Landscape lighting is a key element of outdoor living areas, enabling clients to make use of their spaces well after the sun goes down.
Although general outdoor lighting is quickly moving to LEDs, it still has some competition, according to Jeff Dross, corporate director, education and industry trends, at Kichler Lighting in Cleveland.
Light-emitting plasma (LEP) technology has proven effective for lighting large, open areas, such as parking lots and shipping yards.
“Currently, the cost per lumen of LEP technology is less than LED, but with the huge amount of investment being made in LEDs, it is possible that this technology will not be able to keep up,” Tammy said.
Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology is another efficient and effective lighting source. However, with different applications and certain limitations, it does not seem to be an immediate threat to LEDs’ outdoor market share.
“The technology has many significant limitations that, for the foreseeable future, will restrict its outdoor applications to special decorative situations,” Tammy said.
Solid-state lighting technology is also redefining outdoor luminaire design, as the light source and associated optics are much different than that of legacy HID fixtures, according to Roos. Lower profile optics and technologically advanced designs (so the housing efficiently dissipates heat from the LEDs) have resulted in thinner profile form factors that can have a more pleasing, less obtrusive daytime appearance.
Because solid-state lighting is more practical to dim than legacy sources, fixtures are more frequently being programmed to reduce light levels during off-peak hours or to respond to motion detection.
“Therefore, the industry is focusing on finding ways to reduce installation costs, such as universal mounting brackets, minimizing or eliminating drilling on poles, and more efficient fastening methods,” she said.
While controls used to be considered just an add-on to outdoor lighting, energy savings and legislation, the International Dark-Sky Association and other light-pollution initiatives are driving controls to become an integral part of any lighting project.
Landscape lighting trends
Landscape lighting is traveling on a slightly different path than pedestrian and street lighting.
“Low-voltage landscape lighting, used primarily in residential and light commercial applications, has almost completely transitioned to LED technology,” Tammy said.
In addition to its practical benefits, outdoor lighting makes a significant aesthetic contribution to landscape design. Photo: McKay Landscape Lighting
The use of outdoor lighting to enhance landscape designs is increasing.
While LEDs have certainly provided energy savings for the customer, electrical contractors quickly learned they could share in the benefits as well.
“The elimination of voltage drop made the installation simpler, reduced the size of the transformer and often precluded the need for larger gauge wire,” Tammy said.
As more attention becomes focused on the aesthetics in landscape lighting applications, lighting and control systems are playing a more important role, according to David Brooks, technical solutions manager, Traxon Technologies, an Osram business.
“Enhancing outdoor spaces with lighting is becoming increasingly popular, and the use of color-changing lighting for landscapes, public exterior spaces and bridges is becoming more commonplace,” she said.
According to Tammy, landscape lighting is moving beyond traditional RGB and offering nuances of tunable light, providing more flexibility in setting outdoor scenes.
“LED products offer better architectural integrations and concealment, offer less maintenance due to their longer rated life and can, with controls, add seasonal color effects and timer capabilities,” Tammy said.
However, projects do not need to have large, complex systems to enhance the lighting’s look and feel. Something as simple as adding a few well-placed luminaires can greatly enhance outdoor spaces and experiences.
As more energy regulations are adopted, it will be harder to justify the use of halogen or incandescent lamps for landscape lighting applications. Current LED solutions – with their high energy efficiency, low lifecycle maintenance costs, optical performance and intelligent control integration – will take over.