Tag Archives: landscape lighting

Landscape Contractor Magazine – April 2014 “Lighting Issue”

Lighting IssueCheck out ClaroLux in the 2014 Landscape Contractor Magazine – “Lighting Issue”.

Each and every year, Landscape Contractor Magazine features some of the top landscape lighting companies across the country in their Spring Landscape Lighting Issue.  They discuss hot topics and growing trends in the industry.  This year is all about LED lighting…big suprise!

As the industry moves from halogen to LED, the more products change and evolve.  It is very exciting to see the landscape lighting industry transform and Landscape Contractor Magazine is one organization that is helping to make all of these transformations front and center.  This helps everyone in the industry keep up with the new latest and greatest products on the market.

Help to support those who support us and subscribe to Landscape Contractor Magazine. It is definitely a great way to keep up with what is going on in the landscape lighting industry.

Click here to see the April 2014 Landscape Lighting Issue.

Why Landscape Architects Choose ClaroLux

ClaroLux is the #1 choice among many of the top landscape architects and designers in the country due to their quality products and excellent tools that help them with designing their landscape projects.  ClaroLux offers everything from detailed specification sheets to luminaire plan symbols for their architectural plans.  Over the years, ClaroLux has worked with many architects all of whom love the fact that most of ClaroLux’s landscape lighting fixtures are made right here in America and come with a lifetime warranty.

Landscape Architects
Landscape Architects

Recently ClaroLux worked with Chip Callaway, owner of Callaway and Associates, on his project at the Paul J. Ceiner Botanical Gardens in Kernersville, NC.  The beautiful, 2 acre -15 garden, world-class botanical garden showcases over 1,300 different kinds of plants and flowers.  All of the areas were carefully designed both for the enjoyment during the day and at night.

One of Chip’s main goals when he was working on the outdoor lighting design plan was to create an inviting and elegant nighttime ambiance by using many of ClaroLux’s copper outdoor lighting fixtures.  He chose ClaroLux’s copper line due to the fact that the copper fixtures patina and disappear into the landscape over time.  Over the past 30 years Chip and his design staff have designed nearly 1000 gardens ranging in size from large estates to small patios. During his career Chip has completed commissions from Nantucket and Long Island to Palm Beach and England with the majority of the projects coming from the Carolinas and Virginia.  ClaroLux has worked with Callaway and Assoicates on many of their projects and The Paul J. Ceiner Botanical Gardens is high up on the list as a must see Chip Callaway garden.  It is truly a beautiful place located in the heart of Kernersville, NC.

Let ClaroLux Help You With Your Lighting Design Plans

Would you like to sell more landscape lighting systems in 2014?  ClaroLux can help you land more landscape lighting jobs by letting your customer see the layout of their outdoor lighting system before it is installed.  With larger projects, many homeowners have trouble seeing the final product before the job is complete. Nighttime demonstrations are great sales tools but if you don’t have time to do nighttime demos ClaroLux offers landscape lighting design plans to all of their customers.  Please give us a call today to learn more about our design services.

ClaroLux Landscape Lighting Design Plans
ClaroLux Landscape Lighting system that was installed at the Matheson Estate in 2013 in Hickory, NC by Johnston Landscape Services.

What is the best choice when choosing a LED landscape lighting system? LED drop-ins or integrated LED fixtures

This has been a highly debated question for the past couple of years.  Nine out of ten landscape lighting professionals still see the drop-in LED as the perfect solution for their professionally designed outdoor lighting systems due to their ability to maintain flexibility on a project.  Having the ability to change beam spread, color, color temperature, and wattage is the pillar to creating the perfect landscape lighting scene because as we all know things change from the design stage to the installation stage.

Integrated LED fixtures are becoming more and more popular but they have many drawbacks that can create problems once they are installed in the field.  One of the main problems is that integrated LED fixtures take away a lot of the professional’s flexibility. No longer can you simply swap out a 7W LED MR16 for a 4W LED MR16 because a feature is too bright.  Now, with integrated, you have to remove the fixture and replace it with another lower wattage LED. Also if the LED driver or chips fail then you will have to replace the entire fixture.  No longer can you simply swap out the bad LED for the new LED.  These are just a few of the drawbacks of integrated LED fixtures.  Obviously integrated LEDs have their pros but some of the cons have prevented their continued growth in the marketplace when compared to direct replacement LEDs.

