New, smart transformers give a greater level of control over lighting than ever before. “You can zone them, which means you can have multiple fixtures on the same wire run, but you can turn each of them on and off individually,” said Kevin Gordon, director of sales for FX Luminaire in San Marcos, California.
“You can also dim each individual fixture, so you can have the first one at 100 percent and the second one at 50 percent, if you choose to.”
The latest in the realm of LED advances is in Chip-on-Board (COB) technology. In a COB LED, the diode is integrated directly into the chip, instead of having discrete bulbs. This means a single reflector and a single set of optics, rather than the multiple optics commonly found in standard LEDs. That, in turn, means reduced pixelization, reduced overlap, and reduced glare.
The new timers have astronomic functions, which automatically adjust for the changing of the seasons and Daylight Savings Time. It’s all controlled wirelessly, so the customer can adjust the system from their phone. If they want to set it to full power for a half-hour every weekday when they leave for work, no problem. They want it to come on 45 minutes after sunset so they can enjoy the fullness of dusk? Piece of cake. They want to dim the lights near the patio for a barbecue? It’s done.
The absolute bleeding edge, though, is color-changing LEDs. It’s a very special sale, not common by any means, but it really adds a ‘wow’ factor for certain customers. “The people who are buying the color changes are people who throw a lot of parties, are very spiritual with holidays, or are really big into sports,” said Tobias. “I had a guy who bought the color-changing package solely because he was a huge USC guy.”
The best way to find new ideas is to network with other landscape lighting contractors. They’ve been facing the same challenges, and have some novel advice: “The best landscape lighting designs are the ones where you see very few or no fixtures at all,” said Adams. “Work hard to conceal your fixtures, so that your client can enjoy the effect without the nuisance of glare.”
“If you have an evergreen tree, you don’t necessarily want to put a yellow or a white type of light on that,” said Keener. “You may want to go with blue, because the blue transfers off to the evergreen, and makes it look greener at night.”
“For many trees, you’re going to want to install two fixtures,” said Tobias. “And if the customer only wants to pay for one, it’s your job to explain why they need to buy two. If you put one light on a tree, you’re shooting that tree’s center mass, which means you’re only going to get 50 percent of the best part of that tree.”
Getting off the fence
You like the idea of working with higher margins. You can handle the engineering aspects, and you’re intrigued by the prospect of design, but you just aren’t sure that it’s worth the extra time and energy it’ll take to learn. You’re asking yourself, ‘How many people are really interested in something like this?’ Do yourself a favor, and try this: next time you’re driving around at night, look around at your neighborhood and try counting all the lighted yards. I can practically guarantee there’ll be more of them than their unlit brethren. Then compare the quality of that landscape lighting against the pictures in this article.
You know how to build landscapes—you know how they should look during the day, and now you know how they could look at night. If you can give even a tenth of those people the chance to view their landscapes in the evenings for even more enjoyment, you have a phenomenal opportunity.