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. 

Turn Your Outdoor Living Area into a Year-Round Fiesta with Permanent Festival Lighting

Nighttime View of Festival Lighting in Denver Courtyard

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives just completed a truly fun and unique lighting installation – festival lighting for a courtyard at a downtown Denver townhome. The five strands of line voltage festival lights used a total of 44 bulbs (11W each) to span the courtyard between the townhome and its garage at the rear of the property. 

 

 

With the installation of a 1000W dimmer switch, the lights are now controlled manually and can be dimmed to the desired setting to establish the mood for a party or to just relax at the end of a long day.  To support the weight of the electrical wiring and bulbs, stainless steel aircraft cable was first installed for each of the five spans.

 Most area residents have seen festival lighting used in Larimer Square and the Denver Pavilions, but may not have considered it for their own properties and outdoor living spaces. Through the use of commercial-grade lighting products and professional installation, now homeowners can truly enjoy this very cheerful lighting at their own homes as well. 

Another first at this installation was seeing the live birth of kittens when an alley cat took up temporary residence in one of the homeowner’s large pots on the courtyard. So I guess even alley cats cannot resist the ambience and warm glow of festival lights!

See the New Landscape Lighting LEDs at the 2012 Colorado Garden & Home Show

There are three days remaining to see the 2012 Colorado Garden & Home Show, and hopefully you’ll be able to stop by the Outdoor Lighting Perspectives exhibit (#1442) to see the latest landscape lighting products. In the meantime, please enjoy the short video tour below where we highlight our latest LED products:

 

 

Landscape Lighting Specials at the 2012 Colorado Garden & Home Show

7-Light Special

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives (Booth #1442) will be offering two extremely attractive landscape lighting specials at the Colorado Garden and Home Show that starts Saturday, February 11th.

 
We will be offering a 7- light show special (7 halogen well lights, transformer, and complete installation) as well as a 10-light show special (7 well lights, 3 copper path lights, 600W transformer, and complete installation) – at prices not seen since 1999.
 
To learn more details and to take advantage of these special offers, please plan to visit us at the show. And, if you would like to discuss a specific lighting project for your home or garden, stop by with a photo and we would be glad to discuss it in more detail with you.
 
See you at the show,
 
 
 

$2 Off Admission at the 2012 Colorado Garden & Home Show

Courtesy of Outdoor Lighting Perspectives, click on the following coupon, print it out, and take it to the ticket window at the 2012 Colorado Garden and Home Show. With this coupon, you will save $2 per ticket (two tickets maximum) on admission to the show. We’re located in Booth #1442, so stop by and say hello.

GE Lighting Revolution Tour Is Coming to Denver

The GE Lighting Revolution Tour  is coming to Denver (Auraria Campus) on Wednesday, July 6th, 2011. As part of a 45-city tour throughout the U.S. and Canada, GE is showcasing the latest in lighting technology including LED, Ceramic Metal Halide, linear fluorescent, and compact fluorescent bulbs.

BB07 Path Light Powered by GE Vio LEDs

On display in the GE exhibit is their Vio LED technology that powers Outdoor Lighting Perspectives’ (OLP) copper path lights (BB07s and BB07.5s) as well as the BB04 flood lights and BB08 deck lights. OLP’s BB07 path light uses two of the Vio 3.6W LEDs – and by far it is the brightest and truest color path light available today. In fact, GE had some of these OLP fixtures on display at their exhibit at last May’s Light Fair in Philadelphia.

 
BB08 Deck Light Powered by GE Vio LED

The Vio LEDs are available with a (Color Rendering Index) CRI of 70 or 85 and at three different color temperatures (3000K, 3500K, and 4100K). The LEDs are rated to have a 70% lumen depreciation after 50,000 hours of operation – and are totally mercury free.

 
To see the truly amazing lighting effect with this new LED technology, plan to visit the GE exhibit when it comes to Denver or contact Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado for a complimentary evening lighting demonstration.
 

Can Landscape Lights and Mulch Coexist?

 

Mulch Covering Well LIght Causes Acrylic Lens Cover to Melt

During the spring months in Colorado, most homeowners start turning their attention to their outdoor living spaces, gardens, and lawns. A big part of this effort includes cleaning up any remaining leaves and other wind-blown debris from the property, and freshening up  the planting beds by re-mulching.