Below is a quick comparison of integrated LEDs and direct replacement LEDs…

Pros of direct replacement LEDs:

  • Fit into most new and existing landscape lighting fixtures
  • Flexibility of design
    • Variety of beam spreads, color, wattages, and color temperatures available
    • Lower cost to retrofitting an existing system
    • Fastest return on investment

Cons of direct replacement LEDs:

  • There are many low quality drop-in LEDs on the market which have given the quality drop-ins a bad rap.
    • Cost does matter…just because an LED has a CREE chip does not mean it is quality – you get what you pay for with LEDs.
  • Not as good heat dissipation as integrated fixtures thus the warranty life is usually 3-5 years (standard). Anything higher than 5 years on a direct replacement LED – be wary.
  • Cannot be dropped into any old fixture.  The fixtures must be water tight to help protect the drop-in LEDs.

Pros of integrated LEDs:

  • Higher lumen output based on size of LED package
  • Smaller, more compact form factor
  • Better heat dissipation
  • Longer warranty – 10 years (standard)
    • Most all capacitors located in LED drivers only have a life expectancy of 10 years (or less) so this often drives the warranty.
  • Water tight design
    • You usually do not have to worry about water intrusion because the fixtures are specifically designed and pre-assembled to be watertight.

Cons of integrated LEDs:

  • Less flexibility
  • Harder to maintain – once the LED package fails you usually have to replace the entire fixture
  • Higher cost – takes much longer to recoup your initial investment

So which LED package do you choose?  LEDs are like computers, constantly changing and getting better each and every day.  Choosing the right LED system completely depends on the goals of the user, project, and end result.  Integrated and drop-in LED fixtures both have their place in the landscape lighting market and there’s no black and white answer as to when to use one or the other.  When considering a LED lighting system, ask yourself questions that pertain to cost, control, and overall quality in order to choose an option suited best for you and/or the end user.  There are plenty of opportunities for either side and choosing which is best can be difficult.  Consult a qualified ClaroLux Lighting Dealer who can point you in the right direction.

How To Easily Dim Your 12V Landscape Lighting System

BRILLIANCE LED TWO-WIRE, LOW-VOLTAGE AC DIMMER

DimmerSwitch

With the Brilliance LED Two-Wire, Low-Voltage AC Dimmer, you can blend safe-to-the-touch 12 VAC with the superior illumination qualities of low-voltage lighting in new and innovative ways to dim your lighting. No longer do you have to use a separate low voltage transformer with an inline 120V dimmer to dim your landscape lighting system.  The Brilliance LED 12V AC Dimmer can operate inline with any of your low voltage wires.

One scenario where the Brilliance AC Dimmer Switch works great is when you are only needing to dim a few lights on a large lighting system.  In this case, what you would do is simply wire that particular section into a standard outlet box.  Then install the Brilliance LED Dimmer switch into the outlet box and as easy as that…those lights are now dimmable.

There are some limitations to this switch, so please know the limits of the switch before installing one of these on your landscape lighting projects.  If you are installing a LED landscape lighting system and only wishing to dim a few lights, make sure that those LED fixtures add up to more than 1 amp/12W (the minimum rating for this switch to operate properly).  If you fail to meet the minimum load/wattage then when you try to dim those particular LEDs your lights will flash.  So make sure you are pulling more than 1 Amp (12 watts) when installing one of these switches.

If you are above the switches minimum rating, the innovative “pi” trigger circuit delivers flicker-free, wide-band dimming performance — from warm glow through full-spectrum brightness. Triac-based power circuitry coupled by a low-firing point diac further minimizes waste heat and maximizes efficiency and brightness.

A quality machined aluminum knob adds elegance and value to the installation. Rotary action is crisp and smooth, while a tactile off position reduces power drain to zero when inactive. An improved response curve allows better control over the important low brightness range. You can even optimize minimum brightness “on the fly” via an included adjustment potentiometer to compensate for low or high AC source voltage, or to create some special effect. Soft start/end extend the life of expensive bulbs.

A heavy RF noise filter delivering about 10 times the suppression of an ordinary filter attenuates interference with nearby radios and other electronic appliances to the nil-to-none range.

Each Dimmer comes complete and ready-to-install with wiring harness, tagged leads, and detailed installation instructions. The standard switch plate is metal (Cobalt Blue).  The Brilliance LED 12 volt Dimmer Switch is a must when customizing your landscape lighting system!

