Don’t Forget About Your Landscape Lights During Your Spring Yard Cleanup

After a long hard winter this year in many parts of the country, many homeowners are only now beginning their spring yard clean up. That work may include raking up leaves and fallen tree branches, trimming dead tree branches, re-seeding the lawn, and removing general dirt and  grime that accumulated during the winter. When it comes to wintertime dirt and grunge, the source of this mess is truly global. I’ve read that the prevailing winds have carried sand from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia and ash from forest fires in California to Colorado; and that Colorado returned the favor by sending its soot and ash from the forest fires last year to Iceland where it is now blackening the glaciers.

However, in the midst of all this outdoor spring cleaning, many homeowners overlook the need to clean and service their landscape lighting systems as well. Whether these homeowners elect to do this maintenance themselves or hire a professional lighting contractor to do it, a comprehensive servicing of the landscape lighting system should be done at least annually. The following checklist provides the required tasks to keep your lighting system looking as good as the day it was first installed:

  • Clean all fixtures and lens covers
  • Replace all halogen bulbs with new ones to provide maximum illumination; for LED systems, replace only those LEDs that have failed during the winter
  • Re-anchor and straighten all fixtures as needed
  • Cover any exposed wiring
  • Check transformer and all connections
  • Check and reset/reprogram timer or control system as required
  • Trim or lightly prune plants and bushes as required
  • Selectively relocate fixtures due to changes and/or overgrowth of landscaping

Your low voltage landscape lighting system performs nightly and is subjected to every environmental extreme that mother nature can throw at it. The good news is that it can and will provide you years and years of service as long as it receives regular and routine maintenance.

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$2 Off Admission Coupon for the 2014 Colorado Garden & Home Show

2014+CGHS_Online_CouponThe 2014 Colorado Garden & Home Show begins on Saturday, February 15th – that’s only four days away! In order to make the most of the show, click on and print out the coupon on the right. Take it to the ticket window of the show at the Colorado Convention Center to obtain a discount of $2 off each ticket purchased.

The 9-day long show will feature 14 beautifully landscaped gardens, over 650 vendors, educational seminars, and a “Wild Africa” entry garden.

Also be sure to stop by to see the Outdoor Lighting Perspectives exhibit (#1442) to see the latest in architectural/landscape/outdoor lighting products along with turnkey design, installation, and maintenance services. where we will have some exciting show specials. We will be listing our show specials on a subsequent blog posting.

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Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado Installs New Energy-Efficient LEDs at Arrowhead Shores Community Entrances

 

New LED Lighting at Arrowhead Shores Community Entrance

New LED Lighting at Arrowhead Shores Community Entrance, Douglas County – Colorado

 

Last week, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives (OLP) of Colorado installed its first commercial LED fixtures at three community entrances in Arrowhead Shores (located in the Roxborough Village area of Douglas County).

The new 24W LED fixtures with a rated life of 50,000 hours, manufactured by OLP’s factory in Nashville,  replaced the old 70W metal halide fixtures with a rated bulb life of around 7,000- to 10,000- hours. The new fixtures will save the community roughly $66 annually in their electric bill, as well as savings with on-going maintenance costs to replace the metal halide bulbs and ballast.

Newly Installed LED Lighting Fixture at Arrowhead Shores

Newly Installed LED Lighting Fixture at Arrowhead Shores

Close-up of OLP Commercial LED Lighting Fixture

Close-up of OLP Commercial LED Lighting Fixture

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other advantage that LED fixtures have over metal halide fixtures is that LED’s do not experience any color shift. If you’ve ever been to a sporting event where some of the lights appear to be white, pink, green, or blue, etc., you’re actually seeing metal halide bulbs in different points in their life cycle.

Since the original lighting fixtures were powered by line voltage, we used line voltage for the new fixtures as well. However, each fixture had a small, self-contained low voltage transformer to power the four, 6W LEDs in each unit. As you can see in the photo above, these very green, energy-efficient fixtures do a great job lighting a community entrance – and we look forward to installing more of these at entrance monuments and other commercial applications as well.

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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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How Do You Maintain a Solar Photovoltaic LED Lighting Installation?

Genesee Entrance Monument – Solar PV LED

Outdoor Lighting Perspective’s solar photovoltaic (PV) LED lighting system has been operational at the Village of Genesee’s entrance monument for two years now. A few weeks ago we completed the Year Two annual maintenance for the system – and it continues to illuminate the monument nightly with the free energy captured by the sun.

 
The solar PV LED system consists of the following: a 3.7W LED lighting fixture supported by a strut to provide downlighting (Genesee is dark-sky compliant); a solar mast that supports the 16- by 20-inch solar PV panel and equipment bay; the equipment bay contains the solar gel battery and system controller. Every solar PV LED lighting system should be checked and maintained on an annual basis, and this is especially true for a mountain installation where the site can experience very high wind loads.
 
