Archive for the ‘Pathway Lighting’ Category

DSCN2058DSCN2059During this time of year, I prepare quite a few outdoor lighting designs that involve patio lighting, deck lighting, and pool lighting. Conventional deck lights are a good choice when handrails are available to mount fixtures. Pathway lights do a good job of illuminating the deck around pools. The major challenge is for outdoor living areas that don’t lend themselves to deck lights or pathway lights. Typically, the fundamental requirement is to create a mood; thus soft, even illumination is required. We have what we consider to be an ideal solution, as long as there is an elevated area to mount a fixture. The fixture of choice is a small box flood. The fixture is only 4″ X 5″ and is a very low profile. It can accommodate halogen or LED lamps, and it is available with and without louvers which minimize any resulting glare.

For outdoor patios, we mount the fixture adjacent to the rain gutter which aids in concealing the wire. Likewise, we use this fixture above garage doors, entrances, and even as an accent for various garden applications.


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DSCN2274DSCN2273We have been working with the Board at Hampton Heights Condominiums to evaluate their lighting needs. Hampton Heights is a 30-year-old condominium complex in the Homewood area outside of Birmingham. The common area lighting is also 30 years old, consequently it is very dated in design, efficiency, and the effects being generated. Many of the fixtures are in a state of disrepair. Currently there are approximately 30 lamp posts and 300 uplights and pathway lights. All fixtures are 120 volt.

Initial conversations focused on their desire for new energy-efficient lighting. Special attention was given to durability, energy efficiency, and placement as it relates to providing safety and security. The conversation naturally migrated toward a total conversion to low voltage LED fixtures.

Hampton Heights agreed to commit to upgrading a beta site on their property. This beta site encompasses approximately 5% of the total potential project scope. It included 7 LED up lights and 3 LED lamp posts. The LED lampposts were manufactured by Solas Ray Lighting. To achieve maximum illumination, units with 3 modules were selected, and each module has 2 LEDs in each. Total wattage is only 21 watts, but the units have comparable illumination to a 130 watt incandescent fixture. Warm white (2700K) was selected to provide a warm ambiance throughout the complex. There are two choices of lenses. The candelabra lens is a knock off of incandescent candelabra bulbs. The other option is the mantle lens which is a knock off of the look of a gas mantle. Both options were installed to provide the Board with a visual comparison. The illumination from the candelabra lens has a wider spread, creating more glare. The optics of the mantle lens cast more light downward, thus softening the glare being emitted directly from the LED. The luminary top that was selected was the Westmoreland. It is a traditional and classy look for this type of setting. They were mounted on 6′ posts. providing an overall height of 8′

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LED Driveway Light

LED Driveway Light

All outdoor lighting designers have struggled to provide a good solution for driveway lighting. Path lights just don’t seem to do a very good job of illuminating the surface, spot lights create too much glare, and tree mounted lights become maintenance issues after a few years.

Now a new design has just been released. This 6 watt LED “path” light has some great features. It has an adjustable knuckle at the top which adjusts the angle for directional adjustment. There is a small adjustable shroud around the throat of the fixture which blocks virtually all glare. Most importantly, is that this LED spreads illumination at a full 120 degrees. This wide spread is accomplished through total elimination of the optic on the LED.

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The 2013 Birmingham Home and Garden Show just concluded. The attached video made its debut at the show. All of these landscape lighting and architectural lighting projects were designed and installed by the staff of Outdoor Lighting Perspectives in Birmingham.

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SM4Accent lighting might not be considered an essential element for homeowners, but there are numerous benefits to installing a professionally designed outdoor lighting system.

Enhanced Curb Appeal-this is probably the number one reason. Do you want your house to have a real “WOW” factor at night? There is no reason that our greatest investment disappears once the sun goes down.
Increased Security-statistics show that a well lit house is much less prone to intruders and break-ins than a dark house in the same neighborhood.
Add Investment Value-once again statistics prove the point. Dollars spent on a quality outdoor lighting installation are reflected more than a “dollar for dollar” rate in the home valuation.
Enhanced Safety for Your Family and Guests-do you have that trip hazard along your sidewalk? Do you have some steps that are difficult to use? Do you have a very dark driveway? These are just a few areas to consider illumination.
Expand Outdoor Living Areas-why be confined inside your house on those warm spring and summer evenings? Get outside and enjoy your outdoor living areas with deck lighting, hardscape lighting, flood lighting, etc.
Bring Landscaping to Life at Night-Perhaps you have some phenomenal landscaping that you are very proud of. Why not showcase it at night with properly placed spot lights. Some of my favorites in the Birmingham area are Japanese Maple trees, Crepe Myrtles, Wax Myrtles, and River Birch trees.
Make Your Home More Inviting-a well lit home provides a peaceful ambiance. There is no need to have guests pull up to your house and see complete darkness, or that “haunted” look that many unlit homes posess.
Improved Visibility-don’t cease outdoor activities when the sun sets. Perhaps you have children that want to play outside, perhaps you want to entertain guests outside, or perhaps you just prefer unwinding from a long grueling day outside.
Make Your House Look Occupied-since most systems are installed with timers or other control devices, there is never a time when your house should look unoccupied. Whether taking the family out to dinner, or going on an extended vacation, keep the lights on.
Aid Guests in Identifying Your House-have you ever been irritated when you couldn’t find a house number or mailbox number at night? Why not consider a small spot light used to illuminate these critical placards? Additionally, you can always tell guests to look for the best lit house on the street.

