The overall purpose of low voltage landscape lighting is to extend the usability of our outdoor patio’s and living areas into the evening hours and to enhance the overall atmosphere of our house and property after dark. With these two thoughts as our foundation a good lighting system will enhance the property by incorporating its architecture, landscape, and other prominent features such as a skyline or other lighted feature not on the property.
Our guiding lighting philosophy is that low voltage landscape lighting should be integrated into the landscape in such a way that the fixtures that are used do not distract form the overall appearance of the yard during the day.
What is lighting to you? Once we understand the answer to this question then we can move on to the what, where, and when to install lighting.
In our opinion lighting is how we paint the night with light accenting architectural features, creating safe areas to walk in and enjoy our landscape in, and finally emphasizing the landscape features of a yard which would include hardscaping, plants, water features, or specific art sculptures. All of this can be done without sacrificing our stunning views of the night sky.
Lighting done correctly will not disturb a neighbor, overwhelm the eye and will enhance everything around it. Lighting needs to be done at night which will take more time. It should be set up at night and left for three nights. It needs to be adjusted by an artist with a skill to get the most out of the light without overpowering its space.
Now that we are beginning to understand what lighting can do for us let us move on to how and what types of lighting we choose to use.
Years ago we used to put in cheap light fixtures and after a time we started to pay the price with broken lights, underperforming bulbs and an overall visual disappointment of our beautifully designed landscape at twilight each day. We knew there had to be something better and so we set off finding a better product to install. When we found Unique Lighting, we knew that we found not only our lighting manufacturer, but a company dedicated to using light to create landscape masterpieces after dark. We now had to get trained on how to use light and how different fixtures become the conveyance of that light in ways that elevate our landscapes to the next level.
As with any artist we struggled through many setups and smaller lighting jobs until our confidence grew enough to boldly call ourselves lighting professionals. We had the basic knowledge and skill we needed and off we went. Once we began to install Unique lighting we never looked back and five years later we won our first state lighting award and were featured on several magazine covers. We had now "made
it" in our industry and we were now focused on staying at this high level by learning about new technology.
While most people will never do yard zoning, we have created lighting systems that highlight different landscape features every 5, 10, or 30 minutes; light dancing through your yard similar to the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. During our time learning about technology we had resisted the conversion to LED until it could be proven to last more than the conventional halogen bulbs. That has paid off by skipping the first three generations of LED's that couldn't handle our excessive heat here in the desert, however, once the durability matched the technology we were all in. Now the LED bulb technology matches the quality of the fixture which allows us to focus on design and lay out over fixture placement necessity.
Due to the quality of our fixtures we have been using for the past 15+ years today when we work on older systems all we are doing is change out bulbs to LED or performing lighting maintenance by re- positioning fixtures to adapt to the new plants’ growth. During this time we decided that if we wanted to do lighting we will do it right or not do it at all.
To start with the light fixtures, we predominantly use Unique Lighting solid brass fixtures and carry a lifetime (25 year) warranty. After much research and Jeff Dolney, our Field Supervisor and lighting expert traveling to Kichler world headquarters in Ohio, we decided to add another option to our lighting line and that is Kichler which carries a 15- year warranty. After personal and industry disaster stories we made the easy decision that we would not install copper or the powder coated aluminum fixtures. They just have too many durability issues.
Second, is the actual LED bulbs. Like everything in life good ones are never cheap. We are using what we call 4 & 5th generation LED bulbs. Everyone talks about the LED and 50,000 hours of life but what they don't tell you is that the driver is what powers the LED and that is part of what you are paying for. The first few generations of LED bulbs would barely get 2-3 summers in our desert heat before the drivers would burn out. So, while the newer generations of bulbs are more costly there is a good reason, they last in our desert heat.
The LED bulbs that we prefer to use change color temperature from warm white to cool white to that really bright blue white. These range on the Kelvin scale from 2,200 - to 5,700 and wow, this makes a difference when lighting our unique cactus and desert plants. While most light in a yard will be in the 2,700-3,000 Kelvin range, we will adjust some to 3,500-5,000 and it really makes certain cactus and succulents colors burst and bring out striations that are rarely seen during the day.
The second reason is the actual brightness of the bulb. Very rarely, if ever, will we dial a bulb up to 100%. These bulbs are dimmable from 0-100%. Sometimes the brightness when lighting a tree will be different from one fixture to another based on how far away the fixture is, the angle of the fixture, or the surface area that is being lit. The ability to adjust to any level gives us the perfect level of light every time and it can be changed in the future as the yard matures. Remember these lights are not just for just the present but also when the yard really comes into its own 2-4 years from now.
We can also group these lights into zones around the landscape. For instance, all the pathways can be adjusted at the same time, the trees can all be adjusted up or down at the same time, etc. We can set astronomical timers into the bulb to turn on and off at dusk no matter what time of year it is.
The last one is really a throw in because it has to do with actual color changing (RGB) and most people don't use it, however, we can change the color to any of over 16 million colors. Yep, that is pretty incredible, and we have done some really phenomenal stuff with palm trees in the blue green hues and some rare cactus in the blue white range. We can change a saguaros' light from normal to red and another one to green for Christmas or something to celebrate your favorite sports team colors. Your imagination is the limit.
So now with your basic knowledge of outdoor landscape lighting increased let us produce a landscape that may be more enjoyable at night and create your masterpiece with our "Unique" lighting system.