Common Mistakes

What about Solar?

Viewpoint Lighting does NOT install or recommend solar lighting. In concept, solar is very promising, but in reality, solar lights don't deliver. Technology has not yet evolved to allow a light fixture to gather and store enough energy during the day to do what it needs to do at night. Solar lights simply light up. They do not actually cast any light where you need it, on the path or on a specimen planting. Even the literature that accompanies most solar lighting fixtures states that solar pathlights are for marking the edge or boundary of an area or path. They are not intended to project light onto the path. So, with solar, all you will see at night is the fixture itself.

How long does it take?

The simple answer is, as long as it takes. This isn't very helpful, I know, but each installation is different. In the past, 20-30 lights installed has taken 3-5 days. My average lighting job workday is about 10 hours, and I generally work alone (It's the only way to make sure the job is done right!). Many times, especially in the summer when it doesn't get dark until 9pm, that day can be stretched to 14 or even 16 hours. This means jobs in the summer are generally completed faster than winter, but in the summertime it is more difficult to start the job on a specific date, as that is when everyone else wants theirs done as well.

How much does it cost?

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Quality landscape lighting is not cheap. The actual cost depends on several factors including size of yard, number of lights purchased, obstacles to installation, and material and manufacturer of the fixtures chosen. The average lighting project can cost between $100 and $350 per fixture, as installed. While most projects fall near the middle of this range, the price can change if using copper or brass fixtures compared to powder-coated aluminum. Viewpoint Lighting gives free estimates, so feel free to call us today.

Why are the lights so expensive?

The difference between the lighting products I use and the ones you can buy in your big-box store is quality. The quality of the materials used, design, effect, and warranty are the big factors. The box-store top-of-the-line "copper" pathlight is about $32. The simple and relatively inexpensive "DemiLite" from FX Luminaire lists for $80. The difference between the two can be seen and felt. The manufacturers that Viewpoint Lighting uses in their projects use solid copper and brass, instead of copper-plated tin. They use advanced powder-coating techniques and top-quality aluminum to prevent corrosion and other damage. And they stand behind their products with an excellent warranty, to give you the peace of mind to know that your landscape lights will probably outlast many of the plants in your landscape. Quality lighting products also generally put out more light, meaning you need fewer fixtures.

Do I need a transformer?

Low voltage lighting systems require a transformer to drop the voltage of your home (about 120 volts) down to the voltage needed by the system (about 12 volts). The transformer is a big, usually metal, box. Each manufacturer is different, but the transformer is usually about the size and shape of a large shoe-box. This is where the lights are connected, generally by 10 or 12 gauge wire, to a terminal strip inside the transformer. The box generally also encloses the switching options such as a timer or photo-cell (light sensing switch). The transformer is the most expensive single item in most landscape lighting systems and the most important because it controls the entire system. They come in a variety of wattages, from 88 to 1120, and are selected depending on how many watts your system needs (number of fixtures X watts per fixture). Don't worry though. We do all the calculations to make sure you have exactly what you need to supply your system, including room for future expansion.

What does CLVLT mean?

CLVLT stands for Certified Low Voltage Lighting Technician, and is a certification administered by the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals (AOLP). Those holding a CLVLT are in an elite group of contractors who have shown they have met an exacting standard of knowledge and experience in order to pass the exam. For more information on the CLVLT, the Certified Outdoor Lighting Designer (COLD) program, or the AOLP go to www.aolponline.org.

Poor fixture quality.

Most hardware and home improvement stores carry low quality landscape light fixtures and lighting "kits" which are a waste of your time and money. These lights are generally made of plastic and/or thin metals which will bend, break, or corrode within just a few seasons. They also generally do not put out enough light to be effective. They are inexpensive, but over the life of your yard, you will have to replace them several times over, whereas quality lighting fixtures will be problem-free for decades.

Improper wiring technique.

Landscape lighting is either line voltage (120 volts) or low voltage lighting (LVL) (12 volts). Most landscape lighting installed today is low voltage, which must be installed and circuited properly. Voltage drop is the key problem when it comes to improperly installed LVL systems, because electrical wire loses power due to resistance, even the wiring in your home loses some of the initial input energy by the time it gets to whatever is consuming it (e.g. a lamp). If a 120v system loses 3-4 volts from point A (breaker panel) to point B (lamp), no big deal. 4 volts of loss is only 2.5% and is virtually undetectable with the human eye. However, in a LVL system, that same distance of wire from point A (transformer) to point B (a spotlight) will also lose 3-4 volts, but this time, 4 volts is 25% of the starting energy. Your pathlight is now getting 8 volts instead of 12 and appears dramatically dimmer.

Non-waterproof connections.

Since LVL systems use direct-burial wire, very little of the wire is protected (conduit, sleeves, etc.), putting it in direct contact with the soil. When your system is operating, the wire heats up and can actually draw in moisture from the soil and atmosphere around it. This moisture reacts with the copper wire and causes it to corrode, leading to increased resistance. More resistance means more heat and dimmer lights. Over time, given that enough power is going through an unprotected wire splice, the resistance and resulting heat can reach the point of creating fire. This is not uncommon in poorly installed systems, and usually only leads to a burnt spot of mulch or bark, but could lead to a much greater loss including your home. We use only 100% waterproof connections on all wire splices exposed to the elements so you won't have to worry.

Hiring an inexperienced/unlicensed electrician or landscaper for your installation.

Due to the issues discussed above, you should always have someone experienced with LVL systems install your landscape lighting. Ask to see examples of jobs they've completed and if possible, contact the homeowners of completed projects. See if they have had any problems. It is also a good idea to ask how their experience working with the contractor went. Do they return calls, are they available when you need them, did they finish on schedule, were they knowledgeable, were there any hidden costs. Working with someone you know you can trust will bring you peace of mind about the safety and quality of your system.

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