The problem with even the best outdoor lighting systems, says McLean-based landscape architect Howard Cohen, is that they eventually succumb to moisture infiltration causing metal parts and electrical wiring to corrode. And there are other problems with standard systems: LED lamp housings overheat. Fixtures have to be replaced when garden plants overgrow them. But Cohen feels assured he’s found a solution in Coastal Source Landscape Lighting. The company has developed its products to resist the effects of heat, moisture and salt corrosion. Coastal Source is so confident of their technology that they offer a life-time warranty on their entire system.
The way it is now in the industry, you buy lamps from one company, transformers from another and landscaping wiring from another.” Howard Cohen, Surrounds Landscape Architect
All in One
Coastal Source designs and manufactures its own fixtures, lamps, and lenses. It also designs light filters that can fine tune lighting in a range of color temperatures. The patented wiring system is guaranteed to stay water proof forever. In standard systems wire is twisted around wire nuts at junction points. This sometimes causes voltage drop and creates a weak spot where water can infiltrate over time. Water can also cause corrosion where metal parts join. For example, you may find that you can’t unscrew or open up a fixture to change a lamp because the metal parts have fused.
With any electronic component, water and heat are its biggest enemy.” Jon Bowman, Coastal Source Landscape Lighting
Jon Bowman of Coastal Source Landscape Lighting has this to say about traditional lighting systems: “the day that system goes in, that’s its best day.” Bowman says this because other systems on the market use components that aren’t built for prolonged outdoor use. The Coastal Source Plug n Play Technology eliminates the weak links associated with the traditional outdoor lighting system. All connections fit together and twist closed to make a secure, air tight connection that keeps moisture, debris and insects out.
Another weak point with standard outdoor lighting systems is heat build-up in the metal lamp housings. Metal parts in light fixtures may absorb heat during a 90-degree day and stay hot into the evening. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures reduces the longevity of LED lamps. Coastal addresses this problem with lamp housings that are “thermally managed” in that the entire fixture functions as a heat sink that pulls heat away from the lamp.
Bowman points to another problem solved by the Coastal Source lighting system: It is flexible and can be adjusted as the landscape grows. With a standard system, he says, a low fixture will have to be replaced in as little as five years if shrubbery grows over it. “With ours you just add an extension. As the plants grow we can easily change from a bullet on the ground to a bullet on a riser. So we can get above it as that plant gets taller.”
Sculpting With Light
The purpose of all of this outdoor lighting technology is to support great landscape lighting design. Both Cohen and Bowman say that layering is what makes great design. That is, using combinations of lighting instruments coming from multiple angles at varying levels of brightness to bring out the subject. It is difficult to highlight a plant with just one fixture. As in theatrical lighting, the landscape designer needs to throw light on the subject from different angles and to modulate the brightness levels of multiple light sources in order to bring out different textures and qualities.
Light plays very well on certain types of trees and less well on others. For example, a southern magnolia has a dark, thick leaf that doesn’t let light through very well. But the fine textured leaves of a honey locust allow light to go through creating a beautiful effect. Sometimes throwing focus on the structure of a tree will create a compelling effect.
Landscape designers will look for opportunities to enhance the subject. They look for angles that will create interesting effects. They may light from above or from the side as well as from underneath. And in terms of layering, the subject will have more brightness focused on it than accent areas.
The Importance of Color Temperature in Night Lighting
When lighting outdoor scenes after dark LED lamps provide a range of color temperatures from a warm amber tone to grayish blue, the color of moonlight. It offers the full palette needed to accent specialty trees, plants and architectural elements in the landscape without distorting their natural colors.
Using the correct light color (color temperature) at night preserves the actual color of the subject being lit. Some landscape contractors will wash everything with one color and that makes it all look the same. So, if you were to direct a warm yellowish light onto a blue plant it would obscure the true the color of the plant. Whereas, using a lamp with the correct color temperature will really make the subject stand out beautifully.
The benefits of investing in a landscape lighting design are both practical and aesthetic. On the practical level, lighting your outdoor environment, obviously, extends the amount of time you can make optimal use of it. And, as demonstrated by the images in this post, the aesthetic pleasure to be gained can be extraordinary. The most advanced landscape lighting technology, aside from solving the problems typically associated with outdoor lighting, provides a wide range of opportunities for making your outdoor living spaces as pleasing at night as they are during the day.
If you’d like to learn more about our landscape lighting design and installation services, please connect with one of our landscape architects to set up a time to talk.