Landscape Illumination: New Trends in Outdoor Lighting
Writer/Cris Trautner Photos/Submitted
Outdoor lighting, like any industry that involves technology, is constantly transforming and improving, and the experts at Landscape Illumination in Valparaiso, Indiana, are on top of the latest outdoor lighting trends.
Old World Vintage Party Lights
One of the hottest trends this year is old world LED party lights, said Darren Selking, owner of Landscape Illumination. These are vintage-looking lights, sometimes called Edison lights or old world party lights, strung along a wire that provide a friendly glow to the area. While you can find this kind of lighting in bars and restaurants, Darren said they are very popular this year for home installations.
Landscape Illumination has worked with old world party lights for three years, and their expertise and ability to customize provides a solid benefit to homeowners, especially those wanting to install outdoor lighting that is operational for years to come.
You can find temporary old world party lights at retail stores and install them yourself. If you plan on making your lights a permanent part of your landscape you will appreciate having the installation done by Landscape Illumination. The old world party lights available at stores come in a certain wire length. To accommodate your space, the wire will need to be plugged together to expand for a larger area or double backed on itself for a smaller area, as many of us have done with a string of lights on a Christmas tree.
Landscape Illumination’s LED lighting product is sold in 300-plus-foot rolls and can be customized to the exact length you need. The installer will measure the space and “if you need 127 foot, that’s what you’re going to get,” Selking said. Their lights are also available in low voltage 12-volt or standard voltage 120-volt lights, both using the same kind of cable wire, and they are long-life LEDs, built to withstand exterior use. Each bulb can be replaced individually, unlike the old incandescent string holiday lights. Selking added, “We usually leave a few extra in case one goes,” but he could only think of one bulb that had gone out over the years in an installation they had done.
During installation, Landscape Illumination’s team will make sure that post anchors are sunk into place so the wire isn’t being stretched without support over 20 or 25 feet, which increases the chance of failure, and they also will fasten the bulbs to the wire to prevent additional stress on the wire.
If you don’t already have landscape lighting in place, Selking explained, “We’re probably going to do [the old world party lights] in 120 volt, take a power source and put in a switch or timer to control them.” But what is a lot more popular, according to Selking, is to “do them in low-voltage 12 volt because then they can tie right into the landscape lighting system.” The advantages of the low-voltage lights are you have more flexibility in placement and they are very safe. For instance, Selking said they can run the low-voltage lights over water features—not something they would do with 120 volts—without concern should something go wrong, even if a bulb falls and breaks.
Landscape Illumination will take care of everything when they install your old world party lights. They measure the space, customize the wire length, establish the placement of posts used as anchor points, then install the posts, the mounting and the cabling, and string the lights. Once installed, they provide a manual controller switch or automatic control that’s tied into your landscape lights or is a separate Bluetooth controller. Some homeowners prefer to have the LED outdoor lights come on automatically, and if they want to turn the lights off, they use an override switch, Selking said.
You are not able to put dimmers on these kinds of lights, but a dimmer wouldn’t be that useful, Selking noted, because the light that comes out is low. Because the lights are energy-efficient LEDs, they can be left on for long periods of time without dramatically increasing your electric bill.
Old world party lighting works well for pergola or deck lights and even for pool lights and water feature lights, but it can also be the best outdoor lighting solution for large patios. Installing landscape lighting on larger patios means putting lights on the hardscape, Selking said, and that means “tear[ing] apart the patio.” A better solution is to use the overhead old world party lights, which require no reconstruction of the patio and involve less installation time. Overhead lighting is also not targeted like landscape lighting, so it provides a pleasant glow that washes over the whole area.
In addition to permanent installations, Landscape Illumination offers rentals of old world party lighting for one-time events, such as weddings and graduations. Their team sets up the outdoor lights for the event and then comes back to take them down once the event is over.
RGB Tape Lighting
Another trending product is RGB tape lighting. Landscape Illumination has been working with this product for two years. It looks like a thin strip of clear plastic, about half an inch wide. You can install it almost anywhere in your home where “you want to see the light but not the strip,” Selking said, such as under cabinets, down near toe kicks and inside glass cabinets in indoor and outdoor kitchens, bars, bathrooms, sports rooms, screened-in porches, decks and even on water features. It’s extremely versatile and can be used for interior and exterior lighting.
RGB tape lighting, also called strip lighting, has a great deal of commercial application, but Selking said it has as much or more residential application “because we find that people like it for kitchens and bathrooms [and] for bars and specialty areas [around the home].”
