our company’s manufacturing facility recently released the newest fixture in our product line, the BB-02 6W LED, also known affectionately as the stick light. This barely visible fixture can be installed where no fixture has gone before, it can be custom manufactured to any height, and it is available with several beam spreads. The best news of all is that the lighting effect from this fixture looks identical to our BB-03  6W PAR36 LED bulb/well light.    

 

 

 

Column Lighting Dilemma - Hardscape

Column Lighting Dilemma at Columbine Valley Lighting Project – Hardscape

In the back yard, we also encountered another dilemma for uplighting the four primary columns. The area next to the columns was surrounded by hardscape and there was no pre-wiring of any kind. In new construction, we can coordinate the installation of lighting with the concrete/hardscape contractor so that the lighting fixtures can be flush-mounted and all of  the wiring routed through pre-installed conduits. Fortunately, our experienced installers can typically find a way to install and conceal both the lighting fixtures and the wiring on a project where the hardscape has already been installed.

Well Lights Concealed in Flower Pots to Uplight Columns

Well Lights Concealed in Flower Pots to Uplight Columns

The easiest way to hide well lights if they cannot be flush-mounted into hardscape is to plant them like a plant in a flower pot.  And yes, you can water and fertilize the actual plants in the flower pot without damaging the lighting fixture. That’s the easiest way to conceal the lights but how do you hide the wiring? The good news is that most extensive hardscaped areas have drains to channel the water out into the yard from the upper story of the house – and that’s how we were able to get the wiring to within 6-feet of where the lighting fixtures were installed. To run the wiring from the drains to the pots required grinding out grooves in the mortared joints and running the 18-gauge wiring to the lighting fixtures up through the bottoms of the flower pots. The wiring in the grooves was then held in place and sealed by using a high-quality caulk.

At Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado we’ve started our 15th year in business, and we can almost always find solutions to the most difficult lighting design and installation problems. Many of our customers ask us after an installation has been completed:

How did you do that? We don’t see any wiring or anything disturbed on our property. All we see is the beautiful lighting effect.

As the owner of a lighting company, that is one of the highest compliments that a customer can pay to our company and our installers.

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Outdoor Lighting Still Rated Highly in 2013 ASLA Top Outdoor Living Trends Survey

Enjoy Your Landscaping in the Evening with Outdoor Lighting

Enjoy Your Landscaping in the Evening with Outdoor Lighting

In the 2013 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), 95.1-percent of the respondents across all categories rated lighting (#3 in the rankings) as one of the most in-demand items for the coming year.  

Ranked ahead of lighting were fire pits/fireplaces  (97.0-percent), and grills (96.3-percent).  The most popular outdoor design elements were outdoor living spaces (94.5-percent), gardens/landscaped spaces (94.4-percent), and outdoor recreation amenities (76.3-percent).  

As we tell all of our customers, it is important to have the design elements in place first before completing a lighting design. That way we can conduct an evening lighting design demonstration to actually show you how your property will look after dark. That’s the best way to ensure that you’ll be receiving maximum enjoyment of your property during the evening hours.  

Now that it’s finally Spring in Colorado (I think we just jumped directly to Summer), Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado has begun scheduling evening lighting design demonstrations. So give us a call 303/948-9656 if you would like to see how beautiful your landscaping can look after dark! 

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See the Latest LED Landscape Lighting Products at the 2013 Colorado Garden and Home Show

CGHSLOGO-4cThe 2013 Colorado Garden and Home Show starts two weeks from today – so plan to visit our Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado exhibit (Booth #1442) to see the latest in LED landscape and architectural lighting products and services for your home and property.

The show details are:

  • Colorado Garden and Home Show
  • Colorado Convention Center – Downtown Denver
  • February 9 – 17, 2013
  • Hours:
  • Saturdays 10:00 am – 8:00pm
  • Sundays 10:00 am – 6:00pm
  • Monday – Friday 12:00 Noon – 8:00 pm

The 9-day long Colorado Garden and Home Show is the oldest, largest, and most prestiguous garden and home show in the Rocky Mountain West – with over 600 exhibitors, 14 landscaped gardens, and educational seminars. The show is run by a non-profit organization that provides horticultural scholarships to students as well as grants for landscaping projects throughout Colorado.

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado is a full-service outdoor lighting design, installation and maintenance company for residential, municipal, and commercial projects – and we design and install lighting automation controls as well. Of course we still design and sell low voltage quartz halogen systems, and the great thing about our lighting products is that we can retrofit any of the fixtures we have already installed to LED whenever the homeowner is ready. We are also happy to provide lighting energy audits to show the homeowner how much they could save in electrical costs by converting to LEDs. We are glad to do this for any OLP or non-OLP systems.

