by Lori Hoffman
Posted on December 1, 2015 at 10:51 am
And these spaces are perfect for lighting with LEDs.
Really, you ask? Really.
Recently, I was asked to consult on landscape lighting for a residential project. After meeting with the client and discussing the project goals, requirements and budget, I suggested the incorporation of LEDS. My suggestion wasn’t received very enthusiastically, and after further discussion I discovered why. My client was familiar with only the inexpensive LEDS from the big box stores and needless to say, had a dim view of them.
If you are considering adding lighting to your landscape, make sure your designer uses a high quality system that not only incorporates the durable and attractive fixtures with quality lamps, but also utilizes the transformers and the other components required. This is important to note, because while most of the incandescent or LED landscape lighting systems offered by big box stores are inexpensive, they’re often of markedly inferior quality. In the long run, cheaper LED systems are unlikely to perform very well and typically won’t stand the test of time.
Since their inception, there have been substantial improvements in the quality and the technology of LED lighting. In recent years, manufacturers have greatly improved the lumen output of LEDs so that they are now comparable to incandescent alternatives. Additionally, the color temperature of LED lighting has greatly improved so that today, there are a variety of color choices other than the “cool” blue light that typically associated with first generation LED fixtures.
It’s important to note however, that only the true professional LED fixtures will live up to the LED hype. Professional quality LEDs typically have a higher lumen output than their less expensive counterparts making them much brighter. Along with their design for proper heat dissipation and being completely sealed for extended outdoor use, they are available in a warm white color temperatures starting at about 2700K (similar to incandescent), which means that their color rendering is equal to that of a halogen bulb.
Professional series LEDs, typically carry a CRI (Color Rendering Index) of at least 80, which means their color rendering capabilities are far more accurate than their less expensive counterparts. Why is this important? In laymen’s terms, light sources with a high CRI will give you “normal–looking” lighting, similar to that of an incandescent source which carries a CRI of 100. In other words, with a professional series LED lighting system, there won’t be the blue cast so often associated with the cheap LEDs.
You can read more about it at Wikipedia, but in short, the Color Rendering Index will effectively tell you whether the light output will tend toward yellow on the low end or blue on the high end. Note that if you choose to take this on yourself, more often than not, this information is not always available on the packaging for the less expensive LEDs, thereby making it difficult to tell exactly what you are purchasing.
While implementing LEDs tend to be more of a financial commitment than other sources, there are several advantages. One is that the energy savings is significant. Consider this: there are now 9w integrated LED Landscape light fixtures with illumination output equivalent to a 50w halogen flood light giving a nearly a 75% energy savings. LEDs also last much longer than traditional lighting, routinely lasting up to between 25,000 and 50,000 hours… considerably longer than any other lighting type. Additionally, there is no infrared or UV radiation from LED lights, which makes them better for both you and the environment.
So, when your designer specifies professional series lighting, the drawbacks of typically associated with LED are greatly reduced. While cheaper LEDs tend to be dimmer, the pool of light delivered with a professional series LED is a nearly perfect circle with the precise the illumination and beam angle that you would expect. Not only do professional series LEDS consistently distribute warm, clear and inviting light, but also professional series are typically available in multiple beam spreads and wattages, so you can get maximum lumens customized to your needs. Last, but not least, the pro series tend to carry a better warranty than their cheaper counterparts.
Ideally, your designer should select a system with solutions for multiple applications including paths, decks, ponds, patios, etc., as determined by the requirements of your project. This way, the beam angles and illumination levels can be set precisely for the look you want to achieve.
In summary, there are many great places to use LEDs in a landscape design and a great number of reasons to do so. While in the short run, LED lighting is not nearly as immediately affordable as traditional lighting, it does offer several advantages in the long term. At the end of the day, the use of these lights depends on whether or not you are willing to make the necessary investment.
Photos are courtesy of Kichler Lighting.