Available in: 10 Amp / 12 Volt / 120W

Related Products: ZANE AC2 12V Dimmer Switch (Discontinued)

Features

  • Installs on the low voltage side of a magnetic step-down transformer for easy design, fast installation and individual control
  • Two-wire hookup: No grounding wire, bypass wire, and component matching
  • Wide-band brightness performance — from warm glow through high intensity. Halogen/LED compatible
  • Rotary adjustment with tactile on/off. Soft start/end extend bulb life
  • Heavy filtering minimizes RF noise 12VAC, 10A, 120W

Applications

  • Yard: Optimize illumination for pool, patio, spa, pathway, pond, arbors, fountain, security. Bugs are not attracted at low settings
  • Architectural and Landscape: Heighten dramatic effect and improve balance for spot, wash, flood. “Moon Lighting” applications. Hard-to-replace bulbs last significantly longer
  • Interior: “Presentation” lighting, night lighting, stage lighting
  • Mobile: Variable setting for RV and marine interior and exterior

Specifications

  • Mode of Operation: Triac-based with pi-configured trigger circuit, low-firing-point diac and heavy RF filter
  • Supply Voltage, Breaker: 12 VAC. Each lighting circuit should be individually fused or breakered for maximum safety
  • Continuous Output Current: Full rated current up to 105 F (40 C) ambient, 75% of rated current up to 115 F (46 C)
  • Dimming Range: From about 10% min (factory setting) through about 90% max. Can be manually set for about 5% min
  • Ambient Temperature Range: – 40 F (- 40 C) to 115 F (46 C) with restrictions noted
  • Installation Procedure: Installs directly into a standard 1-gang outlet box with provided plate screws
  • AC-AC Conversion Efficiency: About 85% at full rated load
  • Lead Wires: Should be connected as per color coded lead wiring (as shown in installation instructions) for best RF noise suppression
  • Transient Protection: Pi trigger circuit acts as spike filter for additional protection against transient voltages
  • Size: About 1.8″ (45 mm) by 1.3″ (33 mm) by 1.7″ (43 mm) high (excluding knob)
  • Load Types: Resistive loads (incandescent bulbs, heating elements, etc) only. Not suitable for LED lighting or motors
  • Line Regulation: Directly proportional to AC line voltage
  • Load Regulation: Generally less than 3% from minimum load to maximum load at any setting
  • Voltage Drift: Nil with steady input voltage
  • Minimum Load: 1A (12W) or slight flickering may occur
  • Service Life of on/off Switch: About 50,000 cycles
  • Heat Dissipation: The metallic wall plate serves as an external heat dissipater and should remain out of direct sunlight and unobstructed by thermal insulating material, etc for maximum service life of unit. Temperature rise under maximum load is about 40 F (22 C) above ambient (could become hot to touch under unusual conditions)
  • Accessories Included: Color coordinated switch plate mounting screws, tagged leads and detailed installation instructions

Where to start when you are wanting to illuminate your home / property

First and Foremost to Illuminate your Home, Always Start With A Good Landscape Lighting Design Plan:

When you want to illuminate your home and you are in the market for an outdoor lighting system, always start by consulting your landscape architect and/or landscape lighting design firm.  Have in mind what you intend to use each space for and at what times.  Some questions that might help you to prepare for your meeting with your lighting professional are…Do you like to entertain and need good lighting on pathways, patios and decks/docks? Do the kids want to play soccer on the lawn after dusk? Or do you simply want to enjoy a beautiful view as you drive up to your home each evening?  Do you like your lights to stay on all night or do you only want certain areas to be turned off? By answering these questions you will be better prepared for your meeting and create a direction for the lighting design professional to follow to help give you exactly what you are looking for.

Below are a few tips for helping you get started with your landscape lighting design plan.

Layout considerations:

In addition to thinking about how you plan to use the space, there are design considerations as well. Lights can help you safely travel down a pathway, but they can also provide a gorgeous view and allow you to enjoy your landscaping even after dark. The design elements of your layout are every bit as important as the function of your layout. When you are thinking about your space keep in mind:

  • Views from Indoors – Sit in your most popular/favorite places in your home and make sure that the design is integrating the lighting with the landscape.  You want to make sure that the lighting plan is capturing a beautiful scene from every window so that you are not only enjoying the system outside but inside as well.
  • Focal Points – Choose one or two elements in each area that you would like to draw attention to. River Birch trees, with their reddish-brown, flaky bark and light green foliage, make a great focal point when lit from below. Also water features, statues and other ornamental objects can often times create a great lighting focal point.
  • Sense of Depth – Think of your home or property as a layered cake.  Each layer will give you more and more depth and richness.  But just like a cake if you add too many layers you can over do it ruining the entire project. By placing some lights along pathways, some on the house, and some within landscaped beds help to provide a feeling of depth in the landscape.
  • Ambient vs. Spot Lighting – Ambient lighting creates a peaceful atmosphere by gently lighting an entire area, while spotlighting draws strong attention to a particular feature. By using both broad and focused beams within the landscape you can create an atmosphere that gives you that perfect nighttime scene.

Lighting strategies:

There are three main ways you can aim lights to get a particular result in the landscape.

