Landscape Lighting, Foxes and Bears! Oh My!

Mama bear at outdoor lighting installation

As an outdoor lighting contractor in Colorado, we’re truly blessed to be able to see some of the most beautiful locations  and wild animals in the country. Our latest installation was no exception. Located at one of the highest residential sites on Cheyenne Mountain (yes that Cheyenne Mountain that is the home to NORAD), we just completed the back yard landscape lighting installation this past week. We first met mama bear and baby bear last summer when we completed the outdoor lighting system in the front yard.

Mama bear and baby bear at outdoor lighting installation

The site has a magnificent view of Colorado Springs below and the great plains beyond. During the day you can hear the carillon playing from the Will Rogers shrine and in the evening at 10:00 pm you can even hear taps being played from the Fort Carson army base. When we’re there in the evening to aim lights, we typically see the family of foxes.
We installed 30 lighting fixtures in the back yard to illuminate a patio, paths, and a beautiful water feature. In the front yard we installed 23 lighting fixtures to highlight the paths, trees, and rock outcroppings.
It’s definitely a pleasure living in Colorado!

My Landscaper Did the Wiring

Twice during the last week I heard the five most dreaded words that a lighting contractor can hear from a homeowner – my landscaper did the wiring. They invariably follow that statement by saying that he did a really great job with the landscaping, but that he apparently wasn’t an electrician.

At one homeowner’s house, the electrician tapped into an existing circuit inside the house to power two 1120W low voltage transformers on a 15-amp breaker. Not only was the 120V circuit overloaded, but the landscaper had overloaded each of the transformers as well. The homeowner mentioned that when the lights came on at night, the interior switches and outlets inside the house would become very hot to the touch. That’s certainly not what you want to hear.

At another customer’s house where we’re about to install a new lighting system in the back yard, we have yet another landscaper electrical issue to resolve before the new lighting system gets installed. In this instance, the landscaper tied into an interior circuit to add an exterior outlet (to power some existing landscape lights), as well as to power two massive pumps for the water feature. This is also a no-no with the National Electrical Code.

Over the years, we’ve also seen serious mistakes by landscapers on the low voltage side. Loose connections result can result in higher amperage loads that can cause arcing and fires. And, we’ve often seen the charred remains of wiring where instead of cutting the wiring to the proper length, the landscapers will just coil it up in the ground or in the mulch. That of course results in ever increasing amp loads in the coil causing a meltdown.

The basis of every good low voltage lighting system first relies on the quality design and installation of the line voltage circuit that powers it. That is why we always rely on the expertise and experience of qualifed master electricians to ensure that any line voltage work is done to code – for not only the safety of our customers and their homes but for the reliability of our lighting systems as well.

No Street Lights? We Can Help

OLP Exhibit at HBA Home & Garden Show

We just finished a three-day HBA Home and Garden Show in Colorado Springs last weekend. The low voltage LED landscape lighting fixtures were a big hit at the show. Many visitors to our exhibit commented that the fixtures were beautifully crafted and were so bright and white that they could not possibly be LEDs!

There seemed to be a lot more interest at this year’s show due to the financial difficulties being experienced by the city of Colorado Springs, not unlike many state and municipal governments nationwide. You might wonder what budgetary cutbacks have to do with landscape and architectural lighting, but the fact of the matter is that the city has literally turned off one-third to one-half of the streetlights throughout the area.

That has effectively created vast expanses of “dark and scary” areas throughout the metro area. Some of our existing customers have lighting to deter vandalism and others have lighting so that they can see the neighborhood bear or mountain lion before letting their dog out after dark.

The good news is that our energy efficient lighting systems can provide lighting for safety and security to those homeowners who no longer have the use of their neighborhood streetlight.

Only 4 More Days to See the Colorado Garden and Home Show

Woolly Mammoth in Entrance Garden

There are only FOUR days remaining in the beautiful Colorado Garden and Home Show. You can begin your day at the show in the entrance garden where ice age creatures such as the woolly mammoth and ancient tigers come to life. Stroll the magnificent gardens and see the sights and aromas of spring as you take in the 400,000 square feet of exhibit space in the Colorado Convention Center.