To see some of the issues we faced at this year’s maintenance visit, please watch the video below:
 
 
As you could see in this video, we did have to replace the LED fixture on this visit because the electronics had become corroded due to moisture entering the fixture. We suspect that a seal had failed perhaps due to the buffeting by the high winds. The on-site checklist that we follow for this type of maintenance is shown below:
  • Confirm that the current levels of the solar array and load do not exceed the controller ratings.
  • Tighten all terminal connections. Inspect for loose, broken or burnt wire connections. Be certain that no loose strands of wire are touching other terminals.
  • Test that the LED fixture is working.
  • Inspect the equipment bay for signs of dirt, insects, moisture, and/or corrosion.
  • Ensure that the air flow around the controller is not blocked.
  • Check that the controller functions and LED indicators are correct for the system conditions at that time.
  • Clean the PV array and reconfirm that the array is oriented correctly.
  • Re-confirm that the correct battery type is indicated.
  • Check and re-tighten as needed the ground wires by the fixture as well as by the PV array.
  • Inspect and re-tighten as needed the mounting system for the fixture.
  • Re-touch paint as needed on the solar mast and equipment bay.

As with any type of lighting system, annual and preventive maintenance will ensure that the lights will be on when you need them.

Why Did My Landscape Lighting System Stop Working?

During the past week, Colorado has been subjected to a daily occurrence of severe thunderstorm activity with heavy rains and extensive lightning. It is not at all unusual for us to start receiving calls from customers asking why their landscape lighting systems have stopped working.

GFCI Outlet

If all of the landscape lights in a system stop working, typically there is a problem with the power to the low voltage lighting transformer. And 90-percent of the time the loss of power is due to a tripped Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter or GFCI. In some circles, some electricians and homeowners will also refer to these outlets as just a GFI. During stormy weather with heavy moisture and power surges created by lightning strikes/outages – GFCIs can sometimes trip due to their sensitivity.

That sensitivity of GFCIs is actually a good thing because it protects people from possible electrocution. When a hand tool or appliance is in use, the GFCI monitors the amount of current flowing from the hot to the neutral. If there is any imbalance in the current (as little as 4 or 5 milliamps), the GFCI can trip in as quickly as one-thirtieth of a second. If a person is standing outside on the ground and using an electric circular saw while it is raining, the saw is wet and a path is created from the hot wire through that person to the ground. If all of the current is diverted through the person, that could be fatal. That is why the National Electrical Code (NEC) requires the installation of GFCI outlets in new construction for electrical circuits in bathrooms, laundry rooms, kitchens, garages and on home exteriors. Older homes may only have one or two GFCI outlets (typically in bathrooms) to protect the circuits in the garage, kitchen and exterior.

So if your lights are not working, first check the outlet where your low voltage lighting transformer is plugged in. Plug in a radio or small appliance to see if you have power there. If there is no power, find and try to reset the GFCI. If the outlet where the transformer is plugged in does not have the GFCI test and reset buttons, you will need to find it. Remember that the actual GFCI for the circuit could be located in the garage, bathroom, laundry room, or on another outlet on the exterior of the house.

Once you have located the GFCI, push the reset button – and recheck the outlet by the transformer to ensure that the power has been restored. If there is still no power, you will have to keep looking for the GFCI that controls the circuit for the lighting. In newer houses, some garages may have as many as four or five separate GFCIs to accommodate power tools and central vacuum systems.

If you have reset the GFCI and the power has been restored, your lighting system is good to go. However, if your lighting system is controlled by a mechanical timer, you will have to reset the current time on the timer to ensure proper operation. If your system is controlled by a digital timer with battery backup or with Outdoor Lighting Perspectives’ (OLP) Lighting Control Automation™, just restoring power to the transformer is all you will need to do.

In the event that you tried to reset the GFCI and it would not physically reset, you should check your electrical panel to see if a breaker tripped for that circuit. If a breaker has tripped, reset it and then try again to reset the GFCI outlet. During this process if you have any problems resetting either the breaker or the GFCI, it would be a good idea to call in an electrician. Electrical breakers and GFCIs can break down and malfunction over time. In fact, the more times that breakers and GFCIs trip, the more susceptible they are to tripping the next time.

In the beginning of this article, I mentioned that 90-percent of the time that landscape lighting systems stopoped working due to GFCI outlets tripping. The other 10-percent of the time can be attributed to the fact that someone unplugged the low voltage transformer and neglected to plug it back in or to a problem connected to the control system.

Control system problems occur frequently with the older technology – mechanical timers, photocells, and X10. Those control system issues have been solved with Lighting Control Automation – but you still have to ensure that the automatic/manual controller inside your house has power 24/7 for the system to operate properly.

So the next time you have an issue with your landscape lighting system, try these steps first before scheduling a service call. However, please feel free to call our office at any time if we can be of further assistance.

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!