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

My Landscaper Did My Landscape Lighting But It’s Never Worked Right

Inferior Quality Low Voltage Bulb

I certainly do not want to pick on landscapers, but one of the most frequently heard comments at the recent Colorado Garden and Home Show was – my landscaper did my lighting but it’s never worked right.

During the last two weeks, I evaluated two lighting systems that coincidentally had exactly the same fixtures.  The low voltage path lights were manufactured by a well-known national lighting manufacturer that had rolled out a lower-priced line of fixtures for landscapers to use. The path lights use the incandescent T5 wedge-base bulbs that have an average life of only 500 to 1,000 hours. In addition, the manufacturer states that these fixtures are rated for damp locations (somewhat sheltered from the weather) instead of wet locations (snow, rain, sleet, etc.). The fixtures have no lenses to protect either the bulb or the socket from moisture, moths, and spider webs – and that degrades the bulb life even further.

Making the situation in both installations even worse is the fact that the installers used the daisy chain method of installation – that’s when numerous fixtures are connected in series one after the other on the same circuit. Invariably with that wiring technique, the installer typically sets the voltage higher than it should be to ensure that the light at the very end of the circuit receives enough voltage to light up. What that also means is that the first light in the series is receiving 14, 15, or 18 volts – and since the bulbs are only rated at 12V – the first bulb starts burning out very quickly causing a domino effect down the line.

In one of the locations, the landscaper installed over a dozen step lights in poured concrete steps and patios – and it appears that no sleeves had been installed so that the system could be rewired if necessary. More problematic is the fact that as the concrete continues to cure over time, it will react with and break down the protective insulation and eventually corrode the wiring.

Outdoor lighting systems can last a lifetime if high quality products are used and professionally installed – and it’s very disconcerting to see a beautifully landscaped yard with an inferior lighting system. Sometimes we can come up with a cost-effective solution for the homeowner to remedy the lighting system – but sometimes we almost have to start from the beginning.

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.

What Is the Best Lighting Design for Outdoor Steps?

     The answer to that and just about any other lighting design question is that it just depends. While that answer may not be satisfying to most homeowners, it’s the best answer that we can provide until we’ve fully evaluated the site and have fully understood how the homeowner intends to use the space after dark.

Typical Recessed Step Light

     Most homeowners immediately think that the commonly used step lights shown at left are the easiest and best way to illuminate the stairs leading to their deck or raised patio. With any good lighting design, however, the final design should be based on the bulb itself and resulting lighting effect. In other words, the fixture selection and type should actually come last in the design process.
     These lighting fixtures are relatively easy to install on a wood or Trex deck – either during or after construction. However, if the lights need to be installed in poured concrete steps, then a lot of pre-planning needs to be done before the new steps go in.
     During the last twelve years we have been in business, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado has only installed a handful of recessed step lights. The primary reason for that is because there is a much better way to proper illuminate the steps for after-dark safety – and that design effect is commonly called downlighting or sconce lighting.

Entrance to Property Requiring Proper Lighting for Steps

     We recently completed a lighting installation at a home built in the 1920s near the Governors Mansion in Denver. The property is accessed from the public sidewalk through a large wrought iron gate. To reach the upper terrace and front entrance to the home, you can access the steps immediately to the left or right side of the gate. With an existing and historical home with stone and concrete work quickly approaching one-hundred years old, the last thing you would want to even consider would be recessed step lighting. The good news is that installing these  copper BB08 sconce lights is much easier and they provide much better lighting as well. A close up of the completed installation is shown below.

Close Up of Completed Sconce Light Installation

     That being said, there have been a few occasions where recessed step lighting was our only option for providing any lighting to steps. In those situations, the steps from side to side were over ten feet wide, with no handrails or any other possible location to mount any sconce lights. In that situation, we made sure that we installed at least three step lights on each riser so that the steps could be safely illuminated. 

     The last photo shows the lighting effect of these copper BB08 sconce lights (made in the USA at our factory in Nashville) on a deck with many steps among the pines.

Deck Lighting and Step Lighting Among the Pines

Custom Low Voltage BBQ Light

Custom BBQ Light

One of the advantages of being part of a large national/international lighting company is our ability to craft and install custom low voltage landscape/architectural lighting fixtures for our clients when the need arises. Last week we did a project for a customer who asked during the installation if there was a way to illuminate his barbecue grill. The customer wanted the ability to turn the BBQ light on and off separately from the rest of the landscape lighting system. The other requirement was that the customer did not want the lighting fixture attached in any way to the fence.

Our factory manufactures the copper BBQ lighting fixture assemblies with the black rubber all-weather switch and bulb socket assemblies. Our crew modified the assembly by installing a slightly larger copper flood head and mounting it at a 45-degree angle. By using an additional length of copper as well as one of our company’s heavy-duty underground PVC anchoring stakes, we were able to install the entire assembly behind some ornamental grasses.

The copper once it develops a patina will blend in nicely with the surrounding vegetation and fencing. The design and installation of this BBQ lighting fixture pretty much summarizes the goal of Outdoor Lighting Perspectives – and that is to emphasize the overall lighting effect with functional, unobtrusive, and durable lighting fixtures.

Custom Lighting Fixture Next to BBQ

Force of Mother Nature and Outdoor Lighting

Back Yard Fire Caused by Overhead Power Line Being Snapped by Falling Tree

We design and install our landscape and architectural lighting systems to withstand almost everything mother nature can throw at them – from six foot deep snow drifts in the winter time, driving rain in the spring and summer time, and to salty environments in the coastal locations. But sometimes Mother Nature  lets you know that she’s really a force to be reckoned with.

On Monday of this week, the Denver metro area endured sustained winds of 45 mph with gusts to 70 mph- a few mph under hurricane force winds. I had been out in this wind with one of my crews and several times we almost got swept off our feet. Sure enough the phone rang several times the next day with calls from customers saying that some of their fixtures had been damaged by wind-blown debris.

The most major damage, however, was reported by one of our customers in the Hilltop neighborhood. One of his neighbor’s trees was blown over by the wind and severed the overhead XCEL power line causing the 80-foot tree to instantly become a fireball. One of the Kichler modernistic brushed nickel path lights can be seen in the photo below after the fire.

Thankfully, neither the homeowner’s family nor any of his neighbors were injured by the falling tree that was on fire or by the high voltage line that had just been severed. In fact, if you ever see a cut loose overhead wire on the ground or dangling from the air – NEVER, EVER approach it. Call 911 immediately so that the utilties can be called to cut the power as soon as possible. It may literally mean the difference between life and death to another unsuspecting passerby.

The other thing that happened was that the high voltage overhead power line sent a surge through the low voltage lighting system that in turn blew out the low voltage transformer and the GFI wall outlet. The good news is that our stainless steel transformers are designed and manufactured to code to be able to contain a catastrophic event such as this one. And the GFI outlet tripped and then failed preventing the outside surge from entering the rest of the house’s wiring system.

We just started our 12th year of installing lighting systems in Colorado, and this is the first time that we ever had an overhead line voltage power line get severed and then cause all of this other damage. After checking with our factory in Nashville, the folks there who have been doing this for over 20 years have never experienced a scenario such as this one. They have experienced damage to lighting systems due to lightning strikes but not from overhead power lines being severed.

Our Nashville office is currently dealing with the aftermath of the major flooding with respect to the repair and re-installation of entire lighting systems. And of course our New Orleans office is still dealing with the devastating effects from Hurricane Katrina. All we can do is to make our lighting systems as foolproof and as safe as possible, but sometimes Mother Nature reminds us who is really the boss.