Please be sure to save some time to visit the 9News Hot Products Zone which is located at the top of the escalators near the show entrance. There you will see the nine latest and greatest gardening and home improvement products – including the LED landscape lighting line by Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado.

Our exhibit is located in booth #1442 – and there you can see the LED lighting fixtures up close as well as the latest in low voltage quartz halogen fixtures, line voltage Ceramic Metal Halide fixtures, and Lighting Control Automation™.

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado Exhibit - Booth #1442

We certainly look forward to seeing you at the show!

Complimentary Nighttime Lighting Design in Colorado

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Most people do not know it’s possible to have a free lighting design preview for their home, business or community entrance/park/clubhouse, etc. While it is possible to lay out a preliminary design on paper, there is absolutely no substitute for conducting an evening lighting design demonstration to ensure that the desired lighting effect is achieved.

A lot of people mistakenly believe that the first step in  lighting design is to select the fixtures. Until you know what you want to illuminate and what bulb and wattage you need for the desired lighting effect, the last thing you want to do is select the wrong fixture for the intended application. Unfortunately, this happens all of the time. We get calls almost every week from homeowners who are unhappy with their lighting system – and they are quick to add that they had no idea what the lighting would look like until AFTER the installation. We always tell them not to feel too badly because their contractor had no idea either.

With our national company, we always like to say that we’re not in the business of selling fixtures, we’re in the business of selling lighting effect. Unlike most of our competitors, we do not just point and recommend where the fixtures should go – we set them up so that you can judge for yourself whether we have achieved the lighting effect that meets your needs.

Even seasoned building architects and landscape architects are surprised by the different possibilities of lighting effects – especially when they can see them prior to the final installation. To give you a case in point, I once received a call from a nationally known commercial landscape architect who needed path lighting for his home’s front sidewalk.

He told me difinitively that he needed five path lights. When I asked him what neighborhood he lived in, I knew that the house setbacks were not excessively far from the street and suggested that he could probably get by with only three path lights. No, he replied, stating that this is what I do for a living. When we did the evening lighting demonstration, the commercial landscape architect was incredulous that he only needed a total of three path lights. Interestingly, landscape architecture programs throughout the U.S. typically require only ONE three credit course in landscape lighting – and it’s rare that students actually get to see an evening lighting design demonstration during this course.

Depending on the ambient lighting conditions and lighting needs of a customer, we may actually set up either low voltage (quartz halogen or LED) fixtures or line voltage fixtures (Ceramic Metal Halide). If we’re trying to illuminate a large commercial building that is located next to a busy street with sodium street lights for example, we know that a low voltage lighting system will not provide the intended lighting effect next to these bright sodium street lights.

For any evening lighting design demonstration, we always sit down with the home or business owner to determine what their primary lighting needs are. For example, are they primarily interested in safety and security or are they more interested in highlighting the unique architectural features of their house/business and/or expanding their usable living space in the evening? Sometimes the answer is all of the above. Until you have an answer to this question, you cannot possibly know how to even begin a lighting design.

By seeing a lighting design laid out with a temporary lighting system, you will know exactly what you will be getting if you decide to proceed with an installation – no guessing and no surprises. Any changes to this preliminary design are easily made as a home/business owner adjusts the system to their particular tastes.

Once the desired lighting effect is achieved, flags can be put in place to accurately mark the position of each and every fixture. By that point in the demonstration, you will have seen that in a lot of cases moving a fixture a couple of feet one way or the other can make a huge difference in the lighting effect.

Another key point is that not all fixtures and installations are created equally. The customer needs to be confident that a lighting installation will look as good ten years from now as it looks today.

A lot of our friends and business associates marvel at our late-night design demonstrations and ask – isn’t that a lot of work? Our answer is always no because this is what we do to ensure that our customers are 100% satisfied with their lighting systems. And it’s always easier to do something the right way the first time.

Our hope is that home and business owners will find these complimentary nighttime lighting designs in Colorado educational, enjoyable and useful. A quality lighting system can add value to a home or business, and we believe that you the one best suited to make this decision for yourself.

