A Focus on Outdoor Lighting Makes Landscape Illumination, Inc. Stand Out

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Writer // Cris Trautner  Photography //Submitted

Who do you turn to when you need an expert to install, repair or maintain your landscape lighting? Many service professionals offer outdoor lighting services, from landscapers to electricians, but when you want the best work and the best product, you should look to a company that focuses exclusively on outdoor lighting, like Landscape Illumination. Landscape Illumination offers services to Carmel and the surrounding area.

“A lot of people out there—landscapers, maintenance guys, electricians—do lighting, but there are very few companies that only do outdoor lighting, and focusing on that is what makes us different,” said owner Darrin Selking.

Specialization in Outdoor Lighting and Professionalism Makes a Difference

At Landscape Illumination, the difference starts with thorough training and wide-ranging experience in the field. Every employee starts as an entry-level install assistant and is trained by a lead installer on how the company installs their product, positions their fixtures, runs their wires, and hooks the system up to a controller.

After employees have been in the position a year or more and proven themselves, they are promoted to lead installer and run a crew. Lead installers have years of experience in outdoor lighting troubleshooting, service, and repair. “I have one guy who’s been here for close to 16 years. They’ve seen pretty much everything in lighting, and they know what they’re doing,” Selking emphasized.

Because Landscape Illumination has a large, well-trained staff and they focus only on outdoor lighting, you won’t have to wait for a service call. The company runs four crews during the peak landscape lighting season, from when the ground thaws in early spring to October.

Selking said they get a lot of calls in the spring and summer from potential clients who need service because whoever installed their lighting can’t get by to service the lights or don’t want to service them. “That’s pretty common,” said Selking. “If your landscaper did your lighting, they probably don’t have someone to do the service—they’re too busy doing landscaping. But we just do lighting, so we fix a lot of lighting [that others have installed].”

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After October, Landscape Illumination brings on extra people to handle the additional work of holiday lighting so every job will be handled quickly.

If Your Lighting Is Broken, Landscape Illumination Can Fix It

Over the nearly 20 years they have been in business, Selking said they’ve repaired a large variety of lights and lighting systems helping their clients to save money by not buying a new lighting system. For homes and commercial buildings with halogen lighting systems, they have also been able to extend the life of the system by using LED lighting.

Most of their service calls are when lights aren’t working—they stay on, won’t turn on, or have a broken fixture. Some service calls are simple, often just cut wires, but sometimes it’s the system, which is more complicated.

When a lighting system is older, Selking explained, it will start reaching the end of its expected life span. Older systems are halogen-based, and a professional-grade halogen fixture will have an expected life of 12 years, especially for the socket, which is the most important part of the fixture.

Selking explained, “If it’s just one or two fixtures, we can replace the sockets, but if your system is 12 years old or older, you’re at the life of that fixture or socket. You’re better off to swap it out to LED [at that point] because then you save 90% in energy consumption, and you’re also getting a 15-year or 20-year manufacturer warranty.”

He also noted that older halogen fixtures are not watertight, and they can get moisture and even water inside of them. Once they fill with water or have been exposed to moisture, they’re no longer usable. Selking said, “We can put a Band-Aid on it or we can fix it the right way, which is replacing with LED.”

Occasionally, transformers will go out. Selking explained that 15 to 20 years ago, transformers were housed in steel cases, which sometimes rust out and only have a 10-year warranty. In the few times a transformer needs to be replaced, he recommended using their professional series transformer housed in a stainless steel case that’s meant to be exposed to the elements outside. It comes with a lifetime warranty, so you should never need to worry about your transformer again.

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Advantages of LED Outdoor Lighting

Since many existing landscape lighting systems are halogen-based, Selking noted that it is possible to have a mixed system with halogen and LED. You can even run the integrated system from the same controller and run all the lights—halogen and LED—from the same power source.

Replacing bulbs and fixtures will extend the life of a halogen lighting system, but there are advantages to switching entirely to an LED lighting system. The main advantages are 90% less energy consumption and reduced maintenance or zero maintenance. You can put an LED bulb into an existing halogen fixture to save money in the short term, but Selking doesn’t recommend it. Selking explained that he recommends people use an integrated fixture, which means the light source is built into the fixture and the fixture is sealed. Because of this, your warranty lasts longer. An LED bulb has a five-year manufacturer warranty, but an integrated fixture (which includes the LED bulb) has a 15-year or longer manufacturer warranty.

In addition to saving energy (most LED fixtures use only 2 watts versus the 20 watts of halogen bulbs), you will also see better light distribution and output with an integrated fixture because the manufacturer builds the optics around the light source so it projects better.

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What outdoor lighting product do you recommend?

Landscape Illumination uses the highest quality products with strong warranties to improve your outdoor lighting. One product, made only for professional outdoor lighting contractors.
The products have lasted well, and they have strong warranties, but Selking doesn’t rely on using the same product for every job. “I look at what effect we’re trying to get and where the fixtures need to go, and I let that dictate what fixture I’m going to use and which product I would use. Everything is custom.”

