Landscape in a Whole New Light
It’s an exciting time to be a landscape lighting designer. There have been more advances in lighting technologies in the past decade than in the previous 100 years!
Though LEDs have been around for more than a half century, LED lighting has come a long way in a short time. LED lighting is popping up practically everywhere. I’m happy to see it – especially now that we no longer have to settle for an ugly blue light or poor performance when it comes to LED landscape lighting.
One of the most attractive elements in promoting LED landscape lighting is the long-term savings compared to incandescent or halogen counterparts. Although I may spend twice as much for an LED fixture as I do for a halogen fixture, I can install an LED system for only about 20% more than a halogen system.
Because LED fixtures use so much less energy, we can use smaller wire and a smaller transformer, saving real dollars on those critical components. An LED landscape lighting system is also far less labor-intensive to install, since there are more wiring options. Adding up these differences saves enough money to make up for much of the additional fixture cost. When calculating the savings in energy and maintenance costs, the client ends up spending 50% or less for LED than halogen over the life of the system.
Probably the most significant improvement in LED technology for the consumer has been the mastery of its color. High-quality LED fixtures and lamps are now available in a wide range of color temperatures, from warm white (2700-3000K) to very-cool white (5500K). Today’s LED lighting can generate the same warm colors we have become accustomed to in less environmentally friendly lighting sources. To replicate the look of a warm incandescent light, we like to use the 2700K LEDs. To mimic the more neutral halogen, we choose the 3000K color. For those wonderful moonlight effects on landscaping below trees, we downlight with a cooler 4000K color LED lamp.
Having all these incredible options, now in high-quality, long-lasting, energy-saving LED products allows the designers to be even more creative in the landscape than was possible just 5 years ago!
Let the buyer beware
There are a lot of conflicting claims and misinformation out there about the life of LED products for sale. 100,000 hours of life? Unlikely. Although LED chips might be able to last that long, the electronics that power them do not, even in the most premium fixtures and lamps.
Reputable LED landscape lighting manufacturers will advertise and stand by a performance standard called L70. The L70 number means that when a lamp output falls to less than 70% of its original light output, the lamp or fixture is no longer viable. A manufacturer’s claim that lamp life is “40,000 hours to L70” means that at 40,000 hours the lamp or fixture will still be at 70% light output. At this point in the life of the lamp, you will actually be able to notice the lessening in the amount of visible light. The lamp may indeed still produce some light, but using the industry standard L70 the manufacturer informs the consumer when the light source should be considered no longer viable for the purpose it was installed.
The warranties on these products varies greatly. Lamps seem to range from 1 to 5 years, while LED fixtures are usually 10 to 15 years.
With the amazing advances in LED landscape lighting, now we can creatively design and install a high-quality system that uses about 75% less energy and is almost maintenance free. Lens cleaning and periodic adjustments for plant growth will always be necessary to keep the outdoor lighting system looking its best. And with LED, lighting can look its best for a very long time!
Written by Paul R. Gosselin, president of NightScenes Corporation, serving Central Texas including Austin and the surrounding area. As an award-winning lighting designer and president of the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals, Gosselin supports improvements in standards and safety in the industry, keeping abreast of trends and laws.