LC 7 Bollard Night Park

CELEBRATE EARTH HOUR TODAY

voteearth_enEarth Hour is being sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund to bring attention to the growing problem of global warming and its adverse effects on the planet. Even though we’re a lighting company, we urge you to show your support and make a statement by turning off your non-essential indoor and outdoor lights between the hours of 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM. This will help decrease your carbon footprint slightly but more importantly it will show your symbolic support for this global iniative.

In downtown Denver, the State Capitol, the Denver City and County building, and several skyscrapers will go dark during this time. Over 4,000 cities worldwide are participating this year. By comparison, only 400 cities were involved last year. From the pyramids in Egypt to the Eiffel Tower in Paris to the Harbor Bridge in Sydney, all of these well-known structures will have their outdoor lighting dim or be turned off completely during this period.

As an outoor lighting contractor, we are already committed to energy efficiency and conservation. The good news is that outdoor lighting and landscape lighting we install for residential applications is either low-voltage quartz halogen (12-volts) or low-voltage LED (light-emitting diode). On commercial applications where line voltage (120-volts) is required because of loads and distances, we still employ very energy-efficient 39W to 70W ceramic metal halide bulbs.  So what makes our lighting systems green? Please read the following:

Low Voltage Lighting. Every outdoor lighting system we install is low voltage rather than line voltage. Our outdoor lighting system transformers are designed to reduce the standard 120-volt line voltage used throughout homes to low voltage 12-volt electricity, which powers our outdoor lighting systems. In otherwords, 12 volts of power run from the low voltage transformer through the wire to the low-wattage bulbs mounted in the lighting fixtures. Our lighting systems provide energy efficiency while illuminating your home and property with soft, ambient accent lighting. In addition, our professionally designed low voltage lighting systems are precisely bright enough to illuminate a home’s exterior and landscaping, at a cost about 50- to 60-percent less to operate than with a standard 120-volt outdoor lighting system. To further enhance energy conservation, our low voltage lighting fixtures are strategically placed to highlight the key features of the architecture or landscaping, so that the light is not “wasted” by just flooding an entire area. And sometimes if not done properly, the light can spill into a neighbor’s yard and this is called light trespass.

Low voltage LEDs can save even more energy than low voltage quartz halogen systems but the initial investment cost is much higher. We’ll have information about our LED lighting systems in a future blog.

Heavier-Gauge Wire. The heavier the gauge of wire used in electrical systems, the less energy is lost as current travels through it. We use 12-, 10-, and 8-gauge wire in our lighting systems, with the 12-gauge wire being used primarily in residential installations. Also, voltage loss increases as more fixtures (or higher loads) are connected to a single wire run. To prevent this, we construct our systems with multiple wire runs and multitap transformers with output voltages ranging between 12-volts and 22-volts.

Choice of Lamps (Bulbs). Rather than incandescent bulbs, we use low-voltage quartz halogen bulbs (4,000 hour life), low-voltage LED (50,000 hour life), or line voltage CMH (ceramic metal halide – 15,000 hour life bulbs for commercial applications). All of our bulbs also incorporate reflectors which help to brighten and focus the resulting light without having to use higher wattage bulbs.

Control Technology. Our company, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Colorado, recommends the use of control technology to automatically turn on and off necessary indoor and outdoor lighting on the interior and exterior of the house. The control system we use is Lighting Control Automation(TM) (LCA). With this system, the latitude and longitude of the house is programmed into the controller (and on a daily basis any time of year) the lights will come on at exactly astronomical sunset – not two hours before or an hour late. This system eliminates the energy wasted by the old-technology timer/photocell systems; invariably the photocell becomes shaded and the lights turn on too soon or the mechanical timer ends up being three hours out of synch because of power failures.

In addition, the LCA system can be used to automatically dim exterior architectural carriage lights, porch lights, soffit lights, and/or garage lights by 20- to 40- percent for additional energy savings. Interior lights can be integrated into this system as well for more energy savings. In addition to automatic control, any of these “intelligent” lights on the interior or exterior can be manually controlled from inside the house for even more energy savings.

So tonight, celebrate Earth Hour and if you already own a low voltage outdoor lighting system or a whole-house lighting control system, give yourself a pat on the back for helping to reduce your carbon footprint on the planet!

Best regards,

Mead Noss