Outdoor Lighting Systems Do Require Maintenance

Yes, outdoor landscape lighting systems do require maintenance to keep them operating at peak performance. Most of our Outdoor Lighting Perspectives’ customers avail themselves of our Annual Maintenance Plans (AMP) so that the lighting system and the lighting effect look as good as the day the system was first installed.

Well Light Requiring Cleaning/Vegetation Pruning

In Colorado, houses and landscaping get dirty through the winter months – and at the left is a photo of a well light prior to the AMP work being done. The lens cover is dirty and needs to be cleaned, the fallen leaves need to be removed, and the juniper needs to be pruned so that it does not block the light meant for the crabapple tree. Interestingly, last week we had a rain shower in Denver that left a deposit of reddish-tan dust on cars, house windows and landscaping – and the weatherman told us that evening that the dust had been carried all of the way from Mongolia!

Running an outdoor lighting system with dirty lens covers or lumen-depreciated bulbs is a total waste of energy. Imagine having to drive your car during all of the winter months without ever cleaning your headlights.

Quartz halogen bulbs lose roughly a third to a half of their lumen intensity on an annual basis. That’s why when the AMP is performed, all of the bulbs are replaced with new ones so that the lighting output and effect will be the same as when the system was brand new.

During the freeze-thaw cycles in Colorado and in communities with lots of active wildlife, it’s not uncommon for fixtures to become crooked or knocked out of place. Animals sometimes have a knack for pulling up wiring which also needs to be re-buried during the annual maintenance service.

Wiring That Needs to Be Buried

Wiring connections also need to be rechecked for tightness, especially in the transformer bays where internal temperatures can reach as high as 135-degrees Fahrenheit.

All landscaping has a way of maturing and spreading so that a well light that was properly located five years ago to light up a spruce tree, has now been swallowed by that same tree if proper maintenance has not been performed over the years. That’s one of the advantages of a low voltage system to be able to relocate the lighting fixtures as the landscaping matures.

Control systems for outdoor lighting systems should also be checked during this annual service visit. Even though low voltage lighting systems are very energy efficient, it does not make sense to be running the landscape lights an extra two or more hours a day during daylight hours if the system has not be set properly. That’s why we only use the Lighting Control Automation™ system for residential systems. There’s no mechanical timer to get out of synch because of a power outage or a photocell on a transformer that gets blocked by a roof overhang or tree that causes the system to turn on when it’s really not dark.

So either hire a professional or get out there and do the maintenance work yourself on your lighting system. Either way this annual maintenance will keep your lighting system at its optimum level for years to come.

Colorado Garden and Home Show

Come visit us at the upcoming Colorado Garden and Home Show February 13th through the 21st at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver in Booth #1442. The show’s hours on Saturdays are (10 a.m. – 8 p.m.), Sundays (10 a.m. – 6 p.m.) and from Monday through Friday (Noon – 8 p.m.).

The show features over 600 companies dedicated to the home and garden marketplace. Not to be missed by kids of all ages is the Mammoths, Tigers and Flowers – Creatures of the Ice Age Entry Garden.

Special Spring discounts are available for current customers – so watch your email for all the details.

Spring is right around the corner and we look forward to seeing you at the show so that you can see all of the latest products (LEDs etc.).

Another Reason to Use Lighting Control AutomationTM – Please Note the Intermatic Timer Recall

In a previous post, we highlighted state-of-the-art whole-house lighting control systems available today including the one we use, Lighting Control Automation™. We also mentioned some of the older technology still in use including the Intermatic electronic in-wall timer.

We just learned today that Intermatic has RECALLED 240,000 of their in-wall electronic timers because the product might pose a shock hazard to consumers trying to replace a battery. The model numbers include ST01, ST01C, ST01AC, ST01AC70, ST01C70, ST01CL, EI600C, EI600LAC, EI600LAC8, EI600WC and EI600WC8. These switches typically replaced an existing toggle or decora switch, and were sold at electrical supply houses and other retail outlets nationwide between March 2007 and June of this year.

If you have one of these switches, you can obtain details about this recall by calling 877-417-4316; online at Intermatic.com; or by accessing the website of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

That is truly one of the great benefits of our Lighting Control Automation system, in that each intelligent switch does not need or even require a battery back up. Once the switch is programmed, the program is preserved forever and batteries are not required to back up the memory. In addition, there is no need to keep reprogramming the on and off times throughout the year since Lighting Control Automation does that for you automatically.

Lighting Controls Save Energy/Money and Enhance Security

For many years, lighting control was simply thought of as a manual switch that enabled a homeowner to turn on or off the front porch or carriage lights, or outside landscape lighting system. The problem with that control system is that someone would either forget to turn the lights on when it got dark or invariably forget to turn them off during the daytime. That inevitably wastes energy and money. Many homes today still have three or four sets of switches along the entire length of the house that someone has to manually control twice each day.

