We can all remember how exciting summer nights were when, as kids, we were allowed to stay outside and play much later than at other times of the year. It was the best.
Well, summer 2018 is finally here, and today’s kids can stay out even later as they benefit from the improved and expanded outdoor lighting options we now have for illuminating play areas and structures. Keeping children safe and seen as they play on these structures is essential, yet many times that consideration is left out of landscape lighting designs.
Proper illumination of play structures will require extra attention to detail in wiring and fixture selection. As with normal low voltage systems, a transformer will be required. It should be installed completely out of sight and away from the play structure. Kids are curious and may want to investigate what’s inside that shiny stainless steel box.
There are several different ways to run cable through these structures. First, it’s very important that the cabling be hidden. On wooden structures, some contractors use an electric wood router to carve out a groove, with a cut wide enough to lay in the low-voltage cable. A good practice is to glue the cable every 18 inches to keep it in place. A thin layer of veneer should be adhered over the groove as a cover.
On metal structures, where you can’t simply cut a groove, polyvinyl chloride conduit can be used as a chase for the cable. Be sure the conduit and clamps are very smooth, and out of the reach of small hands. Select plastic or round junction boxes without sharp edges. Use the appropriate fittings for all junctions and sand off any sharp mold buttons or burrs.
Next, when fixtures will be mounted directly to outdoor play structures, it’s vital to select the right ones. Several styles can provide adequate illumination. Puck lights, hardscape bar lights and some sconce styles are good choices.
For safety reasons, choose only lensed fixtures with lower-wattage lamps and good thermal management. They should be smooth without any sharp edges. Before installing the selected fixtures, test them to see how warm they become. Lower power outdoor LED tape or strips can be used in areas where light sources could be touched. Test these, too.
The placement of the fixtures should provide illumination over swings, the ceilings and peaks of playhouses, above sand boxes and under slides. Play areas and structures can also be illuminated without mounting fixtures directly on them by using decorative post lights such as those found in city parks. A series of 12-volt directional fixtures can be attached to mounting poles or tall trees to pour light into the play area. A normal landscape lighting transformer can be used to power these applications.
These play areas and structures are quite costly. You can boost their value even higher by presenting these lighting options to your homeowner clients and increase your revenue stream at the same time. The parents will like the increased safety, and the kids will be thrilled with the extended play time. Happy kids, happy parents.
Here’s wishing all of you a safe, happy and profitable summer.
Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.