You're familiar with the old saying :"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!" This saying holds true in numerous situations, and low voltage landscape lighting is no exception. Just like a car, maintenance for lighting will always be ongoing. However there are plenty of ways that over the top maintenance can be reduced through preventative measures.
Gardening and Landscape Maintenance
Planting new flowers and bringing some color and change into your flower bed can be a lot of fun. Whether you have a gardener planting new vegetation or you're doing it yourself, there are a couple of things you can do to avoid lighting problems.
- Plant Placement
Where you place your new plants, flowers & greenery can have an effect on the performance of your lights. Be careful not to place new plants in front of or too close to your lighting fixtures. Sometimes it can be easy to forget that the small plant you just put in your garden won't be small forever. Plants can quickly over grow and obscure your fixtures. Make sure you communicate this with your gardener as well. We've been on projects before where the gardener has completely ignored the lighting and planted a shrub directly in front of a light, then causing dark areas in the landscape that were once illuminated wonderfully.
- Adding Mulch
Believe it or not, we have been out on several service calls where a light was "out, or not working". As it turned out, the light was just buried in mulch.
If you have your gardener put down new mulch, make sure you are communicating to them to watch out for your lighting. Sometimes it can even be worth it to "flag or mark" all of your fixtures. We once found a lights fixture buried under six inches of mulch.
Tree removal can sometimes be a sad part of home ownership, but when it does happen, and you have a down light mounted in the tree, its best to have your lighting specialists come relocate it for you.
If the tree is cut down without removing the fixture first, the fixture could be damaged.
- Accounting For Tree Growth
Ensure that your fixture placement is accounting for an eventual tree growth. Even though that cute little spruce is small now, that won't last long. If your fixtures are located too close to this type of tree, they will be enveloped by tree branches in just a year or two.
- Snow Shovels
Snow removal helps reduce the chances of slips or falls. But snow removal can be hazardous to your path lights. Simply be mindful of where your snow shovel is going. Striking a path light with a snow shovel can damage or break your fixture.
The path lights we've known and been familiar with fore years have not been built to withstand this type of abuse. However, there are some incredibly durable fixtures being engineered today that are meant to withstand strikes previous generations were not. If your current system's path lights are looking out of sorts, then consider upgrading your path lights to something built of sterner stuff.
- Moisture Inside Fixture
The biggest threat the outdoor environment possesses to your landscape lighting system is moisture. Moisture needs to be kept out at all costs. Fixtures are there to do nothing more than shield and protect your lamp and socket from moisture.
If moisture somehow enters the fixture, it needs to be addressed right away. If you notice moisture inside of a fixture, it must be removed. The sooner the better. Putting this off can eventually lead to water build up and corrosion inside the fixture. LED lamps work incredibly well so long as they are dry and free of water. Water damage will lead to failure of an LED lamp faster than anything else.
The first that moisture is present can be indicated by the small amount of condensation on the inside of the lens. Water has found it's way into the fixture somehow. It's highly recommended that you have a service done on the fixture if you are experiencing moisture problems. A tech will identify the issue(s), where the water is getting in, and reseal or replace a worn out component.
- Retrofitting LED
One great form of preventative maintenance is to retrofit your old halogen system with an LED upgrade! Halogen lamps burn out every year or so and will have to continually be replaced. LED bulbs are different. You will most likely have to replace an LED lamp after 15 - 20 years. That means no more dealing with burnt out lamps every few months.
- Keep LED Lamps Dry
As mentioned a moment ago, moisture is the enemy. An LED is an electronic device just like a computer or cell phone. If it gets wet, problems will ensue. If you are retrofitting your system with LED lamps, make sure your fixtures are quality fixtures that will withstand weathering, and last longer.
Having your lighting specialist's team of techs come out once a year to service your system is a highly recommended preventative measure. During an annual service, techs will go through the entire system to check on the performance of everything. They will also take care of a large number of things:
- Techs will check to make sure your timers are set correctly.
- They will tighten terminal blocks and make sure they are securely fastened.
- They will check that photocells are working properly and aren't experiencing interference.
- Check line balances to ensure that there aren't any power draws or over / under boosted lines.
- Fixtures will be strained and redirected towards their target if they have shifted or moved.
- Stakes will be pounded back into the ground if there have been any frost heaves. (During the freeze thaw cycle in the ground, fixtures can be lifted out of the ground slightly)
- All hard water deposits on the lenses will be scrubbed and scraped clean.
- Overgrown vegetation will be trimmed back and cleaned up.
- Fixtures will be relocated to account for target growth and other changes in the landscape.
- (Halogen) All lamps will be replaced with a new lamp that comes with a one year warranty. If the lamp should burn out before that time, it will be replaced.
- (LED) Each lam is examined during the annual service. If one is found faulty (if it has a burned out diode or other issue) it will be replaced under it's warranty.
- All exposed wire reburied.
Why Is Servicing Your System So Important?
Servicing your system and keeping it maintained is the key to ensuring that you will continue to enjoy it. If you wait a long time or just simply keep putting off servicing / maintaining your system, it will require a lot more work and time to get everything back to the condition it was in when the system was first installed.
We have had clients out off having their system serviced for as long as five plus years. After going without any attention for this length of time, the system isn't recognizable. Everything needs an overhaul, rather than just a tune up. Servicing your system is important, and the best ways to maintain it is to take preventative measures from the get go, not after it has already created a problem for you or worse, costly damage to your landscape lighting system.
If you think your landscape lighting system is in need of a tune up or servicing please give us a call or fill out a consultation form here on our website and we will get one of our lighting experts out to do a free consult & evaluation on your lighting today.