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The Bright Ideas Blog

Design inspiration and outdoor lighting tips and advice for homeowners

The Fourth Element in a Successful Low Voltage Landscape Lighting System: Service

The Three Elements of Landscape Lighting 

A successful lighting system is comprised of three key elements: a beautiful design, quality components, and masterful engineering. If the design, what we actually see at night, isnt going to captivate and stimulate our aesthetic interests and pleasures, then there is no point to having it installed. I the component, the fixtures, lamps, etc., aren't built with quality materials, then they will fall apart and the system will ultimately fail. If the engineering isn't sound, if faulty wire connections are used and inadequate instillation practices are preformed, the system will experience a very short life span. As much as I wish landscape lighting was a simple thing to install, it does take a lot of thought and time to create a system that will provide beautiful illumination for the continual future. 

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The Fourth Element

These three elements are at the heart of any truly successful lighting design installation. However, there is one other key element that often gets overlooked because it doesn't come about until later, service. No matter how well a low voltage landscape lighting system is designed, built, and engineered, it is the system's continued yearly maintenance that will ensure its future success. 

You wouldn't believe how much change your landscape undergoes in as little as one year. A landscape is wild world of growth and change. As much as we try to keep it tame, our landscapes never stop requiring care and attention. Plant life grows, root systems extend, soil moves, earth freezes, irrigation torrents, animals live, and insect ecosystems flourish. A landscape is a place in which an outdoor lighting system must attempt to exist as a constant in a relentlessly changing environment.

Here are some examples of what you will likely see happen in a lighting system when it goes without service. 

  • Overgrowth - Plants and various vegetation throughout your landscape will grow over your fixtures. An example of this can commonly be observed in the lighting of spruces and other pines. When the tree grows, the fixtures don't grow with it. They stay in the same place. This results in branches growing out over the fixtures, obscuring the light source. 
  • Frost Lift - Utah experiences 260+ freeze thaw cycles annually. This freezing and thawing causes fixture stakes to begin raising up out of the dirt. Over time the fixtures will begin to aim in undesirable directions. Frost lift can sometimes even expose wire. 
  • Hard Water Build Up - A fixture's lens will build up hard water deposits from irrigation and rain. If built up enough, these hard water deposits will create a solid barrier over the light source and light will not be able to travel properly. 
  • Tree Growth and Down Lights - When we place down lights in trees, the trees don't stop growing. If a tree goes too long without having its down lights serviced, the fixture and even the wire are put in danger of having the tree grow around them. Tree-Down-light.jpeg

There are some other, less common, issues that can occur in systems when it goes without service, but the above four are what people can recognize most easily.

The continued servicing of a lighting system each year needs to happen to ensure the system's continued success. 

Here is what your lighting specialist's service plan should involve:

  • Trim Vegetation and Relocate Light Fixtures - When a technician is going through your system, they recognize when a light is being impaired or is unable to perform properly due to overgrowth. There are two things they will do to fix the issue.    

              1.  They will trim back any vegetation that is growing over the fixture inhibiting it. If a                            shrub, for example, has grown over the fixture they will trim it back so that the light                        can have an open path.

              2.  They will relocate the fixture to a better location where it won't have issues. As a pine                    grows, the branches can extend over the fixture. Rather than try to fight with the tree                    or lop off branches, the technician will simply extend the wire out, a few feet back, to                      compensate for the new growth.  

  • Re-position and Re-aim - When a stake raises up out of the ground, or when a fixture has begun to aim somewhere it shouldn't, the technician will re-position and re-aim. The technician will straighten fixtures, place stakes back into the ground, and make sure the lighting is aiming where it is supposed to. 
  • Remove Hard Water Build Up - The technician will clean every single fixture's lens and vigorously scrub out and remove all hard water deposits.

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  • Tree Growth and Down Lights - When a tree grows, it will grow out over the fixture and wires if they are not addressed. The down light is suspended away from the tree by a stainless steel bolt drilled into the trunk. As the tree grows, this bolt will need to be backed out so the fixture and tree are kept out of contact from one another. The wire going down the back side of the tree will also need to be looked at. If wire has come loose, or if the tree has begun to grow around it, it will need to be re positioned. 
  • Lamp and System Evaluation - While the technician is working on your system, they will check everything. They will check to make sure the timer is set to the correct time, that the fixtures are all in good repair, that the transformer is working correctly, and that all the lights are coming on like they are supposed to.

              1.  Wires coming into the transformer are hooked up to terminal blocks. These are                              checked to ensure they are tightly fastened and won't lead to arching. In addition                            technicians need to check that the power coming out of the terminals is at the                                appropriate wattage. 

              2.  While it is not a very common occurrence with LED lamps, they can potentially                                experience problems. The technician is there to check all of the lamps and make sure                    they are all coming on. If an LED lamp is out, dim, or if even one of the diodes has                          gone out, they will replace it under warranty

Your lighting professional's technicians are there to care for your lighting system, make sure it is working as intended, and answer any questions or concerns you may have. 

While we do try our best to build and create systems that will provide our clients with a life time of enjoyment, it does require continued maintenance if it's going to work as well 10 years from now as it did from day 1. 

Give us a call to learn more about how to light your outdoor living space at 801-440-7647 to schedule a free consultation, or feel free to simply fill out a contact form on our website, www.utahlights.com

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