  • Down Lighting creates diffuse, gentle light by aiming lights downward, usually from a tree.  It helps to give you that feeling of a full moon each and every night.
  • Up Lighting is all about the drama of bold shadows and strong effects. By aiming the lights upwards into a tree or onto an architectural feature, you emphasize the contrast of dark shadows with bright light.
  • Cross Lighting is when you eliminate shadows by lighting a focal point from both sides. Large features like rock outcrops and boulders look incredible when crosslit.

Most common areas to light:

  • Pathways are important both for safety and for beauty, but they are not always needed if the pathway is right along the side of the house. Many professionals will suggest that you mix directional path lights with ambient lighting within the landscaped bed for a more natural look.
  • Patios are where most of us spend our time outdoors with family and friends.  Moon lighting with diffusion lenses are a great way to provide a soft moonlit effect without blinding you while you are enjoying your time outdoors.
  • Large Trees are an ideal candidate for up lighting and/or cross lighting. When picking out which tree to up light look for trees that have unique features that will really stand out at night.  You can also create down lighting effects by placing lights within tree branches and aiming them downwards at a patio or garden bed.
  • Water Features are great focal points as well when designing your lighting system. By placing underwater lights in water features the rippling effect of the water gives you a “motion” ambiance that is being reflected off of the moving water.
  • Architectural Elements on the home can also be lit to great effect. Pillars, stacked stone, or other architectural features can make a big statement when illuminating your home.
  • Driveways usually do not need a lot of lights (runway effect), as most people using a driveway will have their headlights on. But you can beautify the journey to the home by lighting the landscape nearby or using a low lying fixture like ClaroLux’s SWL1-III.

Special effects with lighting:

As you can see there are numerous ways to play with light and shadows to create special effects in the landscape. Whether it is filtering the light downwards through the canopy of a large tree to get a lacy shadow effect on the patio or aiming lights to create shadows from palm trees or fireplaces onto the rippling surface of a water feature. The effects you create will depend entirely on your own landscape and architecture.  These are just a few areas where you can better prepare yourself for your meeting with your lighting design professional.

Why Using Proper Connections Matter In Your Landscape Lighting System

When many people are in the market for their landscape lighting system they tend to overlook one of the most important features of their system; the connectors.  When you hire your outdoor lighting professional to install your landscape lighting system, it is critical to ensure that they are using UL approved grease filled connectors so that no moisture can reach the copper stranded wire.  At ClaroLux, we only recommend one type of direct burial connection (Dbr), UL approved copper crimps and grease tube connectors.

 

landscape lighting system improperly connectedMany people that are not experienced landscape lighters think that a connection is a connection but this is not the case at all.  Many connectors like silicone filled wire nuts (King Wire Nuts are the most popular) and Blazing Connectors (LV9000/LV9500) can arch creating an electrical hazard because sometimes a solid connection is not made during installation. Even though these connectors are UL approved DBrs they are not fail safe.  Silcone filled wire nuts and Blazing Connectors do not create a solid connection each and every time they are used therefore arching can occur.  This can wreak havoc and create issues that many homeowners never even think about when considering a landscape lighting system.

Over the years, ClaroLux has seen many cases where fires are caused by improper connections.  These fire hazards can be prevented by using UL approved copper crimps which lock down on the copper stranded wires creating a solid connection that will never come lose or arch over time.  Once the copper crimps and low voltage wires are placed into the grease filled plastic Dbrs, you will have a connection that will give you a solid water tight connection for many years to come.  ClaroLux strives to only offer the best in the landscape lighting market and this is why we only sell copper crimp grease tube DBr connectors to our certified installers.

ClaroLux’s Lighting & Design Award – 2011 Winner

Award-winning Design Award landscape lighting design by Marcus Vinroot

Congratulations to Marcus Vinroot with Green Visions in Greensboro, NC for winning ClaroLux’s 2011 Lighting and Design Award. Marcus was one of a couple thousand installations that was entered this past year into ClaroLux’s competition.

Marcus is a master in finding the perfect blend of architectural lighting and landscape lighting. On this particular project, Marcus used ClaroLux’s LED Copper fixtures which resulted in an exuberant nighttime experience that embraced the totality of the property.

Exceptional architectural lighting, as shown here, requires an artistic eye and complete mastery of lighting tools from ClaroLux.

Thanks again to Marcus and Green Visions of Greensboro, NC for elevating the art of landscape lighting and choosing ClaroLux as his supplier. Homeowners looking for exceptional lighting customized to their property, their homes, and their lives should contact Green Visions. Marcus and his team are masters of landscape lighting.

2011 Design Award winner