Thursday, January 23, 2014

Where Did Our Outdoor Lighting Blog Go?

If you've been following this blog for awhile, you have noticed that there hasn't been a post here in quite some time which is very unusual.  Here's the skinny, our blog has now been integrated with our new website at www.night-scenes.com.

We have actually kicked it up a notch or two by posting 2-3 times a week and focusing more on design and products so the consumer can be more educated and prepared when they shop for outdoor lighting design, installation and maintenance services.

The great thing about relocating our blog to our website is that now we have everything in one place.  You can even see our Facebook feed on our website!  So be sure to come on by and subscribe to our blog so you can keep up to date on all of our outdoor lighting information, tips and advice.  We look forward to seeing you at our new location.  Also be sure to LIKE our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nightscenes and our twitter at www.twitter.com/nightscenes as well as our Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/nightscenes

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Outdoor Lighting Products Do We Use?

This is a question we get every now and then so I thought I would give a list of our most used products manufacturers. There are others that we use every now and then but these are my go-toos on most of our projects.

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Our primary line is Kichler LED landscape lighting. There are many reasons I use this product, among them are loyalty, quality of product and their great warranty. When we first began our outdoor lighting business almost 10 years ago and I reached out to several professional lighting manufacturers, Kichler was the only one who paid attention and wanted to help us get going and they have been a strong supporter ever since. They also make a very good product at a reasonable price. Yes, there are other very good products out there but they are usually quite a bit more expensive and quite honestly, the Kichler products hold up very well in the central Texas environment so I don’t see any reason to use the higher cost products. They also stand behind their products with a full replacement warranty, not some repair or other nonsense. That makes it much easier on us and our client gets a new product if need be. Finally, they have been a strong supporter of the outdoor lighting industry by belonging to such organizations as the AOLP, ALA, ASLA, etc.

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We also use CAST lighting for projects where we need a more robust cast brass fixture which will hold up to things like cattle! Yes, we do have some projects on central Texas ranch land where the fixture must be part light fixture, part tank and the CAST product fits that bill perfectly.

Our other fixture lines include Coppermoon, FX Luminaire, Universal and Auroralight among others but these listed are our most used products. All of these products are quite good and the manufacturers stand behind their products. They are also all members of the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals which demonstrates to us their commitment to the outdoor industry as a whole.

S-8 Wedge LED

As for LED lamps we lean heavily on Kichler, Illumicare and Brilliance. These lines have been developed for the outdoor lighting industry and the manufacturers stand behind their products. There are a whole lot of LED lamps out there but very few that have been developed to be installed in both enclosed and exposed fixtures outdoors, in the harsh environment. The cheaper LED lamps that are found in the home improvement stores may be ok in some instances in doors but don’t try them in your landscape. The LED products used outside must be able to withstand all of the heat, rain, chemicals, cold, etc. that are found outside of walls of your home. These LED lamps do cost a lot more than those you see in the general marketplace but they will last and will end up costing a lot less over time, we promise.

As a rule, we first use products from AOLP members since we do believe strongly that any industry needs strong associations which can help their members become better at their craft. The AOLP is a not for profit national association which provides education to its members to insure they do quality work. They have a Standard for Installation which all contractors are supposed to follow and if they do follow those standards, the end user (customer) will have a great outdoor lighting system and a contractor who will be there to take care of it in the future.

We’re here to answer any other questions you may have about outdoor lighting products that we use or other products on the market. Just ask us at info@night-scenes.com.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Are You Satisfied?

Are the Rolling Stones partying in your head with that title?  If not, try this, … “I can’t get no satisfaction.”  How about now?

I like to say that we don’t want our clients to be satisfied, we want them to be happy.  To me the word satisfied means pleased, but not really HAPPY.  Satisfied to me means so-so; but happy brings a big smile to your face.

Some people do satisfactory work while others do great work.  We like to create great landscape lighting designs, and then install that outdoor lighting very well, not just satisfactorily.

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It starts at the initial consultation where we don’t just halfway listen, but really pay attention.  Then it moves into the design phase where we try to not just, satisfactorily, put in lights; but instead approach the design to create some depth and interest throughout the property.  We don’t just specify satisfactory products; but very good products that will last for many years.  Then when our client is HAPPY with the design, we move into the installation. There we take the steps necessary to install the outdoor lighting as designed, and use quality infrastructure materials like wire and connectors to insure a great landscape lighting system which will perform as expected for years, making the client HAPPY.

There is also the service after the installation.  A satisfactory project might come with a one year service agreement or less.  Maybe just a one year warranty.  Of course, that’s satisfactory I suppose, but we include three full years of service and stand behind every aspect of that outdoor lighting system for that entire time.  Does that satisfy our client or does it make them HAPPY?  I’ll go with the happy on that.

So, we don’t guarantee satisfaction with our landscape lighting systems, we guarantee happiness.  We’ll leave satisfactory work to the other guys.