We are proud to be exhibiting for the fourteenth time at this wonderful show – and we hope to see you there.

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Outdoor Lighting Again Ranked in Top 5 by 2012 Landscape Architecture Trends Survey

Landscape Lighting Makes Outdoor Spaces More Inviting after Sunset

While it’s certainly no surprise to those of us here at Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado, a recent survey of residential landscape architects has again ranked landscape and outdoor lighting as one of the top 5 trends for outdoor living features. In the 2012 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), lighting (outdoor and landscape) was ranked #5 (93.1-percent) as being somewhat or very much in demand. The list of the most popular features across all categories follows below:

  1. Grills                                                  97.4%
  2. Low Maintenance Landscape      96.6
  3. Fireplaces/Firepits                          95.8
  4. Dining Areas                                    95.7
  5. Lighting                                             93.1
  6. Water Features                                89.9
  7. All-Weather Outdoor Furniture      81.2
  8. Pools                                                 79.2

We’re very pleased of course to see that residential landscape architects are beginning to stress the importance of professional landscape lighting to their clients. Surprisingly, most college bachelors degree programs in landscape architecture only require one course in lighting, and most of the students we’ve spoken with tell us that they wished their programs included more. Typically, landscape architects receive more exposure to lighting after they’ve begun their career and taken advantage of the outreach and educational programs offered by ASLA and lighting companies such as Outdoor Lighting Perspectives. The good news is that whatever we’re doing, both landscape architects and homeowners are becoming more aware of the importance and necessity of good landscape lighting.

What Is the Proper Way to Illuminate a U.S. Flag?

 As Memorial Day 2012 approaches, it is once again a time to remember and honor those men and women who gave their lives while serving their country. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the fallen who helped preserve the liberty and freedom we still enjoy today.

Many homeowners like to honor all military veterans and current enlistees by displaying a flag on their property from dusk to dawn, and many choose to display it during the evening by installing lighting.

The U.S. Flag Code states that –

It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during hours of darkness.

The Congressional Research Service in interpreting the U.S. Flag Code said that –

It would seem that the display of the flag in a respectful manner with appropriate lighting does not violate the spirit of the Flag Code since the dignity accorded to the flag is preserved by lighting that prevents its being enveloped in darkness.

Unfortunately, far too many homeowners will hang a U.S. flag on a bracket by the front porch, and when the front porch light is turned off – the flag will remain in darkness until sunrise. Fortunately, most homeowners who have actual flagstaffs on their property, realize that the flag must be lit properly.

Lighting Scheme for Residential Flag Poles

Most residential flag poles are up to 20 feet tall, and for this application low voltage quartz halogen or LED lighting will work just fine. As you can see in the drawing to the right, for flag poles in the 14- to 20-foot range and for a typical flag size (3- by 5-feet), we recommend the use of two well lights installed 180 degrees apart to uplight the flag pole and flag. Regardless of which way the wind is blowing, the flag will always be properly illuminated.  For shorter flag poles with the well light mounted less than a foot from the flag pole, sometimes only one well light will be sufficient. This is especially the case for installations in or near the foothills where the prevailing wind is typically from one direction most of the time. 

At Outdoor Lighting Perspectives, we’ve also learned through experience that the wide flood bulbs do a much better job of ensuring that the flag is illuminated properly. While the narrow spot bulbs will make the flag really stand out when it’s exactly in the right spot, the wide floods seem to work better the other 95-percent of the time.

So display your flag proudly, have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend, and last but not least – save some time to remember what the holiday is truly about.

 

 

Do People Actually Light Up Their Chimneys?

Chimney Lighting in Cherry Hills Village

Well, believe it or not – they do and for good reason. Most landscape and architectural lighting professionals tend to develop their list of favorite things to light up, and for us it has been residential chimneys. Many custom home builders in the Denver market (Suderman Homes, Bond General Contractors, etc.) have also taken chimney design and construction to a whole new level. And since the chimney is the highest and most visible architectural feature of the house, it definitely creates a focal point of the house and property – during the daytime and after dark with lighting.   

Close-Up of Lighting Fixture

On some houses, the chimney is not visible on the exterior of the house until it emerges from the roofline. With regard to lighting the chimney, that creates a challenging but not insurmountable problem with mounting the lighting fixture to achieve the proper lighting effect. In the photo, you can see a close-up of our factory’s cast brass spot light (20W MR16) that is mounted in the copper gutter along the eave of the home. After the fixture develops a patina, it will blend in perfectly with the rest of the gutter.

