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Five Questions That Make You (Seem Like) a Landscape Lighting Expert

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Are you wondering what to ask a professional lighting contractor? These five questions will help you navigate the discussion.

It happens to even the savviest buyer: Your Google search returns too many results, leaving you more confused than when you started. Or the packaging of those store-bought lights said they would last longer, but they didn’t. If you’re looking to highlight your home or business exterior, you’re likely considering landscape lighting. Are you wondering what to ask a professional lighting contractor? These five questions will help you navigate the discussion. 

What material are the fixtures made of?                           

Professional grade low-voltage fixtures come in aluminum, brass, and copper. Big-box stores sell plastic and thin aluminum fixtures, and while the price may seem attractive, they simply can’t stand up to the Florida climate. For the longest-lasting fixture housing and best value, select brass or copper. Both will naturally acquire a patina and blend seamlessly with the landscape. 

What type of bulb will be used?                           

Say no to halogen. Not only do halogen bulbs need replacement about once a year, they also require a ton of energy to run. Choose LED bulbs to save money long-term. Even though LEDs require a higher initial investment, you’ll instantly spend less on electricity and less on the cost of the bulb because you will rarely need to change it. Professional grade LED bulbs last between 5 to 15 years, depending on usage. 

How much will my electric  bill increase? 

If you’re using LED bulbs (we know you are because you asked Question 2), you should notice only a slight increase. LED bulbs convert 95 percent of energy into light unlike its halogen counterpart which converts only 9 percent into light. That means each halogen bulb must use 10 times more energy to provide the same amount of illumination as an LED unit. To roughly calculate energy costs of each, figure $3 annually per LED bulb and $19 annually per halogen bulb. 

What is the life span of my system?

This important question will depend upon the individual components you have chosen for your system and the expertise in the installation behind it. For example, a brass or copper lighting fixture will outlive an aluminum fixture both in composition and coating. Aluminum fixtures require a finish on the exterior, which often degrades, causing deterioration of the metal housing underneath. But the number one failure in a landscape lighting system is at wire connections. You’ll want gel-packed (waterproof) wire nuts or brass connectors to keep those wires sealed against corrosion. 

What type of warranty will I receive?                                         

Make sure that warranty information is documented on the estimate and/or invoice. Many manufacturers offer warranties on their products, but some extend that warranty only to the installation company, not to the client receiving the product. That means that if the contractor installs a system with a warranty that only extends to their company and they go out of business, the client cannot act on that warranty through the manufacturer. Ask for products made by manufacturers whose warranty follows the product, not the installation company.

Jessica Davis is the cofounder of Total Sprinkler & Lighting and is a landscape lighting designer for low-voltage LED systems. For service, visit TotalSprinklerAndLighting.com.
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