Tune up your lighting
|By Kevin Smith|
As with most things related to homeownership, landscape lighting systems require ongoing maintenance and tuneups.
As with most things related to homeownership, landscape lighting systems require ongoing maintenance and tuneups. Capitalize on this service, especially when taking over new accounts that have been left unattended. Below is a list of some points to cover in a tuneup. Be sure to incorporate and charge for all of these. If you don’t, someone else will.
General fixture cleaning
Landscape lighting fixtures often fail to perform properly because they are dirty. Use a liquid scale remover product or vinegar to clean these. You can apply a glass wax on the lens to help repel water. Dirty reflectors on path lights and area lights can create strange patterns on the ground. You may need to take the shade off the fixture in order to clean it. Shades with a silicone lens can be cleaned with dish soap and warm water without deconstruction. Others may need to be taken completely apart and soaked. Hard water deposits can often leave a fixture looking dingy. You can remove hard water deposits with vinegar or a combination of vinegar and borax. Work this mixture into a scrub and apply it with a sponge. Be delicate when you scrub so you do not scratch the finish on the fixture.
Copper and brass fixture cleaning
Patina on untreated copper and brass happens naturally. If you want to remove it, start off by covering it with ketchup. Tomato ketchup will remove patina right before your eyes, in most cases. Brass paste can be used to restore the shine to copper and brass fixtures. Normally you will need to apply it and let it dry. Buff it with a damp cloth to complete the cleaning. This may need to be repeated depending on the age of the fixture and the darkness of the patina.
Many contractors wax their fixtures at the time of installation. This will help keep the finish looking like new. In maintenance situations, after cleaning a fixture, apply paste or car wax and buff. This will help repel water and make future cleanings easier.
Older incandescent and halogen lamps should be replaced. These lamps can be exchanged with energy-efficient LED lamps. If you do find that LED products are installed, check the color and brightness. Older LED products may lose their brightness due to degrading phosphors. Check the sockets for worn springs. Examine all cable connections and replace if necessary. Be sure to avoid electrical overstress. Never hot plug any LED lamp.
If a fixture needs to be replaced, try to find the exact one or something very similar, especially if that is what your customer wants. Most directional fixtures are generally hidden, so if the fixture is similar in appearance, it should be OK. Path lights, which are much more visible, are tougher to replace with a similar model. If a broken path light is no longer available this may be an opportunity to upgrade and replace all of them. If the budget does not allow this, you can always swap an older one from an inconspicuous place and install the new similar one in the less visible area.
As time passes, many fixtures and lamps in a landscape lighting system can end up leaning or pointing in the wrong direction. A maintenance visit is a good opportunity to consult with your customer and provide your expert opinion on a relocation or an upgrade.
Many contractors install lighting but do not offer any maintenance. You may want to attend a local chamber of commerce mixer. They usually have a time that new people can introduce themselves and talk briefly about their business model. You may be the only one there that offers this service. Always ask your current customers for names of friends, family and neighbors who may need your services. Remember, the best advertisement you will ever find is a happy customer. Word of mouth referrals are priceless!
Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.