There's no question that LED landscape lighting can beautifully accent your home and property. The real issue is that not all LED bulbs are created equal. If you want to learn how to avoid the biggest problem with LED landscape lighting, you'll want pay close attention to the LED bulb you select.
The most common problem with LED landscape lighting is the bulb, because it either fails to continue working, or creates poor lighting design.
There are two reason why people's LED landscape lights fail: poor quality & taking a one size fits all approach.
- From a quality standpoint, the landscape lighting fails because low quality bulbs fail/don't last.
- From a design standpoint, the landscape lighting can fail when the bulbs all create the exact same effect (we'll explain more on this later on).
Selecting a low quality bulb and approaching the a lighting with a one size fits all mentality is a recipe for a poor lighting system.
In short, one of the biggest problems we see in landscape lighting is often caused by the LED bulbs people put in their fixtures.
With a seamless design and a well thought out plan, your lighting will look spectacular. But if you select a low quality LED bulb, your beautiful lighting will be short lived.
Just about anything can be found online at a low price point. If you look online right now for LED landscape lighting bulbs, you'll find countless low price options. The bulbs that can be found at lower price points are usually set at that price for a reason.
In my experience, you can't have high quality performance & a low price. The two concepts simply aren't synonymous.
High Quality + Low Price Point= Oxymoron.
The biggest issue with lowly priced LED bulbs are that they aren't built to withstand the outdoor environment. There are two things that will cause an LED lamp to fail: temperature and moisture.
In the outdoor environment, these two factors are unavoidable. A well engineered fixture will keep moisture from reaching the LED. But withstanding high and low temperatures is really dependent upon how well the LED is built and engineered.
Heat is difficult to avoid. We all know how hot summer can be. When the sun shines down on a metal fixture in the middle of summer, it gets hot - really hot.
An LED is an electronic device. When an electronic device overheats, it fails. The drivers, resisters, diodes, transistors, integrated circuits, etc., have to be able to take the heat. If these individual components aren't high quality, they will surely fail. If the housing around the bulb isn't good at dissipating heat, the bulb will struggle to survive.
Cold temperatures present another challenge. The picture below is of a low price point LED bulb that failed due to cold temperatures. If you look closely, you can see the places where the plastic housing cracked in three places after enduring the freeze thaw cycles of winter.
The above bulb was taken from a client's home where we replaced all failed LED bulbs with high quality alternatives built to last. The irony of this failed bulb is that it had a sticker that read 'dimmable' on one side and "outdoor rated' on the other side. As you can see, slapping a sticker on a product doesn't ensure it will perform as advertised. Putting it to the test in a real world scenario reveals how it will perform. In this case, the results reveal the truth: if the bulb's plastic housing can't handle the temperatures outdoors, then it isn't truly outdoor rated.
"But online it said outdoor rated!"
I know that the bulbs online claim to be outdoor rated. All the low price point bulbs online say outdoor rated. It isn't anyone's fault that the bulbs they purchased online didn't perform as advertised. Sadly in my experience, these low price point LED bulbs rarely stand up when placed in an actual outdoor setting. They might last for a while, but it only takes a year or two to start seeing failures. We throw away and replace countless low price point LED bulbs every season.
2. Color Changes
Another issue with low price point LED bulbs are how well they maintain their initial Kelvin temperature (Click here to learn more about which color temperature is best for your outdoor lighting).
Kelvin temperature refers to the character of the light in terms of color. For example, you have warm white lights that generally range between 2700K and 3000K and cooler whites that range between 3500K and 5000K.
If you select a warm white light, you want it to stay that warmly toned color for the duration of its lamp life. The color temperature can change, however, if the LED color rendering doesn't last.
For example, we had a client a few years back who insisted on using his own LED bulbs he purchased online. They were meant to put out a warm white color temperature. They did this for a while, but over time the color started to fade and give way to cooler tones. Eventually all his lights began emitting a pale blue colored light. If this wasn't enough, the cooler color temperatures all looked slightly different, none of them matched one another.