RGB tape lighting is part of the growing market of smart products; it’s considered a smart product because you control what it does, Selking said. You can use a remote or an app on your phone to change the color of the light to any color you want—red, green, pink, blue and beyond. Unlike other RGB products, tape lighting uses chips for red, green and blue and an additional chip for white (referred to as RGBW), which means instead of the blended white you get with RGB, you get a strong, clear white, preferred for house and landscape lighting.
In addition to changing the colors, individually or in mass, you can also make the lights cycle through colors, fade or brighten and dim.
If you have a tray ceiling—also called an inverted or recessed ceiling—you may remember (or still use) the old rope lighting. RGB tape lighting can be used to replace your old rope lighting. It looks nicer, it’s cleaner and it can do more.
“Rope always goes out in 2-foot sections, LED or incandescent,” Selking explained, but RGB tape lighting can be cut every 6 inches, so it can be cut to fit anything exactly. Old-time rope lighting is also “an energy hog,” Selking said. “It eats a lot of power.” You can save on your energy bill by using tape lighting instead with its low-consumption LEDs. RGB tape lighting allows you to “do things you could never do with rope lighting,” Selking said.
Selking has used RGB tape lighting in commercial applications, such as gyms, including five Anytime Fitness gyms. In one case, Landscape Illumination was involved with the construction of a new Anytime Fitness, running their own wiring so they could set up the RGB tape lighting to be controlled through the owner’s phone.
If you need to accent an area under cabinets or countertops in kitchens, bars, bathrooms or pool areas—whether in your home or business—RGB tape lighting is an excellent choice for its versatility and low power usage.
RGB Pebble Lights
Another trending product is RGB pebble lights. The product is a flat, clear cord with square, sealed containers every 12 inches. As with many of the newer lighting products, pebble lights are LEDs and are smart products, controllable with an app. The lights are made for exterior use and can be left up year-round, which makes pebble lights ideal for commercial applications.
Landscape Illumination has installed pebble lights on eight commercial buildings this year alone and has 10 commercial customers using pebble lights. For many of its customers, it has replaced the Christmas lights they had been using on their buildings throughout the year to draw attention. Pebble lights are smaller, cleaner-looking and are sealed for exterior use, and unlike the Christmas lights, you can control the lights as you can with other RGB products—change the colors to match the season or holiday, make them flash or blink or even “dance.”
Selking has set up buildings in red, white and blue for Fourth of July and white for Labor Day, purple or orange for October and Halloween, red and green for Christmas, then red for Valentine’s Day—all without the building manager having to take down and put up new lights. Instead, the pebble lights have their own Wi-Fi, and the manager connects to that using an app, where he or she can change the color and control the actions of the lights.
One customer, Selking said, changed their lights to green and white for a few weeks in support of Valparaiso High School when the team was in the state football playoffs. The same thing could be done when the Colts are in the Super Bowl playoffs with a Colts blue.
Landscape Illumination has been working with pebble lights for over two years, and during that time, it was primarily a commercial product, but, as Selking said, “it morphed into residential last year.” One of his first residential customers was a homeowner who wanted to use pebble lights on his roofline as a permanent installation so he would “never have to mess with it again.” The homeowner liked the result so much, he asked Landscape Illumination to install pebble lights along his landscape walls and along his dock on the lake, which doubled the size of the project. Now, Selking said, Landscape Illumination has several clients who want pebble lights installed on their homes permanently because they never want to have to put up or take down Christmas lights again. In addition to eliminating the pain of taking down and putting up lights, RGB pebble lights are much less noticeable throughout the year than standard Christmas lights
Pebble lights, however, are not for the do-it-yourselfer. “There are some parameters,” Selking said. You need to carefully plan and design the layout of the lighting in advance. For example, every 125 feet, you typically need to place a power source. The pebble lights are in 25-, 10-, and 5-foot lengths, and the cables are not cuttable—you can’t trim them to the size you need. You can’t run too much of the cable together and you can put in only so many spacers because the signal won’t follow, he said, so there is expertise needed to install the lights correctly. “When we first started doing [pebble lighting],” Selking said, “there was hardly any information on how to do it. We developed a proprietary design and installation program.”
The Future of Outdoor Lighting
The overall trend in outdoor lighting, Selking said, is smaller and smart. LEDs continue to decrease in size with the ability to control what the lights can do, from changing color to changing behavior. You can rely on Landscape Illumination to keep up with the latest trends and help you decide on the best landscape lighting solution for your home or business.
To learn more about how Landscape Illumination can improve your outdoor lighting with the latest technology, visit landscape-illumination.com.