 

For those homeowners who also have landscape lighting systems installed on their property, it is critically important that none of the landscape fixtures become carelessly covered up by mulch during this process. If an outside landscaping contractor or handyman has been hired to do the re-mulching, it is encumbent on the homeowner to alert them to the location of each and every fixture – and instruct them not to cover up the fixtures. Many years ago one of our customers was out of town, and on a Friday afternoon, their landscaper carelessly dumped a 6-foot tall pile of mulch on one of the well lights. The landscapers didn’t plan to go back to the house until Monday to distribute the mulch – and early on that Saturday evening a girl riding her bicycle saw the resulting mulch fire. Fortunately, she summoned her father who was then able to douse the fire with a garden hose.

Our national company initially installed well lights without lens covers – and then quickly transitioned to the acrylic lens covers. For about the last four years, we’ve been using tempered glass lens covers on every well light that we install. The glass is thick enough that it prevents the outside of the lens from becoming as hot as the previous acrylic ones, and it keeps flammable materials from contacting the bulb directly. Surprisingly, most of the other major landscape lighting manufacturers are still not using lens covers of ANY kind. It’s not been uncommon when our crews are servicing non-OLP systems to find other manufacturer’s well lights that are totally covered by mulch. In some instances, we have found situations where a mulch fire had started previously.

OLP Well Light with Tempered Glass Lens Cover

As with everything else around the home, it does not take a lot of time to do some preventive maintenance to ensure that the lights are not being covered up by mulch, tumbleweeds, or leaves. Another rule of thumb is not to purchase the least expensive mulch (usually the lightest) that tends to blow away during the first good wind storm. In the early 2000’s, the National Electrical Code also addressed this issue by requiring that low voltage transformers have secondary circuit protection (the wiring that goes to the fixtures in the landscaping).

 
As lighting systems transition from quartz halogen to LED, mulch-related heat buildup problems and issues will decrease. However, in addition to safety, another main reason to ensure that your lighting fixtures are not covered up by mulch or dirt is because the light will be blocked – but you will still be paying the electric company for it anyway!
 

Can Line Voltage Lamp Posts be Converted to Low Voltage?

Retrofit Low Voltage Quartz Halogen Column Lights

In many of the older neighborhoods in Denver and along the front range, line voltage column lights or lamp posts had been used to illuminate the entrance walkway or driveway to a home. Over many years of time, this underground wiring has become corroded, frayed and/or cut – rendering the lighting fixtures inoperable.

One solution of course would be to trace and identify the defective wiring and either fix it or replace it completely. However, trenching and burying new line voltage wiring (18-inches deep in conduit or 24-inches deep for direct burial) can be very costly, not to mention the disruption and damage to the mature landscaping.

Fortunately, there is a much more cost effective solution for restoring power to these line voltage lamp posts and column lights – and that is by installing a low voltage transformer by the house – and running new low voltage wiring (6-inches deep) to the fixtures. The above photo shows an Outdoor Lighting Perspectives (OLP) installation along the 6th Avenue Parkway in Denver. In addition to not having any power to the columns, the existing fixtures were beyond repair as well. OLP installed two of its copper/brass BB-14 lanterns with 35W quartz halogen bulbs to replace the old fixtures. Not only did the homeowners save money by not having to replace the line voltage wiring, they will also be saving money over time by using more energy efficient bulbs.

LED vs. Incandescent Post Light Comparison

By using GE Vio LED technology, OLP can now provide a 50,000 hour lighting retrofit solution for new or existing lamp posts or column lights. In the photo, the fixture powered by GE Vio LED 7.2W total (left) is shown next to a regular 40W incandescent bulb. Fixtures having a frosted lens or globe work best as it allows for a better diffusion of the light.

 
So if you currently have any lamp posts or column lights that are having power issues, you may want to consider the less expensive option of retrofitting them to low voltage LED or quartz halogen – and saving additional money on your monthly electric bill.
 

 

 

 

 

From day to night – lighting done right

One of the things we offer is a free nighttime demonstration so that you actually get to see what a particular lighting design will look like for your home and property – prior to an installation.  That eliminates all of the guesswork and surprises – and you will know exactly how much you will have to invest to achieve that desired lighting effect.

Most of our typical lighting installations in Colorado range in price between $3,500 and $6,500. Not surprisingly, most homeowners have no idea how many lights they may need or want – or what their investment range might be until we do the evening lighting demonstration.  And that’s perfectly OK because we do not want you to purchase a lighting system sight unseen.

Additionally, we do our nighttime demonstration for these other reasons:

  • It is your house, not our’s – and you know best how you would like to have your house and property illuminated in the evening.
  • Exact placement of the fixtures can be determined in order to safely light steps and other hazards, and to effectively light architectural features.
  • We can show you several different lighting options that you may not have considered previously.
  • The evening lighting demonstration is an event that your entire family can participate in and provide input to the lighting design.

Here is what you will see.

 

Outdoor lighting Colorado before and after
Outdoor lighting Colorado before and after

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.