Archive for the ‘Waterfall Lighting’ Category

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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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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Colors Explode in Koi Ponds

Several koi seen swimming among the aquatic plants on a hot summer day.

One of the most beautiful back yard features in the Birmingham area is the increasingly popular koi pond.  The vibrant orange and gold color of the koi complemented by the rainbow colors of the aquatic plants provides a stunning visual effect.  The soothing sound of the moving water provides a natural relaxation. 

However, it has become increasingly popular to add accent lighting to koi ponds and waterfalls.  The actual design of an underwater lighting system isn’t overly complicated.  The primary goal is to position fixtures “away” from the target, so the light beam has an ample distance to spread.  This also provides good underwater illumination for the aquatic plants and fish.  The most important consideration is the choice of fixtures.  I field many questions regarding submersible lights, whether used in fountains, waterfalls, or koi ponds.  My response never changes…”there is no such thing as a high quality inexpensive underwater light”.  Many weekend warriors make the mistake of buying water lights at the local box store.  Invariably these fixtures will eventually leak, and the only recourse is to throw them away and buy a new one.  At Outdoor Lighting Perspectives, we use a high-end submersible fixture, manufactured by Focus Industries.  It is their model SL33 which utilizes a 20 watt MR16 bulb, has a waterproofing gasket, and is manufactured out of solid brass.  The brass provides the necessary weight for stability within moving water.

We are fortunate that our local newspaper, The Birmingham News, did a feature article about an underwater lighting project that we completed in the Chelsea community outside of Birmingham.  Thanks to this article, we have gotten some local notoriety regarding the art of underwater accent lighting.  In fact we are about to install an underwater system inside a large fountain at an estate near Tuscaloosa, AL.

Accent Lighting for Koi Ponds

Low voltage submersible lights shed a whole new light on the beauty of koi ponds.

Underwater Lighting—-quality fixtures + stunning features = nighttime enjoyment

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This project was recently completed at the Crowne Falls apartment complex in the Hoover community outside of Birmingham.  The developer requested a very soft illumination for the waterfall and the surrounding landscaping. 

Two submersible PAR fixtures from Focus Industries were used to illuminate the falls.  Since the pool of water was quite deep, the fixtures were actually placed on some rocks and positioned to “spot light” the water fall.  An Intermatic HB800 astronomic timer was used to control the lighting.

The project also included uplighting some weeping willow trees and some soft flood lighting of the rock facades, and soft landscape lighting of the various landscape features.

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The key to low voltage underwater lighting is the quality of the fixtures.  There is no such thing as a cheap, yet durable, submersible fixture. 

We use brass fixtures that are designed with waterproof gaskets.  The brass provides weight so that the fixtures remain in place and are not moved by water currents or fish.  We prefer to avoid permanent mounting of the fixtures, so the density of the brass is essential.  Our preference is using MR underwater fixtures.  The size is relatively compact and the lumen output is very good even in somewhat murky water.  Since we do use MR fixtures, it is essential that water cannot enter the fixture, thus deteriorating the socket and destroying the bulb.  That is the reason for a water tight gasketed lens on the fixture.

The following article was featured in the Birmingham News.  This customer lives in the Chelsea area outside of Birmingham.  The underwater lights did a phenomenal job of illuminating the koi that live in the pond.  Additionally, during the summer some very colorful aquatic plants take on a dramatic night-time look.

MY LANDSCAPING SUCCESS: Steve and Linda Fant of Chelsea use lighting to accent their landscaping

Published: Sunday, April 08, 2012, 6:00 AM
Linda Robbins Holmes-- The Birmingham News By Linda Robbins Holmes– The Birmingham News al.com



Enlarge Mark Almond — The Birmingham News Underwater lights illuminate Koi as other lights accent a waterfall and greenery at the Fant residence near Chelsea, Ala., Monday, April 2, 2012. (The Birmingham News/Mark Almond) Decorating Success Fant Residence: April 2, 2012gallery (9 photos)


Reason for landscaping 

Steve and Linda Fant of Chelsea wanted accent lighting so that they could enjoy their landscape after dark. The couple spend a lot of time with family, which includes their 12 grandchildren.

Contractor or designer

Marlin Bennetch of Outdoor Lighting Perspectives, 991-5483, installed the lighting to accent the landscape. Deep Roots Landscaping, which is owned by Jonathan Brown, did the landscaping, and Alabama Aquarium and Pond Services handle the maintenance of the koi pond and waterfall. The landscaping was done a few years ago.

Changes made

Bennetch installed lights to accent the entrance to the Fants’ home, the pond and the waterfall. An automatically adjusting timer was also installed to take the worry out of controlling the system.


