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As outdoor lighting specialists, we proudly talk about our capabilities.  Yes, we can install landscape lighting for the front of the home or back patio.  But it is the unusual architectural feature or ornate artwork that captures our attention and always something we want to blend into the design.  These particular pieces, whether they be artwork, statues, fountains, or something else are usually very personal to the homeowner.  Lit correctly will greatly enhance the outdoor living space for the client

LED strip lightingIn this example, the entire entry walkway has a number of custom art pieces attached to the wall.  This art, all produced by the homeowner, is made entirely of colored glass and tile in three dimensional shapes.  She wanted to highlight this wall at night so guests could view her work on the way to her front door.  We installed a warm white LED strip light behind the fascia board of the roof so the light source is completely hidden yet washes the entire wall in a soft light.  Because of the down lighting effect, the light actually produces some interesting shadows on the 3D artwork.

LED Lighting

This homeowner wanted to increase the visibility of his house numbers so we installed a set of backlit LED numbers in an electric blue color.  With the primarily white house and warm white landscape lighting, these numbers really do provide a pop of color that is clearly visible from the street.

back lit wall hanging

This estate homeowner had mounted a piece of artwork outside his fence at one corner of his property.  He loved the art but felt that it was lost in the dark at night.  We built a small light using a low voltage socket and LED 3w bulb and then mounted it centered on the art.  The artwork is raised out far enough that the light comes shining through in all directions.

These are just a few examples of why landscape lighting is more than just throwing in a few uplights against the house and trees.  Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Austin provides complete design, consultation, installation, and service on all lighting systems.  We cover the entire Travis County area.

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LEDs are upwards of 80 percent more efficient than incandescent lights, but they comprise only a very small percent of retail sales.  One research report I read says LED is less than 10% of retail bulb sales.  With all the “talk” about greener codes and standards, better energy management, and general awareness of environmental issues, why the dichotomy?

As a designer, I see two major issues holding the consumer back.

First, there is the technology itself.  There are lots of choices available on shelves with different bulb types, light output, beam width, and color temperature.  The choices can be confusing.  If not done correctly, this can lead to a lot of expense with sub-par results.

Color temperatures between 2700K and 3000K provide the warmth familiar to most homeowners, while temperatures between 4000K and 5000K work well for mostly interior daylit rooms. LEDs with a color rendering index (CRI) exceeding 80 will produce the best color output.

There are a number of performance and testing websites to help get accurate information on LED products, including the Department of Energy, but the best way is working with a professional and doing on site testing for your specific application.  Every home exterior and interior is different and one light that works well in one case, may not work as well in another.  Height and width of object lit, distance from object, area size, all will impact the final result.

The second objection is price.  When we discuss an outdoor lighting system, LED can add as much as a 20% surcharge to the overall system price.  LED bulbs are more expensive than their incandescent counterparts and this has a direct effect on consumer acceptance and adoption rates.

Some interesting research worth noting.  In 2002, a study by D&R Research found that about 10% of the homes had converted to some form of efficient lighting.  By 2012, this number had increased to nearly 30%.  Their forecast stated that in another 10 years, the percent of homes with energy efficient lighting would be around 60%.

What this means is that manufacturers will be able to mass produce product and prices will begin to fall.  We’ve seen this repeatedly in the past (i..e. computers) when technology gains widespread acceptance.

Prices will fall, technology continues to improve.  With multi-year warranties and decade long lifespans, LEDs have made lamps a long-term investment that can exceed the life expectancy of the fixture it illuminates.  Whether you do it yourself, or work with a professional, researching the right LED product is time well spent.  The results of lower energy consumption and reduced ongoing maintenance costs are real and available today.

Texas is unique in many respects.  Among other things, I think we are the leader in “moonglow” outdoor lighting systems.  If you are not familiar, moonglow lighting is popular in our big oak trees – either uplighting from the ground, or downlighting from way up high.  These high voltage lights produce a bluish-green color that shines down through the branches of the tree.  It’s a great look for outdoor landscape lighting.  I see these installations all over Austin and this clearly was the method of choice for installing outdoor lighting 10 to 20 years ago.  The problem is that the unique color of this light is achieved with a mercury vapor bulb and ballast.  It’s called a high intensity discharge (HID) lamp and it is one of the oldest lighting technologies.   Mercury vapor, at least for commercial applications, has been outlawed by federal regulation because it is also one of the most inefficient forms of lighting available.  So what to do when a mercury vapor fixture quits working?

We’ll answer that question in a moment, but first let’s look at an actual case study.  We were recently called out to a large home in West Austin that had 20 mercury vapor lights installed.  What prompted this call was that the back yard lights were not working at all.  While at the home, we looked at the system and did some quick calculations on the customer’s energy consumption.  With 20 lights, each burning 175w mercury vapor bulbs, she was consuming about 4 kilowatts of electricity per hour of usage.  She ran the lights an average of 6 hours per day.  If you do the math, that’s 8,760 kw per year of electricity, and that translates to an approximate $875 electricity bill per year (based on a $.10 / kwh cost) just for landscape lighting!!!  It’s this kind of case that caused the government to legislate the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which, among other things, specifically targets mercury vapor for its inefficiency and limited the sale or import of certain mercury vapor bulbs and ballasts after 2008. 