Photocells were sometimes added to control exterior line voltage lights as well as low voltage lighting systems over the years – and the lights run at full power from dusk to dawn or longer, depending on the location of the photocell. The other problem is that if you have several lighting zones, it is virtually impossible to synchronize the lights; i.e, some lights may be turning on or off as much as an hour earlier/later than other lights. Photocells work great for public or commercial properties where dusk to dawn lighting is deemed necessary for public safety/security. However, for most residential applications, a photocell is wasteful because the homeowner is paying for lighting all night long – even when they might only need it to say 11:00 PM.

Then someone got the bright idea of combining the photocell with a mechanical timer (on a low-voltage lighting transformer) or an electronic timer on a switch inside the house that controls carriage lights, for example. In the case of the low voltage lighting system, that works great until there’s a power outage and the timer no longer has the correct current time. And if you have multiple lighting zones, the lights are invariably coming on and going off at different times. The other disadvantage is that you also do not have the ability to manually turn the lights on and off from inside the house.

In the case of the electronic timer used in an in-wall switch (Intermatic is used a lot), it may work fine for one set of exterior lights but there is no way to synchronize all of the lighting circuits so that they operate at exactly the same time. Most of these Intermatic switches have been installed by do-it-yourself homeowners – and many times we’ve found that they’ve actually been unsafely overloaded.

More sophisticated whole-house automation systems have been in use in recent years including Lutron (hardwired and RadioRA), Control 4, X10 and others. The hardwired Lutron systems are typically used in large new homes over 10,000 square feet and we have many lighting systems that interface with this control system. We also have experience with Control 4 and Lutron’s RadioRA systems – both of which use wireless technology. Our experience is that the more control nodes that the homeowner adds throughout the house, the more robust and reliable the control system becomes. So if you need to send a signal over long distances and there are not many nodes in between, this wireless technology can be problematic.

We started off using the X10 control system ten years ago – but dropped it over three years ago because of unresolved technical issues. As it turns out, the X10 technology was not able to overcome the signal interference problems caused by the new electronic devices increasingly common in today’s home.

So what we’re now using for all of our residential installations is Lighting Control Automation™ (LCA) which is based on Universal Powerline Bus technology. We can control all of the low voltage lighting transformers and any or all of the interior/exterior line voltage lights from a single controller that is plugged into an interior outlet.

Once the controller has been programmed, you can plug it in and forget it. The device automatically adjusts on/off times according to the daily astronomical sunset/sunrise times for the home’s specific latitude/longitude, and it automatically adjusts for daylight savings/standard time and leap year as needed.

What once were standard “dumb” mechanical switches can be converted to Lighting Control Automation “intelligent” switches with a series of different faceplates  – that would enable you to be able to control from one to eight different other circuits throughout the house.

The beauty of the LCA system is that it can do roughly 85-percent of what a Lutron control system can do – at about one-third of the price. And the LCA system does not have to be hard-wired because it uses the existing house wiring and is an excellent choice for remodels as well as retrofits.

So what kind of applications can be handled by Lighting Control Automation? Almost anything and everything:

–  automate your front carriage lights to operate at 85-percent power to save energy and to turn off automatically; never waste power again because you forgot to turn the lights off before going to bed. This dimming level will also ensure that the carriage lights become integrated with the overall lighting effect, instead of otherwise ruining an effective design because they cause too much glare.

–  automate the lights in any room of your house and randomize the on/off times when you are away to give the house a lived-in look to deter vandalism.

–  automate a SECURE-ENTRY scenario whereby interior lights turn on when you turn into your driveway or use your garage door remote.

– automate your basement and rec-room lights so that they never get left on overnight again

–  provide a warning light to notify the homeowner that the garage door was left open before turning in for the night

–  in hot weather, automate a ceiling fan or automatically lower solar blinds to keep the house cool.

–  provide an ALL-LIGHTS ON scenario in case a noise is heard in the middle of the night.

–  if you have children who have difficulty waking during the dark mornings during the wintertime, LCA can mimic a sunrise by having a table lamp slowly get brighter over time.

The number of possible applications for Lighting Control Automation is endless, and it provides a lighting designer the ability to fully coordinate and integrate the overall lighting scene for maximum effect.

LCA Timer

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Welcome to our lighting blog!

Welcome to our webblog – Outdoor Lighting of Colorado’s Blog! As the owners of Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado for the last ten years, we have designed, installed, and maintained lighting systems throughout Colorado at elevations between a mile high and two miles high! Ten years ago outdoor lighting for homes in Colorado primarily consisted of architectural carriage lights, lamp posts, and DIY kits from hardware stores and big box stores, and the occasional line voltage landscape lighting system. We’re proud of the fact that we have played a role in bringing professionally designed/installed and environmentally-sensitive outdoor lighting systems during these last ten years to the most beautiful state in the country – Colorado!

Our blog is intended to share our experiences and insight about lighting design, product development, installation techniques, maintenance issues, control considerations, and general business lighting practices. We hope our blog will assist homeowners and business ownrs to better understand what goes into a professional lighting system – and do-it-yourselfers (DIY) may find it of benefit as well.

So we hope you find our blog enjoyable and informative as we go forward.

Best regards,

Mead and Cathy Noss

Owners, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado