When you hear the word "staycation," does a little light go off in your head...an outdoor light, perhaps?
With more Americans opting to vacation at home these days, many are looking for ways to get
more enjoyment out of their own backyards. And one of the easiest, most economical ways to
make the fun last longer is through quality outdoor lighting.
Over the last several
years, landscape lighting has exploded into a diverse and beautiful art
form. With better technology and today’s broad array of fixtures,
designers are taking nightlighting to a new level and giving consumers
more opportunities to enjoy their leisure time at home. If your company
doesn’t already offer low-voltage outdoor landscape lighting, this
might be the right time to catch the wave, the lightwave, that is.
Riding the wave
companies find low-voltage outdoor lighting to be a relatively easy
service to add to an existing green industry practice. Training is
often low cost or free, and the learning curve is quick.
do a lot of outdoor lighting and for very good reasons,” says Bob
Giordano, owner, White Water Landscape Services, Williams, Oregon.
“It’s a good add-on for contractors who are already out there doing
irrigation and landscaping.
The materials and skills are very
compatible, and the initial start-up costs are low.” Scott Miller,
landscape designer and senior landscape associate with Tim’s Landscape
Services, Griffith, Indiana, agrees. “We were a full-service landscape
company and when clients started asking about irrigation, we added it.
Landscape lighting was also a natural transition. It fit in easily to
Our irrigation crew does the lighting too, and
this has worked out really well for us.” With a relatively low cost to
the consumer and a big return in terms of enjoyment, many see
low-voltage outdoor lighting as a recession proof service. The growing
outdoor living trend is spurring demand, according Joshua Beadle,
general manager at FX Luminaire, San Diego, California, which was
recently acquired by Hunter Industries.
“Thirty years ago,
automatic irrigation was considered optional,” says Beadle. “Now it has
become a basic component for most residential projects. Outdoor
lighting is evolving the same way. Backyard environments are seen as an
extension of the interior home and there are more and more products
designed in this direction, including outdoor kitchens, entertaining
areas and even exterior home theatre systems. Today’s consumer is
looking for much more than a simple backyard barbecue.”
says the outdoor living trend has been great for their business. “The
new housing market has really slowed down and we used to live on that.
Now, instead of spending money going to Disney World or Hawaii, people
are spending it on an outdoor living room.” People want to use their
outdoor spaces well into the evening hours and to do this they need
“The current economy is actually focusing more
attention on outdoor lighting,” says Cruz Perez, vice president of
marketing, Vista Professional Outdoor Lighting, Simi Valley,
California. “Irrigation may be slowing down due to watering
restrictions, but lighting is a service you can continue to bring to
A new niche
Giordano, a certified
designer through NILLA (National Institute of Landscape Lighting
Associates), points out that lighting gives companies another niche and
another price point to offer customers in this fluctuating economy.
“Some customers who in previous years may have spent a lot more on a
new landscape are scaling back. We can come in with a much lower price
and make it something really spectacular with lighting. There are also
opportunities to sell lighting in yards that are already established.”
customers at the other end of the spectrum who are doing a complete
landscape installation, it’s an easy sell, he says. “I ask them how
much they’re spending on the landscape and what their lifestyle is
like.” Like many homeowners, some of Giordano’s customers are working
ten hours a day and don’t have a chance to appreciate their landscape
during daylight hours. He suggests they take five percent of their
budget and direct it toward lighting. “Now I’ve created a whole new
level of enjoyment for them.” Some like to start small but they usually
want more, he says. “They might do one side of the yard first.
when they see how it looks, they’re filled with ideas for the rest of
the property.” You don’t have to be fully immersed in installation to
get involved with landscape lighting. Exterior Worlds, a Houston,
Texas-based company specializing in high-end residential properties, subcontracts most
lighting installations but takes a very active role in the process. “We
focus on designing the lighting and then help execute it so that it
goes in seamlessly,” says Jeff Halper, president. By designing the
lighting package and guiding the process instead of leaving it up to
the customer and a lighting company, Exterior Worlds has control over
the final look and can use lighting as a tool in the overall landscape.
“We know what works and what doesn’t,” says Halper. “The client
doesn’t have that experience and doesn’t usually speak the language. We
do.” He says that his company’s involvement also ensures that
appropriate steps are taken to protect existing trees and landscape.
their efforts, the company gets a percentage of the profits and the
ability to offer the customer a one-stop-shopping experience. Halper
points out that lighting can bring in other landscaping work as well.
The future looks bright
So what are today’s customers looking for in their nightlighting? Here are a few trends:
is in when it comes to landscape lighting and LED technology is leading
the way. “The reason everyone is talking about LED products,” says
Beadle, “is that
with LED you can get the same light output using 60 to 80 percent less
energy while having a very long lamp life—which classifies it as a
Products that save resources are where future consumers will be motivated to make a purchase.”
Cooler bulbs are
another advantage, Perez points out. “It’s more desirable from a safety
standpoint because a child is not going to be burned by an LED.” Matt
Bohn, vice president of operations, Blue Water Irrigation &
Landscape Lighting, Annapolis, Maryland, says he has renewed confidence
in LED. “We’re really excited about the LED technology coming out.
There are tremendous energy savings there. We’ve worked with LED in the
past and weren’t happy with it, but we’re getting into it again. The
technology has caught up and the quality is now what it should be.”
Giordano says more of his customers are specifically asking for LED.
“In our part of the country, sustainable landscaping is a mainstay.
When customers ask for LED, it’s a great pre-qualifier. They know what
they’re talking about.
They’ve done their research.” He favors
going one step further by powering the system with a solar collector.
It’s important to educate customers on the difference between a system
like this and the low-cost solar fixtures that are sold at big box
stores, he says. “People are often led to believe they’re doing the
right thing when they purchase those,” he says, “but when they buy
fixtures that produce only a candle-like glow and then end up in a
landfill in a couple of years, that’s not green at all. Instead, we can
use a solar collector, couple that with LED bulbs and good solid
fixtures, and we have a system that will last 15 to 25 years.
Now you have a truly sustainable type of lighting.”
Customization and artistry...
in outdoor lighting is full customization. People aren’t just looking
for a blazing security light coupled with a few accent lights here and
there. They want a complete package tailored to their own lifestyle.
They want lighting to offer beauty, utility, and security and they want
to be able to dial it up or down as needed.
“The demands today
are a lot higher,” says Halper. “People want a good design. They don’t
want someone to come out and put fixtures in all the trees.”
The interest in custom design stems in part from the plethora of fixture options available today.
path and spread lights, spotlights, step lights, deck lights, accent
lights, and a wide array of specialty lights, designers can paint a
unique nighttime masterpiece in every yard. “You don’t have to look at
the artistic side of it combining a creative design that is a
custom fit for the home, “says Bohn. “This means getting to know the
different products and manufacturers and finding the right fixture for
the right location.
We also like to bring in our horticultural
knowledge, to know what the different material is and how it should be
Halper says architectural lighting has also
become very popular among his customers. “That’s something we didn’t do
in the past but it seems to be a pretty big trend now.” It’s also
important to pay attention to the view from inside the house, says
Giordano. “Go inside and look at what the homeowner will be looking at
out the window.
Lighting draws your eye out into the
landscape. You can actually take a small home and, with the right
outdoor lighting, make it seem much bigger from the inside.”
says that for most lights it’s important to focus on the quality of the
fixture and the effect of the light versus the style or look. “You’re
going to see pathway lights, but for the rest of your fixtures, look at
what the light does, not what the fixture looks like.” “Don’t forget
underwater lighting,” he continues.
“There are a lot of people putting that in. When you mix water and light, you’re taking it to a whole new level.”
Different lights for different tasks...
lighting is also becoming more task oriented, says Bohn. “With the
advent of the outdoor kitchen, we’re lighting more kitchen islands and
grills than we have in the past. With our location on the water, we’re
also lighting more docks and piers.”
Security lighting has
also evolved. “We’re doing a lot more lighting of patios and walkways,
as more people are looking at it from a safety and security
standpoint,” says Bohn. “In the past, people typically wanted one large
motion-sensor activated light off the side of the house. Now they want
their property to have general illumination to give them peace of
living rooms, kitchens, and dining rooms moving outdoors, consumers
want the same level of control with their outdoor lighting as they have
indoors. “They want to have flexible control, not just all on or all
off,” says Beadle. “There can be very different uses for their outdoor
spaces at different times. It might be two couples having wine and
cheese one night, and a big children’s party the next.” By providing
separate zone switching for each space, you give customers the
opportunity to set the right mood.
There’s a big
difference between offering outdoor lighting and offering quality
outdoor lighting. That difference comes from training and experience.
manufacturers’ seminars are free and cover technical issues, design
tips, effective marketing and all of the other aspects of operating a
successful outdoor lighting service.
“Since there are many
schools of thought concerning products, methods and marketing, it is
best to attend many different training seminars,” advises Beadle. “Keep
your mind open and listen to several messages to learn the best
There’s one more reason to get involved in
landscape lighting. It’s fun. “There’s no limit to the different
effects you can achieve,” says Giordano. “It’s a very artistic type of
thing and landscapers are usually artistic types.”
it’s also a great change of pace from irrigation. “I could talk about
lighting for hours. Irrigation is all math and calculation; there’s no
artistic value or creativity. This is a lot more fun.”