Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado Celebrates 15 Years in Business!

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado is pleased to announce that we juCelebrating 15 Years in Coloradost completed our 15th year in business serving the landscape and outdoor lighting needs of residential, commercial, and municipal customers in the Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Loveland, Colorado Springs, and communities all along the Colorado Front Range and beyond.

Read the Press Release that our corporate Outdoor Lighting Perspectives office in Richmond, Virginia published about us.

Mead Signature

 

What Does it Cost to Operate a Landscape Lighting System?

Over the years a lot of homeowners have asked us how much their monthly electricity bill would increase after their landscape lighting system was installed. The short answer and the good news is not very much!

Most recently some townhome owners in Denver needed to share a low voltage quartz halogen landscape lighting system to illuminate their front entrances. The as-built configuration of the townhomes dictated that only one of the townhomes would have the low voltage transformer installed – and subsequently would have to provide all of the power for the entire lighting system. The respective homeowners agreed to split the annual electricity bill/usage for the system and asked me to compute how much that would be.

For this system, there were a total of two uplights (well lights at 35W each) and four path lights for the walkways (at 20W each) – for a total energy usage of 150W. For safety and security, the homeowners wanted the lights to be on from dusk to dawn throughout the year.

By accessing the U.S. Naval Observatory website and doing some computations, I was able to determine that there are a total of 4,306.29 hours of darkness for the entire year in Denver, Colorado. By multiplying 150W times 4,306.29 hours you get 645,943.5 watt-hours or 645.9 kWH. The average cost per kilowatt-hour in Denver is projected to be 11.3 cents through the year. By multiplying $.113/kW-H times 645.9kWH, you end up with a total operating cost of $72.99 per year, or $6.08 per month or $.20 per night. Most police departments will tell you that this is a small price to pay to enhance your home’s safety and security every night of the year.

Ken-Caryl House Lighting

The house on the left (also using a low voltage quartz halogen lighting system) has a total of 8 uplights (35W each) and 3 path lights (20W) each – for a total of 340W. Dusk to dawn operation costs $165.44 per year or $13.78 per month or $.45 per night.

If this same low voltage quartz halogen system is replaced by a low voltage LED lighting system in the future, the total power requirement would only be 80.7W and would result in annual energy costs of $39.26 per year or $3.27 per month or $.11 per night – a 76-percent energy savings over the quartz halogen system.

So in other words LEDs are the future but even with a low voltage quartz halogen lighting system, you’re still saving money with operating your outdoor lighting in comparison to line voltage lighting.

Sleeves Make Landscape Lighting a Lot Easier

Examples of 1.5-, 2.0-, 4-inch diameter sleeves

Many homeowners this time of year are contemplating or even starting home improvement and landscaping projects, including new walkways, patios or driveways. With any type of hardscaping project, please make sure that sleeves are installed beneath any new concrete or brick pavers so that irrigation pipes/control wiring, lighting wiring, and speaker/sound system wiring can be installed at any time after the new hardscaping surfaces have been completed. Above you can see examples of the typical sleeve diameters used for most residential installations.

So what are sleeves exactly? They are heavy-duty polyvinyl chloride (PVC) conduits through which sprinkler irrigation and other wiring can be easily run whenever that phase of the project is ready to begin. Typically, hardscaping contractors will indicate the positioning of the sleeve(s) by a “vee”-shaped notch in the edge of a sidewalk or driveway for example. This saves a lot of work searching for sleeves as well as a lot of unnecessary disruption to the surrounding landscaping.

Since sleeves are relatively inexpensive compared to the increased time and labor cost of boring under a wide driveway, for example, my recommendation is to always install more sleeves than you think you’ll ever need. The other rule of thumb is not to use the same sleeve for both electrical wiring and irrigation pipes, for obvious reasons.

In fact today our crew was doing a lighting installation at a community entrance where the sleeve under the street has become a major headache. The original landscaper installed only one 4-inch diameter sleeve under the street – and then proceeded to run both the 2.5-inch irrigation pipe and all of the irrigation control wires through that same sleeve. Of course, the water and the electrical wiring should have been in separate sleeves. If that had been the case, our low voltage wiring could have easily been pulled through the wiring sleeve. As it is now, we’ll have to investigate other options including directional boring at $18 to $20/foot.

Community developers should also plan on providing line voltage power either behind entrance monuments or nearby to facilitate the installation of irrigation controllers, outdoor landscape lighting systems, and holiday lighting.

So the next time you’re planning an outdoor project, please do not forget the sleeves!

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.

Celebrate Earth Hour Today!

Tonight from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm in each local time zone around the world, supporters of the World Wildlife Federation’s annual EARTH HOUR campaign will turn off their lights to take a stand against global climate change. While the energy savings for this one-hour effort may be minimal, more important will be the global show of support by making a visual statement for the sustainability movement.

Started in Australia in 2007, EARTH HOUR’S support has grown worldwide and some of the most famous buildings will go dark for one hour during their local 8:30 to 9:30 pm time period including Toronto’s CN Tower, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Rome’s Colisseum, and Paris’ Eiffel Tower.

In Colorado, both the Governor’s Mansion and the State Capitol building will go dark for one hour. Governor Bill Ritter said that Colorado has become a great example of how a state can implement aggressive energy reduction goals while growing a New Energy Economy. I am proud that Colorado can be a part of this worldwide effort to bring attention to the dire consequences of global climate change.

Please join Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado in supporting this worldwide effort. We of course are trying to do our part by reducing the energy/carbon footprints of both our residential and commercial lighting installations. By introducing and installing energy efficient LED lighting systems for residential applications as well as Lighting Control Automation™ we are greatly reducing our customer’s usage of electricity. On the commercial side, we are installing energy efficient Ceramic Metal Halide fixtures.

LED Fixtures Do Melt Snow!

Close Up of LED Fixture at Diamond Ridge Installation

About a month ago there was a story reported around the country that many northern cities had been experiencing problems with their new LED traffic lights. Apparently in some of these cities, the LED traffic lights would not generate enough heat in order to melt the accumulating build up of snow and ice during the winter months. It was also reported in the local news that fortunately this has not been a problem in the Denver metro area with all of the hours of sunshine we typically receive.

Before we actually began using LED fixtures for architectural and landscape lighting, we also wondered how well our new and innovative fixtures would melt the snow. As you can see in the above photo, they do quite well – thank you.

The actual reason that these fixtures melt the snow is inherent in their initial design as well as manufacturing. The main factor that limits the life of the LEDs/electronics is the heat build up inside the fixture. Our manufacturer has placed the LED driver in the mounting stake for the fixture – not inside the fixture itself as have most manufacturers.

In addition, any remaining heat generated by the LED bulb itself is dissipated by means of cooling fins as shown in the Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) thermal model below that was used to design a deck light. As a forner aerospace engineer, my expertise had been in thermal and fluid flow modeling for jet engines, rockets, spacecraft, and solar energy projects – so I tip my hat to the innovative engineers at our manufacturing company!

CAE Thermal Design Model for LED Deck Light

The fixtures are machined out of solid brass (aluminum is also an option) to provide the thermal heat exchange capabilities. Not only are the fins an engineering design feature, they add to the aesthetic appearance of the fixtures as well. By pulling the heat away from the LED bulb itself, the fins and fixture reach an outside surface temperature of 96-degrees F – enough to melt snow.

The design and testing of these fixtures have been on-going during the last seven years. Brass fixtures have a lifetime warranty, and the LEDs and electronics have had a five year warranty. However, we have heard that this warranty may be getting a lot better in the near future – so stay tuned!

LED Entrance Lighting at Diamond Ridge Estates

LED Lighting at Diamond Ridge Estates

Our largest LED lighting project to date was completed about a month and a half ago for the Diamond Ridge Estates HOA. The entrance is located east of Castle Rock along North Crowfoot Valley Road. A total of 39 8.7W  low voltage LED fixtures were installed to illuminate the entrance monument as well as trees along Diamond Ridge Parkway on both sides of the street and island. In addition, a 3.7W LED underwater fixture was also installed to illuminate the water feature located at the end of the entrance island.

The HOA made the decision to be GREEN and select the LED lighting option – not only for reduced energy costs but longer bulb life as well. By installing low voltage LED fixtures instead of low voltage quartz halogen fixtures, the HOA will reduce their energy usage for lighting this entrance by roughly 75 to 80 percent.

So the next time you’re driving along North Crowfoot Valley Road after dark, be sure to watch for the beautiful and energy-efficient lighting at Diamond Ridge Estates.