The good news is that most chimneys are visible on a home’s facade all the way to the ground level, and these of course are much more easy to light up. For this configuration, well lights can be installed in the ground to provide up-lighting on the chimney. 

Oftentimes, surprises can occur during evening lighting design demonstrations when you are setting up the lights for the chimney. On several occasions we have awoken nesting birds and have irritated bats. But the most memorable occasion was when we set up the lights for the chimney and noticed an impish gargoyle sculpture playfully smiling back at us. We still have homeowners ask us whether we were the ones who lit up the gargoyle down on so and so street. So just remember, with evening lighting design you are painting with light – and there’s absolutely no reason that you cannot make it whimsical and playful. 

To Zone, Or Not to Zone… Important Landscape Lighting Design Question

Preliminary Landscape-Outdoor Lighting Design with Zones

One of the first questions a landscape lighting designer or contractor must ask a client is how they intend to use their outdoor space – and what the primary motivation is for them to be adding this new lighting. One of the mistakes that inexperienced lighting designers make is to assume how the client will be using their outdoor living space and lighting. After all, the client is the one who lives there 365 days per year and not the designer.

Landscape and outdoor lighting provides aesthetics, safety, security, and usability for a homeowner’s property. Oftentimes, homeowners will want the lighting for all four of the above categories or as few as one; e.g., security. If security lighting is the primary purpose, then chances are the homeowner will want to have the lights operate from dusk to dawn – and from a control standpoint you would only have to have one zone.

 If the primary purpose of the lighting is for aesthetics only and the homeowners go to bed around 11:00 PM every night, then there’s no point in increasing their electricity bill to operate the lights until 3:00 AM if they are not awake to enjoy them. The same thing can be said for usability of the outdoor living space. If the pond has been drained for the winter and there are three-foot deep snow drifts on the back patio, most homeowners will not be outside barbecuing in the dead of winter – and probably will not be using their lights quite as much. As far as safety, most homeowners do typically like to leave a few of their lights on all night long whether they be carriage lights by their front door or a few landscape lights to light the way along the sidewalk. 

 

All of the zones have been programmed to turn on and off automatically, but the homeowner can turn off any of these zones manually using this 8-button switch. So even after the installation of the low-wattage LEDs, no energy will be wasted at this homeowner’s house.

 Most homeowners typically want to control their back yard lights separately from the lights in the front yard – and they typically have their front yard lights operate for a few hours longer. We have also installed quite a few systems where the homeowners operate the path lighting all night long but have the uplighting for the house and trees turn off at midnight or earlier. We once did a landscape lighting installation for a former Denver Bronco offensive lineman. We had lit up his kids’  jungle gym but he wanted to be able to turn those lights off when he had get-togethers at his house with his team mates. He didn’t want anything to get broken – neither the play equipment or his fellow team mates. For smaller properties that require fewer landscape lighting fixtures, there is typically not much of a need for separate lighting and control zones – and separate zones can unnecessarily drive up the installation cost for a small system. For larger systems, however, separate control zones can help a homeowner save money on their monthly electric bill while also helping the environment. 

How Does Ambient Lighting Affect the Design of Landscape and Architectural Lighting?

According to Webster’s, the definition of ambient is surrounding; on all sides. For a landscape lighting or architectural lighting designer, ambient lighting typically represents the baseline amount of illumination on a particular property or structure in question – for which the designer may or may not have any control. We’ll talk more about this later in this post. The most important point is that it would be just as irresponsible for a lighting designer to design an outdoor lighting system for a home or business without first knowing the level of existent ambient lighting – as it would be for an architect to design a custom home or commercial building without first having a contour and site plan.

3.7W LED Illuminating Entrance Monument

For example, in the mountains of Colorado where the only ambient lighting originates from the moon or perhaps the Milky Way, a low voltage quartz halogen (20W) or LED (3.7W) lighting fixture would be more than sufficient to illuminate a community entrance monument.

Glare from HPS Street Light

Conversely, trying to illuminate a commercial building or community entrance with low voltage lighting that faces a row of 250W high pressure sodium street lights, just would not be very effective. In this situation, a higher wattage ceramic metal halide or metal halide fixture must be used so that the building or monument is illuminated to at least the level of the ambient lighting, in order to effectively highlight them.