When you don’t want to settle for satisfied, let us know, we’ll make you happy.  info@night-scenes.com

Monday, December 2, 2013

LOW VOLTAGE VS. HIGH VOLTAGE LIGHTING

Why do we prefer to use low voltage lighting in our projects instead of high (line) voltage lighting? There are a lot of reasons, but let’s cover the big ones here.

Safety! 12 volt lighting is completely safe for man or beast (pet). No one can be electrocuted, pets can’t be shocked, and children can’t be harmed by low voltage lighting that is below 15 volts. There are companies out there that may use transformers that put out as much as 24 volts, but a low voltage lighting company working within the National Electrical Code will NOT use those transformers for landscape lighting because they are not listed for that use. UL 1838 (landscape lighting rated) transformers do not go above 15 volts and are perfectly safe.

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With 120 or even 240 volt lighting, there is indeed a safety issue. We often find large high voltage fixtures very high in trees for a moon lighting effect. Although this may look pretty good, strong winds break limbs and those high voltage wires can cause some serious problems. High voltage fixtures require junction boxes (not needed for low voltage lighting) that get water in them from condensation or rain. It’s safe to say that high voltage and water do not play well with each other; whereas low voltage will not even short circuit in water. Here in central Texas, we have also found that, although the code requires all high voltage wires to be at least 18” deep, they rarely are more than 5-6” deep. This makes them easy to hit with your normal garden shovel, or your dog can easily dig them up and chew them causing a potential tragedy. Once again, this is not a problem with low voltage wiring.

Installation expense. Line voltage work must be done by a licensed electrician in all states. The wire must be at least 18” deep, which requires the use of a trenching machine. In some places, a permit may be required and inspections made. All of this adds up to higher expense. In Texas, there is no license needed to install low voltage lighting. Some states do require such licenses, however, but not many. The low voltage wire only needs to be placed 6” deep, which can be easily done by hand using a flat edged spade to avoid tearing up the lawn. No permits (in most parts of the country). These things mean less expense to pass onto the clients. In a future post I will go into the licensing issue because there are several good things about licensing that protect the consumer.

Fixture size. OK, everyone has seen those HUGE fixtures that have those great big high voltage light bulbs in them. The reason the fixture has to be so big is to hold that big light bulb! There is one place where I do think it’s ok to use these products and that is in a commercial setting where there is a lot of ambient lighting around. In these cases you need a LOT of light from some big ol’ fixtures! In a residential setting, or even a commercial setting where the surrounding light levels are low, there is no need for that much lumen output. Low voltage fixtures are much smaller and can be hidden in most cases. They produce plenty of light to handle any residential need.

Design Flexibility. Along with those great big line voltage fixtures, there is little flexibility for lumen output or beam spread in the light bulbs used in them. The primary choices for high voltage lamps are usually bright, brighter and brightest and then wide beam or very wide beam. Although a few new options have been developed, in 90% of the line voltage designs, the standard, less expensive choices are made. With low voltage there is a vast variety of lumen output and beam spreads available. There are also a larger selection of filters and lenses to create effects that are pleasing with the low voltage products. Additionally, many lighting fixtures are available to enhance the d├ęcor of the home in a very wide variety of styles.

Maintenance. Maintenance is much easier on a low voltage system than on a high voltage system. First of all, if something goes wrong with a line voltage system, you may have to call in an electrician to find the problem, although a well-trained lighting technician can usually troubleshoot basic problems and solve them. Occasionally, the problem may still require an electrician for the repair. In most states, anyone can work on a low voltage system and any issue with the system can be taken care of right away with no need to schedule another person to come in and make the repairs.

All-in-all the well designed and installed low voltage system has too many advantages to overlook and with some of today’s newest and most efficient LED products, there are considerably more advantages.

ISSUE

LOW VOLTAGE

HIGH (LINE) VOLTAGE

Safety

· No personal harm under 15v

· Won’t short circuit in water

· Wiring safe even if uncovered

· Electrocution hazard

· Dangerous near water or rain

· Must trench to 18” to be safe

Installation and Maintenance Expense

· No license required in TX; well-trained technician can install, troubleshoot and repair

· Wire laid by hand; no lawn damage

· No expensive permit needed in most places

· May need licensed electrician $

· Requires trenching machine to dig 18” deep ditches in yard $

· Permit may be required $

Design Flexibility

· Many options for lumen output and beam spread

· Decorative options for added beauty

· Limited options

Fixture Size

· Small, easily hidden

· Plenty of light output for residential and most commercial applications

· Large, bulky fixtures

· May be appropriate for some commercial applications

We would be very happy to evaluate your lighting needs and develop a solution for you. Contact us today info@night-scenes.com

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

We are Thankful for YOU

I had to take a moment today to say thank you to YOU. You may be a stranger interested in lighting who just reads this blog. You may also be one of our many friends here in central Texas or around the country. You might even be one of our wonderful clients. All of you who are reading this however have a hand in helping to make us successful -- and therefore, we are grateful for you.

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Those who just drop by to read this blog, from anywhere you might be, are helping us by increasing awareness in and about our industry and by increasing our page view count. This helps keep us ranking on the search pages so THANK YOU!

