Landscape Lighting Frequently Asked Questions

Here you’ll find some information on LED landscape lighting, some of it is even specific to Las Vegas.  It’s more info than the average consumer needs to know in order to appreciate and enjoy a lighting system installed by an award winning landscape lighting company.  However the more information you know the better chance you’ll have of finding that company.  We hope you’ll take time to learn about LED landscape lighting and that you think of Twilight Designs when your ready to illuminate your own home.

What are the benefits of LEDs in landscape lighting?

LEDs have made great advancements in recent years and it has become a clear alternative to halogen lamps and for good reason.  The days of LED light being washed in a blue tint are over, while this “cool white” color is available and ideal in some applications, the color rendering of the “warm white” varieties have made great strides and are extremely close to that of halogen making it challenging for most consumers to tell the difference. The life rating of LEDs far exceed that of halogen with many LEDs exceeding 50,000 hours in life estimate.  Often times in a landscape lighting application you can expect a lesser perhaps 25,000 hour life expectancy which is still over 5 times longer that the best halogen lamps. With many 5 watt LED lamps rivaling a 35 watt halogen in terms of light output there is also a significant cost savings in operating costs not to mention maintenance costs being greatly reduced by eliminating the need for changing bulbs on a regular basis. In addition, by reducing the power consumption of each fixture, more lights can be be run with less wire and on fewer and smaller transformers which provides a substantial savings in materials costs. Their low heat dissipation opens the door for smaller fixtures and in some cases you can get even more light out of some fixtures. A path light rated not to exceed 20 watts can often be furnished with a 5 watt LED bi-pin and put our as much light as a 35 watt halogen. It is true that LED bulbs themselves are much more costly than their halogen counterparts but with all these factors considered LED lighting systems can be installed be installed for little more than a typical halogen system often seeing a cost savings in the first year of operation.

What are the limitations of LEDs in landscape lighting?

As an experienced lighting designer I always imagine what a particular project would look like in halogen compared to LED in determining whether LED is the best route. Fortunately in most cases it does however occasionally the answer is no and that’s usually due to either a potential retrofit project having fixtures furnished with bulbs in which there is not an appropriate LED alternative or it’s a project requiring a lumen output that is greater than normal and beyond what can be achieved with today’s LEDs. As a designer, the end result and look of a project always wins and for these projects I still recommend halogen but with each passing year as better LEDs hit the market it’s gotten to the point where the times I need for a halogen lamp are few and far between.

What is color temperature of CCT?

CCT stands for correlated color temperature. The kelvin is used to measure the color temperature of a light source with temperatures around 2700k-3000k being considered warm white or having a yellow tint to them most often associated with the color of light emitted by a halogen or incandescent bulb; 4000k being considered a neutral white being a white color with no blue or yellow hues to it; and 5000k or cool white which has a light blue tint to or most closely resembling that of a metal halide fixture. It’s important to understand for example that “warm white” is a somewhat generalized term and that what one manufacturer labels as warm white may not match the color of the warm white LEDs that another company offers.  To create the best looking lighting design possible it’s important to make sure the various LED bulbs used on a project work well together.  It’s my belief that overall Cree currently makes the best quality and most consistent LEDs that overall provide the most desirable color rendering available while maintaining a wide availability at a fair price in most cases.  Cree is an American LED chip manufacturer, many customers a familiar with their product line that is popular at Home Depot stores but first and foremost they are a chip manufacturer and other companies use their LEDs in their own branded products much the same way many computer manufacturers use Intel branded processors.

How should color temperatures be incorporated into my lighting design?

In the landscape lighting industry, there are a wide range of options when designing a project including various color temperatures which we label as “warm white” “neutral white” and “cool white”.  In addition to specialty colors like green, blue, red or amber. Most people can agree that “warm white” tends to look best when illuminating most homes, trees, plants, water features etc. Occasionally a pine tree or evergreen will look healthier and more vibrant with a neutral or cool white color. Almost always when illuminating a patio, driveway or path from above either with a fixture mounted in the crest of a tree or from an eave or roofline, the “glorified moonlight” effect that a cool white color creates is found to be desirable. The examples just listed are often lit by a fixture utilizing an MR16 lamp.  With over 12 years experience in landscape lighting and staying on top of the latest LED technology, Twilight Designs is proud to have almost every tool available at our disposal to that you can rest assured you’ll have the most creative designs and stunning looking lighting system possible.

Will my LEDs really last the 50,000 hours that many companies assure me they will?

Probably not. Most companies label their products with the highest life rating they can which is most often based on the most ideal conditions possible.  While this may be accurate for many applications it is almost never accurate for the landscape lighting industry. In fact, without knowing what part of the country, what type of fixture, and where the fixture is going to be installed it is impossible to state the life hours of an LED lamps as an unconditional fact.  Here in Las Vegas, for example, your LED fixtures will be subject to much higher heat than in other parts of the country.  Also, many contractors don’t factor what type of fixture they are installing with an LED lamp in relation to how that effects the life of the LEDs.  LED’s don’t get hot like their halogen counterparts but they do create heat, and the heat that they do create greatly effects their operating life. Higher wattage LED bulbs or fixtures are often larger than lesser wattage ones.  This is because the surface area of the bulb or fixtures plays an important role in dissipating the heat that the LEDs create.  If your lighting designer takes a retrofit LED bulb and puts it in an enclosed fixture, this will often elevate the operating temperature above what the led was designed for therefore decreasing its life.  This doesn’t mean that shouldn’t do it but a thorough understand of how these elements affect the life and look of a lighting system are important things to understand when designing a system and to properly inform a client of what type and how often their system will require maintenance.

What is lumen maintenance?

A more specific answer is below but here is the most important thing for a consumer to remember.  LEDs do not fail like a conventional bulb, they don’t simply burn out and then it’s time to change it.  LEDs will gradually put out less and less light until it’s painfully obvious it’s not working properly.  The problem is you see your home every day so it’s hard to notice subtle changes over time which often makes for an extended period of time where your landscape lighting system simply doesn’t look nearly as great as it should.

The luminous flux output remaining at any selected elapsed operating time. In other words, if a lamp is operating at 100% light output on day 1 and it is determined that after 25,000 hours that lamp will lose 30% of its remaining light output would be expressed as L70 or that it is operating at 70% of its initial light output.  Basically what that means is that whatever amount of light an LED puts out initially is going to gradually start to reduce over time. This is an unavoidable reality of LED lighting and is factored into the life rating of a product.