The best rule of thumb for any good energy efficient and aesthetic lighting design is to use only the amount of lighting needed – nothing less and nothing more. Lighting designers and lighting contractors love to sell lights, but the operative phrase should be Less Is More.

When you are designing a lighting system in the city, ambient lighting may originate from a streetlight across the street or from the overall sky glow that envelopes the entire region. There is nothing that a lighting designer can do about that, except for possibly encouraging the city to adopt more energy efficient and sky-friendly street lighting, etc. However, some glare-producing and inefficient lighting may be self inflicted by the property owners themselves – and lighting designers can certainly make recommendations to improve the overall effect of this lighting so that the new lighting design will not be ruined by the glare-producing ambient lighting.

For homeowners, the glare from offending light sources such as carriage lights can be mitigated by replacing the fixtures’ clear glass panels with frosted glass panels, by decreasing the wattage of the bulbs, and/or by dimming the bulbs. The same thing can be done with offending soffit lights by using lower wattage bulbs and/or by dimming them.

For commercial building owners, the overall lighting effect can be enhanced by ensuring that all lighting is directed only toward its intended focal plane; e.g., area lighting with full-cutoff (parking lot lighting and walkway lighting) directed downward only (no spillage horizontally); architectural lighting that is directed only toward the building with no glare produced in any other viewing plane.

The National Energy Education Development (NEED) project has determined that the percentage of energy consumption in the U.S. dedicated to lighting is roughly 11-percent for homes and 38-percent for schools and businesses. That’s a significant percentage, so by reducing unnecessary glare that contributes to unaesthetic ambient lighting – we can begin to make our nighttime environment more attractive as well as save energy.

Landscape Architects Select Lighting as Top Outdoor Living Feature for 2011

Landscape Lighting Makes Outdoor Living Spaces Warm and Inviting

A recently published survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects asked residential landscape architecture professionals to rank the relative popularity of a wide variety of design features to be included in outdoor living spaces in 2011.  Lighting was selected by 96.2% of the landscape architects, making it the most popular feature to be included in upcoming outdoor living projects. Ranked below lighting were fire pits/fireplaces, seating/dining areas, barbecue grills, and installed seating. Based on our experience, we know that most homeowners also need landscape lighting after dark to safely reach their outdoor firepits and seating areas, and to have adequate  lighting for both barbecuing and dining outdoors.

Landscape lighting not only makes your outdoor setting warm and inviting but it also allows you to enjoy your outdoor oasis from day into evening.

Garden Lighting Looks Great 365 Days a Year

Garden path light with melting snow

With only 56 days until the first day of spring, I thought that it was worth mentioning that garden lighting looks great regardless of the season of the year. Most homeowners are afraid that garden lighting will make their yards look ugly during the non-growing seasons – but nothing can be further from the truth. Having grown up in Pennsylvania, I always loved seeing the deciduous trees and shrubs in winter because of the ever-changing beauty of both the branch structures and bark textures. The interplay of light and shadows that can be created by garden lighting is truly magnificent after a new snowfall, in the spring with flowering trees and shrubs, in the summer with trees and shrubs under full-leaf , and of course in the fall with multi-color leaves. Once the landscaping and the lighting have been installed, mother nature provides the ever-changing and exciting palette of colors and hues for a homeowner’s enjoyment.

Colorado Outdoor Lighting Path Light

Path Light after a Snow Storm

Garden lighting can be used to illuminate a pathway to reach a gazebo, a fire pit, or patio – or be used to illuminate a prized flower bed with colorful annual and/or perennial flowers. Sometimes a focal point of garden lighting will be a water feature, koi pond, or a piece of sculpture. And in Colorado, garden lighting helps to provide safety and security after dark for both young children and pets especially with the prevalence of coyotes, mountain lions, and bears.

Path Light – Summertime

With any good lighting design, the important thing is to not flood the area with light but to carefully highlight only the parts of the garden that are interesting aesthetically or are needed for safety – pathways, steps, etc. The lighting designer is basically an artist who is “painting” with light – and he or she with the homeowner’s input can choose to include anything on the blank lighting “canvas” in order to complete a compelling masterpiece that will be enjoyed for many years to come.

Colorado Outdoor Path Lighting
Garden lighting for gazebo, rock wall and trees.

In Colorado, homeowners love their rocks – character moss rocks, rock walls, massive red rock outcroppings, and huge granite boulders in the mountains. Hey – they don’t call this the Rocky Mountains for no good reason! Outdoor Lighting Perspectives (OLP) of Colorado has illuminated rocks and boulders of all sizes – and it helps to add three-dimensionality and interest to any garden lighting design.