Of course, our friends here in central Texas are a big help because you not only read our blog, but you also say nice things about us to YOUR friends and family. This will also increase the awareness of our company and how we may be of assistance to them or their friends. So THANK YOU!

Then there are our clients who read this blog and share it with YOUR friends and family. You tell your neighbors about us, and those who come to your home for dinner parties and barbecues. You point us out to your connections on social networks, and share our status updates from time to time. For all of this we say again --THANK YOU.

The vast majority of our business comes from referrals from our clients, friends or people in related fields like landscapers, irrigators or landscape architects and designers. Some projects come to us as referrals from people we have come to know via the social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. We treasure each and every one of these relationships, and we say THANK YOU to all of you for contributing to our success.

Finally, we are most thankful to God for allowing us to do what we love to do, and for letting us do it for some really terrific people. God has blessed us -- which allows us the privilege to bless others who may not be as fortunate. This Thanksgiving, we want to take a moment to think about those people we encounter who may need a hand, a smile or a kind word as we count the many blessings we have been given.

Thank you all! We at NightScenes wish you all a very blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Custom Design May Mean Custom Fixtures

NightScenes is an outdoor lighting design company which also installs, maintains and services professional grade outdoor lighting systems. As a design company, occasionally we come across a project which requires us to think outside of the box a little, and maybe design a light fixture to meet the needs of the project and the tastes of the property owner.

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I know my friend James Solecki of Intregra-Bespoke Lighting Systems helped a former lighting manufacturer develop a very nice dark sky friendly fixture which we like for use on boat docks. It probably came about by seeing a need and filling it for a client. Of course, isn’t that where all great invention comes from?

We recently have been working on a project here in the rugged Texas Hill Country where our client wanted a fixture which would just disappear into the landscape, but also had a contemporary design. Their landscape architect showed us a picture of an interesting fixture, but it didn’t appear to be very functional. Yes, looks can be an important element in a fixture design, but if the purpose of the fixture is to safely illuminate a walkway and it doesn’t do the job, then it’s just a piece of art, not a lighting fixture. So we decided to see if we could take the basic concept of their design and turn it into a functional fixture. We took the idea to a local metal shop showed them what we wanted. Twenty-four hours later, there was light! We had a functional fixture incorporating the design elements our client wanted so we could safely illuminate the walkways around her property.

Now, as a result of this innovation, NightScenes will have a new product that we can use again in future outdoor lighting designs, and my local metal shop is getting into the lighting fixture making business! A potentially prosperous outcome for everyone because this client decided to use a lighting design company, instead of a company that installs lights.

Maybe your project is special too and needs some out of the box thinking. Let us know if we can be of some help by dropping us a note at info@night-scenes.com

Friday, November 22, 2013

Our Illuminating Blog, Some Don’t Like It

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to make everyone happy.” ~Bill Cosby

In mid-2012, I decided it was time to take this blog more seriously. It was then that I began to write informative pieces to benefit the consumer of outdoor lighting products: the homeowner or business property manager, the residential homeowner’s association folks, and those that make decisions about the addition of lighting for safety and security. This was a risky choice on my part – most lighting blogs out there are written for the contractors in the industry. But I’ve always felt that educating the public was the best way to elevate the quality of the work. An informed buyer will demand excellence because he/she knows the difference between high quality products and designs, and those that are manufactured cheaply or without thought.

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Friends and colleagues warned me that this choice might not be popular with my competitors or some others working in the outdoor lighting field. My goal has been to take some of the mystery out of outdoor lighting. Armed with solid and practical tips from my blog, the average homeowner may be able to ask questions that some lighting installers would prefer not to answer. To counter my attempts to educate potential outdoor lighting buyers, some other contractors in the industry have tried to discredit me by taking some of my quotes out of the context in which they were written. Although I should have expected it, I’m always surprised when a business owner tries to mount a negative campaign against the more popular competition in an effort to make themselves look better. While I don’t feel the need to address any single specific slight against my writings, I will remind those that read my blog that I do own my own business, and speak about products, techniques and conditions that I use and encounter everyday in servicing the clients that have hired me in Central Texas and beyond. I design systems using excellent products that fit the needs of the climate, function, and budget as I work with my client. Addressing the appropriate circumstance to use the highest end products will be a topic for another blog.

I like to think that integrity is the hallmark of my small business. To that end, it would be counter-productive to lead my readers astray with bad or dishonest information. It’s also certainly possible that my opinions won’t always match that of other industry professionals. And that’s okay, too – it’s a big field and not all of us have experienced every scenario or every product. My aim is not to make my competition happy, but simply to inform those interested in outdoor lighting.

So my advice to the reader is this: Before making your final decision on the purchase of an expensive outdoor lighting system, I encourage you to do some of your own research on companies and products. I always recommend members of the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals first. Getting the most for your investment is largely the responsibility of the purchaser, the end user – YOU! Reviews, blogs and references will be very helpful tools to employ before you spend. Ultimately, what you learn – the good and bad – will inform your decision so you will be comfortable and happy with the outcome for a long time. www.night-scenes.com