Soft floodlights are positioned near the entrance of the Fants’ home, allowing visitors to see the stacked stone wall. A spotlight shows a flagpole with the American flag and a University of Alabama flag, and uplighting accents the dogwoods behind the wall.


Four submersible brass lights were installed underwater to accent the pond and show the koi at night. The lights are very heavy, and the water’s current and the fish cannot move them.


Uplighting highlights the waterfall and landscaping around the pond and waterfall. The Fants have a Japanese maple, which Bennetch says is one of the best trees to use accent lighting with in the South because of their shape and leaf pattern, palms and a blue atlas cedar.

I am proud of this change because

“It’s just turned out like we wanted it,” Linda said. “It’s just beautiful.”


© 2012 al.com. All rights reserved.

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Another one of our projects was featured in the Sweet Home section of today’s Birmingham News.  This customer lives in the Highland Lakes community outside of Birmingham.  It was one of our most challenging design and installs due to the extreme rock hardscaping.


Waterfall and Hardscape Lighting


My Landscaping Success: Walley and Barb Borries of North Shelby County use lighting to accent their outdoor living area

Published: Sunday, January 15, 2012, 6:30 AM
borries1.JPGPathway lights were added to the stairs leading to the upper level of Walley and Barb Borries’ outdoor living area, which has a table and chairs and a swing that sits under an arbor. (The Birmingham News/Jeff Roberts)

Reason for relandscaping

Walley and Barb Borries of North Shelby County spend a lot of time on their screened-in porch and they like to entertain, so they wanted soft lighting to accent their landscape.


Contractor or designer

Marlin Bennetch of Outdoor Lighting Perspectives, 991-5483, installed the lighting.



Changes made

Low-voltage accent lighting with copper fixtures was chosen. The copper fixtures were chosen because after they go through a patina process, which takes about a month, they turn brown. At this point, the fixtures are concealed in the landscape in daylight.



On the rocks

Their backyard is accented by large rocks. During the spring and summer, several plants bloom through the rocks on the hill, and there is also a waterfall. Low-wattage soft lights were installed in various places throughout the rocks. Soft lights were used rather than harsh spotlights because the spotlights would have created bright spots that the couple did not want.


borries2.JPGLights were mounted on the retaining wall next to the driveway to light a path for guests at night. The Birmingham News/Jeff Roberts)

Front of home

The couple’s home sits on a hill, and uplighting was installed to showcase the home at night. Lights were also mounted on the retaining wall next to the driveway to light a path for guests at night.


Deck lighting

Lights were mounted along the railing of the deck. Small floodlights were installed on the side of the deck to light the waterfall and to shine more light on the rocks.



Pathway lights were added to the stairs leading to the upper level of the outdoor living area, which has a table and chairs and a swing that sits under an arbor.


I am proud of this change because

“I think the lighting adds a whole lot” to the landscaping, Barb said. She said that she and her husband love it.



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Hardscape Lighting

By definition, hardscape lighting is the illumination of inanimate objects of landscaping, primarily masonry work, stone walls, patios, decks, etc.  This project in the Highland Lakes community outside of Birmingham, stretched the limits of hardscape lighting.

The customers house was built on the side of a rocky lot.   To expand their outdoor living area, the customer decided make a functional and  useable area, by flattening the top of the lot by removing the rocks and boulders.  To minimize the burden of removing the rocks, they decided to neatly organize them into a sloped rock garden complete with kitchen, waterfall, stone steps leading to an outdoor patio, arbor, and deck.  This is when we were introduced to the project.

We selected traditional deck lights to illuminate the deck.  Likewise copper pathway lights were selected to illuminate the rear sidewalk.  All of this was easy; the challenge was about to begin.  The stone steps leading to the upper patio desperately needed illumination to provide nighttime safety.  We chose to use tall path lights at strategic intervals.  The difficulty was providing even spacing while ensuring a solid installation, and just as importantly, the ability to conceal wires around the rocks.

Since the large rocks are actually the focal point of the landscape, they needed to be illuminated with some soft accent lighting.  We chose some small copper flood lights.  Copper was the choice since the patina process will make them “disappear” during daytime hours.   Additionally, the customer has planted some colorful flowers throughout the hardscape.  The soft illumination from the 20watt flood bulbs provided just enough night-time accent of these plants.

Most outdoor lighting companies would avoid projects like this, and stick with the simpler landscape lighting and uplighting.  However, we are a full service outdoor lighting that gladly takes on these challenges.  Hardscape lighting extraordinaire…

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