This year we revisited this client's home and replaced his LED bulbs with new bulbs that wouldn't unexpectedly change colors.
3. Longevity of Quality LED Bulbs
We've specialized in low voltage outdoor lighting for a long time. We've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly that can result from different LED bulbs.
Take it from us, it's worth spending a little more for an LED at a higher price point if it means it will last, and continually look good.
Most importantly, buying a quality LED bulb will leave you with less stress. Having to continually battle with your lighting system to keep it working can be a hassle. With superior performance LED lamps, you can spend less time trying to figure out why your landscape lights aren't operating correctly, and more time pursuing other things.
Beautiful Lighting Isn't a One Size Fits All
One of the key elements to a good lighting design is the design itself: Seeing and experiencing something beautiful at night is the goal. If the design is going to fail, then what's the point?
The same light bulb shouldn't be used in every single fixture, unless they are all lighting the exact same object and trying to achieve the exact same effect.
What do I mean by the same light bulb?
For a simple spot light, we have 30 different bulb options we can place in the fixture depending on what we are illuminating, and the effect we are trying to achieve.
For example, a small ornate tree, like a Japanese maple should be lit with a different lighting approach than a large established cottonwood tree. In the pictures below, you can see how these small delicate trees are lit with a single softly diffused light, while a large towering tree will require multiple lights with a lot more punch.
Beam spread, lumen output, and Kelvin temperature should all be taken into consideration when crafting a tailored lighting effect.
In our company's lighting designs, our light bulbs aren't a one size fits all. We use LED bulbs with multiple options so each piece in the landscape can be made beautiful when the light hits it appropriately.
When you purchase a six pack of LED bulbs online, you are purchasing six of the exact same bulb. unless you have six trees in your landscape that are all exactly the same and happen to conform to the lighting effect the six bulbs create, you run the risk of the lights all looking too intense. Often the lamps sold in bulk have narrow beam spreads and pack too much punch.
Landscape Lighting is Like a Game of Golf
Here's a metaphor to try and help explain.
Think of LED bulbs like a bag of golf clubs. You have a driver to launch the ball far, a pitching wedge to lob the ball up high for shorter shots, and a putter to softly tap the ball into the hole once your on the green. You also have a variety of other clubs to help you depending on what kind of shot you are faced with. Lighting design can be very similar to a game of golf.
Like golf, lighting is heavily a game nuance where the slightest adjustment can make all the difference.
You wouldn't use your putter to tee off the same way you wouldn't pull out your 7 iron to putt. You need to be sure you are using the correct bulb to light a tree, the same way you need to select the correct club for the shot you are going to take.
Metaphorically, when you purchase a six pack of low price point LED bulbs online, you might be purchasing 6 drivers when lighting your backyard is a short par three that doesn't require a driver. What you actually need to get on the green and in the hole is a 9 iron, a favorable wind,, perhaps your sand wedge if you're unlucky, and your trusty putter.
When you first started golfing, you had someone there to teach you how and when different clubs are used. They knew the nuances of playing the game and imparted this when they were teaching you. If you had tried to play 18 holes by yourself the very first time you went golfing, you would have struggled.
You don't have to be alone in your landscape lighting. Consult with your local landscape lighting designer. They have years of knowledge and experience in lighting design and can help you get the most out of your lights. Why shoot 5 over when your lighting designer can help you hit par or better?
Landscape Lighting Makes All The Difference
At Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah, the art of outdoor illumination is a real passion we work to perfect. Designing elegantly bespoke landscape lighting systems is simply all we do. For over 15 years, our award winning team of designers and craftsmen have striven to bring the best outdoor lighting experience possible to people's homes and businesses across the Wasatch Front & beyond.
Located in Midvale, Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah installs, maintains, and repairs lighting systems throughout Utah's residential areas, including Salt Lake City, Park City, Draper, Davis, and Utah Counties.
If you have an upcoming project you'd like help with, call (801)440-7647 for more information, schedule a free consultation, or feel free to simply fill out a contact form on our website, www.utahlights.com