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.

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.

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