Color Lighting

An option you have with LED that you don’t have with halogen is the ability to change your lighting color. Landscape Illumination offers several options for changing the color of your lighting, but two of them are more popular, one for businesses and the other for homeowners.

For businesses, the company recommends a solid color source used in what they call color branding. For Culver’s, they used a blue fixture to brand the Culver’s blue on the building for accent. The manufacture can make any color, and the fixtures put out a good amount of light.

For homeowners, they recommend a color lighting option that is inexpensive and flexible—lighting gels. Lighting gels are small transparencies or lenses that you can tack on to your fixture, one gel per fixture, in whatever color you want. Many people want to do red or green during Christmas, so Landscape Illumination sends them red and green lighting gels. When the holidays are over, you can pull the lenses off your fixtures and keep them or Landscape Illumination will send you new ones the next year.

The lighting gels are far less expensive than the LED systems that use red, green and blue (RGB) chips to simulate different colors, which Selking doesn’t recommend, especially to homeowners. “They can blend and make any color; however, the white will not be like the white used for landscape lighting. It’s going to be a blended white, so it looks a bit weird. We get very little call for it.”

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Architectural Lighting

Another quality that makes Landscape Illumination different is their experience in customization and what they call architectural lighting. Every design they do is customized for the client’s location. If the front of your house has a patio, Selking will uplight or downlight that portion of the house so that the lighting matches the rest of the house. He explained, “We call it architectural lighting because we’re doing different types of lighting, whether it’s backlighting or uplighting, to show off architectural features of the home.” They work mostly with houses made of stone or brick, but they also work on houses with siding.

HOAs and Dark Sky Regulations

Homeowners Associations have lighting covenants and restrictions that homeowners in the area need to abide by, and Landscape Illumination designs lighting systems that comply with those HOA rules. To gain approval for the home’s lighting, Selking works directly with the HOA, providing a photo with dots representing the lights and a simple explanation of the type of lighting used. “I understand why certain areas have [HOA lighting rules],” Selking said. “We’ve done a ton over the years.” Once Landscape Illumination has done work on two or three homes in an HOA area, the association trusts that they know what they’re doing and approval comes much more easily.

Among the strictest covenants that HOAs and cities can have for lighting are dark sky ordinances. Dark sky ordinances reduce light pollution and preserve the darkness of the night sky by requiring outdoor lights to minimize glare and reduce both light trespass—when unwanted light shines on another person’s property or in their windows—and sky glow, which is caused by artificial lights shining up into the sky. Everything Landscape Illumination does is dark sky compliant, from the fixtures to how lights are installed and targeted. “Our fixtures are close to the source, the light’s targeted, has some kind of antiglare, and wattages are low,” Selking explained.

Outdoor Lighting for Security

Landscape Illumination can integrate their lights into your existing security system, Selking said. Depending on what interface is being used, they may need to talk with the person or company who works with the interface to integrate the lights properly.

They also offer different ways to control your lighting. You can keep it simple—lights on, lights off—using a photo eye for dusk to dawn lighting. If you want more control, Landscape Illumination can plug into the transformer and download an app to your phone so that certain portions of your yard can be manually controlled with the app. This year, they also started doing projects where they tie the control into Alexa, Amazon’s smart assistant. Since other lights are already controlled with Alexa, all your lighting becomes part of your home system.

Selking, however, doesn’t recommend integrating with motion sensor lights because they’re not reliable. “If it’s windy out and leaves are blowing by, then the lights are on all the time.” Instead, he recommends doing accent lighting and downlighting. Even if you keep those lights on all night, LEDs will use a small amount of power and won’t add much to your electricity cost.

He also pointed out that it’s much better than having a floodlight in your yard bleeding over into your neighbor’s yard and making them unhappy. “That’s not landscape lighting,” he said. “Landscape lighting handles security in an aesthetically pleasing way with targeted lighting.”

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Lighting Maintenance

Like your yard or house, your lighting system also needs to be maintained. Landscape Illumination offers maintenance contracts that take the hassle out of maintaining your lights. Fixtures are very durable and can go for several years without needing attention, but over time, that will change. Snowblowers and lawn mowers can accidentally come into contact with the fixtures and break them or knock them out of line, and plants and trees can grow so they block the lights or ruin their alignment.

Landscape Illumination will come in every other year, or when necessary, and review your entire system. They’ll fix or replace fixtures, reset the lights and make sure that everything is operating correctly.

To learn more about how Landscape Illumination can improve your outdoor lighting for security, safety, and aesthetics, visit LandscapeIllumination.com or call (877) 850-6193 or in Carmel (317) 851-9172. You can also visit their Carmel office at 1950 E. Greyhound Pass, Suite 18, Carmel, IN 46033.