There is no better place than a trade show or industry event to learn about new and exciting products presented by your favorite manufacturers. A good event usually creates quite a buzz! The gears in your mind begin to turn, and soon you are thinking of jobs where you can install them. Despite this excitement, I caution you to stop and first learn the true intended “highest and best” use of this newfound favorite fixture of yours. An experienced contractor will consult with the factory rep for detailed instructions on the proper use. It is always important to ask how, when and where to work with a product.
Let’s look at how some fixtures have been used in ways they were not intended.
Are they step lights or wall lights?
Rectangular recessed lights have been used for many years. These lights will come with an opaque, multi or single louver faceplate. There are generally two sizes available: a brick size and half brick size. These are the most common fixtures that appear to be used improperly. Originally these lights were made to be inset into walls on the sides of a staircase and not the front face of a step. A movie theater is a good example of a proper installation. Lights are facing from the wall to the step or from the side of the seat to the step. In landscape lighting, you will often find recessed lights on the face of a step. Some lighting designers find that these fixtures can cause a momentary blindness effect on approach especially if it is used without a louver. Recently, more contractors are leaning toward hardscape under-cap style fixtures to light the treads of steps. Strip and tape light have also become new choices. Both provide an indirect lighting source that virtually eliminates glare.
Path lights or decorative garden fixtures?
A true path light offers certain distinct features. A path light is used for traverse lighting, or light to travel by. It is designed to project enough light to guide a person from point A to point B. They must be built ruggedly enough to withstand bumps from people or lawn equipment. A decorative garden fixture often resembles a path light simply because of its shape and size. But don’t be fooled! Most decorative garden fixtures are fragile and often made with ornate glass shades. Many decorative fixtures do not possess enough reflective properties to be used as a true path light. The decorative garden fixture is designed as an art piece and intended to be seen and appreciated. Have fun with theses fixtures by showcasing them in flower beds, near ponds, amidst rock gardens and in longer-leaf plant areas. When practical traverse lighting is needed, stick to the more robust true path light fixture.
Sealed well lights or underwater lights?
Sealed well lights and underwater lights often look the same. And although the body of the fixtures could be identical, the internal parts might be different. One of the main differences between these fixtures is the cable. Sealed well lights often have a standard two-conductor cable just like a path or up light. This cable is secured to the bottom of the fixture through a plastic or brass liquid-tight fitting. Cable connections can be directly buried. Since this fixture is not made for underwater use, the gasket seal and lenses may also be different. Underwater lights will use a round “SO” style cord, and in most cases be at least 15 feet long to enable the connection to be made farther away and in a dry location. Keep in mind, depending on the size of the fixture, an underwater light can be used as a well light. However, a well light cannot be used as an underwater light. Because of the seals used in both fixtures it is also important to check the wattage limitations for lamps and modules.
As with any product, it is important to do the research first. Take the time to educate yourself. Your manufacturers reps and factory tech departments are always there to assist you. When you love a product, new or otherwise, it is easy to sell. Just be sure to sell it for its intended purpose!
Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.