Back to the question about what to do when the lights quit working.  One solution is to hunt for a supplier with inventory.  Not easy to do since most are phasing out of this product line.  If you want to stay with the same fixtures, it is possible to retrofit the lighting to a metal halide or sodium lamp solution.  Replace the ballast and bulb at each fixture and you have solved the problem.  Unfortunately, since this solution is also high voltage, you will still be consuming a lot of electricity to power these lights.  Another option?  Take a look at a low voltage system powered with LED bulbs.  LED technology can produce the same output as a 175w metal halide bulb and uses about 10% of the power.  In our above case study, we estimated a low voltage conversion would reduce her electric bill to less than $100 per year providing her with a direct savings of close to $800 annually. 

Another benefit of LED is a reduction in maintenance.  Manufacturers rate LED bulbs at 50,000 hours of usage.  By comparison, mercury vapor and metal halide are rated at about 20,000 hours of use, even less if you consider the gas degradation inside the bulb.  The truth is no one really knows how long LED lasts because 50,000 hours is somewhere between 10 to 15 years of use and the technology has not been available that long. Not really sure if you count this as a benefit until time determines the effective life of LED technology.  But the energy savings is real and something to consider for those with an eye towards conservation.    

It’s been a busy spring for us. Lots of new clients and we are grateful. One of the more popular trends that we are getting lots of calls on is for lighting outdoor living spaces. Decks, patios, outdoor kitchens, dining areas, water features, seems like everyokumpne is doing construction projects to enhance their back yards.

Finding lighting to enhance these spaces is an essential. Trying to entertain in the dark or off “porch lights” just doesn’t cut it anymore. If you are planning a project of this type, here are a couple ideas on how to complete the look with elegant outdoor lighting:

Safety: One of the absolutes of nearly every project is dark stairs and railings that drop off into darkness in the back yard. This picture is an example of a project we just completed. Notice at the bottom, the small step down into the kitchen area. We added some LED strip lighting on the stair riser to safely light the area so no one will trip entering this potentially dark area.

Downlighting: It’s interesting to see our clients struggle with grilling in the dark or dining on a dark table. Again, looking at our sample work, you see a series of small fixtures installed in the rafters of the pergola to provide lighting for cooking as well as bar top eating.

Aesthetics: Consider some LED strip lighting tucked up under the bar or cap of a stone wall (or wood railing) as we have done here to really make your spaces pop. Notice both the bar front and far back wall are washed with soft ambient LED light. You can even add color changing LED that’s controlled with a remote and you’ll have the coolest back yard in the neighborhood.

Recently, OLP of Austin donated a complete lighting package to be auctioned off at the annual Play Bingo fundraiser benefitting the Center for Child Protection.  The Center for Child Protection, a nationally accredited children’s advocacy center, is the first contact for children in Travis County who are suspected victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect and for children who have witnessed a violent crime.

By donating the seven light system, OLP was proud to be a part of the money raised at the auction.  These funds will help provide funding for the Center for the upcoming year.

After the auction, OLP arrived at the winning bidder‘s house to install her new lighting system.  We completed the installation in a day and she loves how the LED lighting enhances her front yard.

This video was taken to highlight the stunning effect of outdoor lighting around the house.  Click the link below to see this beautiful west Austin home with magnificent tree lighting, path and architectural lighting in the front yard to highlight the dramatic entry.  In back, there are many outdoor patio areas, pergolas, trees,and pool lighting to enhance the outdoor living space in back and the beautiful view of Lake Austin.  Overall, this is a beautiful house that clearly shows the enhancement that effective outdoor lighting can make to the overall appeal.

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Are you looking for a way to brighten up your holidays this season?   You may not be thinking about this with Labor Day just behind us, but now is the time to start planning.

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives is proud to offer our holiday lighting program.  Our program involves, design, ordering, installation, removal and storage of your holiday lighting display.  The lighting display is yours, not a rental, and your elements are purchased new, not used like some of the other cut rate lighting companies offer.

We have been supplying outdoor lighting solutions since 2005.  Years of experience gives us the ability for elegant design, from the classic to the playful, for holiday lighting your yard.  Our supplier relationships have thousands of different solutions and we’ll match your ideas with quality products including energy efficient LED lighting.

We do a professional installation scheduled when you want us to install.  We come back in January to remove everything after the holidays.  Once we tear down, we remove the lights and store in a controlled environment so you don’t have to bother with finding storage space yourself.

Contact Outdoor Lighting Perspectives today to schedule your design appointment.  Call us at (512) 247-1815 or email us at olpaustin.outdoorlights.com.  Please visit our website at Austin.outdoorlights.com to see our gallery of holiday lighting and to learn more.