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We recently completed an outdoor lighting design and installation at the Stillwaters Resort area at Lake Martin.  The customer specified copper fixtures throughout the installation.  Numerous uplights and pathway lights were used to uplight the lake house, illuminate the sidewalks, and pool deck.  One challenge that we encountered was a means for uplighting some stacked stone columns that were directly adjacent to the pool deck. 

I have always struggled with selecting fixtures that provide a tasteful solution.  The smaller, compact box floods look very nice, but they just don’t provide adequate illumination to uplight 20′-25′ applications.  Larger PAR fixtures or standard MR bullet lights tend to look obtrusive when surface mounted, and when copper is required, they tend to appear gaudy.  Finally, a good solution surfaced… a compact copper bullet light.  This compact bullet light accommodates a standard MR16 bulb, has a sleek look, but most importantly, is approximately 2″ shorter than conventional fixtures.  In this application, the MR16 bulb will provide adequate illumination to accent the stacked stone columns and arches. 

compact copper bullet light

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While conducting a recent design consultation, I prepared a proposal for a homeowner that included a package for a traditional halogen system and another for a LED system.  It was apparent that the homeowner was a very savvy buyer, and he pressed me to “assist” him in justifying the additional initial investment for an LED system.  The fact of the matter is that he already knew the advantages, but he was trying to gage OLP’s dedication to LED technology.  Although I have shared the advantages of an LED system countless times, it was a very good question.

This led to a review of our ten most recent LED designs/installations.  Following is the rationale for making a modestly greater investment for a LED system:

  • Two of the jobs were sold to widows.  Their primary concern was the security of having an outdoor lighting system, however, the decision for LED was based on a very low maintenance system since they are unable to change bulbs.  (Most LEDs have a 5 year warranty, and 40,000 hour rating)
  • Two of the projects were sold at “secondary” homes.  Again, the homeowner was looking for low maintenance since they and their families only use the house several days per month.  Additionally, the greatly reduced utility bills were an attractive feature.  (A typical LED system will reduce power consumption (utility cost) by approximately 80%).  One of these systems was an existing five-year old system that was easily retrofitted to LED lamps.
  • Another customer is an environmental attorney.  The primary criteria was to purchase a system that made a minimal impact on the environment (power consumption in this case).
  • Customer #6 had an application that required a light fixture installed 40′ above ground.  He had no desire to ever change a bulb this high, nor pay for a service call, so the warranty and long life of LED cemented his decision.
  • Another customer was a retired lighting engineer.  Due to his training and experience, he was well versed in the advantages, costs, etc so this was also an easy decision for him.
  • An existing customer in the Hoover area outside of Birmingham had an existing halogen system consisting of 40 lights.  He knew the impact on his power bill, so he opted to do his new 60 light system in LEDs.  Like the previous customer, this amounted to an 80% reduction in utility cost for the new system.
  • Yet another customer has an extremely long (400′) driveway that has a very steep grade and passes through very rocky terrain.  Interestingly, in this application the price for an LED system was virtually the same as a halogen system. (smaller transformer required, less wire required, much less labor to trench and bury wire).  What a scenario…an LED system for the same investment, but with all of the advantages and benefits of LED.
  • Last but not least, was a customer who is a self-proclaimed “techno junkie”.  His home is a virtual show case of technology, so he wasn’t even interested in discussing halogen outdoor lighting.

Although this was a very interesting exercise for me, it continues to be apparent the primary advantages to LED systems are the lower utility costs, highly reduced maintenance needs, and reduced installation labor.  Even at today’s pricing, a typical payback has been reduced to 3-5 years.  Quite an attractive option!

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