View Full Version : Lighting palms between sidewalk and road

03-24-2007, 08:14 AM
I need to light these palms that run between a sidewalk and a road. I'm leaning towards below grade PAR 36s, but I am concerned about glare to people walking, or driving. Is this the best way to do it? I want to light them without the fixtures being seen too much.

JC Lighting
03-24-2007, 03:40 PM
Vista makes a par 36 well light with an "ABS directional grate cover" model 5243 which comes with a halogen 35 watt "WFL" (40 degree beam spread) lamp. The Photometric Guide says it will give you 4 feet wide beam at 6 feet high. I can't tell for sure from your photograph but seems like it would work. I would place the well light about a foot or so out from the trunk to wash the trunk and get a dramatic effect on the palm fronds.

Note that the actual beam spread is 25 degree by 35 degree and emits somewhat of a rectangular beam. You can rotate the lamp to get the best coverage of the palm. Since the par 36 source is 4 1/2 inches it will create more potential for direct glare than the smaller 2 inch MR16 however, this can be minimized by the grate and by pushing the lamp housing further down into the well cylinder. Both of which change the actual beam spread. Another trick to reduce glare (and brightness) is to put metal window screen in the well above the lamp. It acts like a mini hex baffle. You would have to perform night time trial and error tests in the field to get the best results. The screen and grate will also reduce the amount of leaves, mulch, etc. that come in direct contact with the lamp. A well know problem with many par 36 well lights. If you use the screen cut it a bit larger that the diameter of the well and curl the excess under. This will ensure it stands off the lamp an inch or so in the middle and therefore be more effective. Do not use the Vista 5242 with the incandescent 4414 lamp as the lamp life is only 800 hours vs 4000. I'm sure that other members have MR16 solutions as well.

Good Luck, Jim C.

03-25-2007, 08:16 AM
Hey Jim,

Good to see you here!! Things just starting to thaw out finally.


03-25-2007, 09:26 AM
Thank you Jim. In your opinion should I use one fixture centered at the road side or two, one on either side of each palm? Maybe a twenty watt lamp, rather than a thirty-five? Again, I thank you for your time.

JC Lighting
03-25-2007, 06:19 PM
A lot depends upon the client and how "proud" he/she is of their status in life. Also, how much light in general they like and how much ambient light there is at this location.

Taking a typical cut at all the above, I would use one fixture on each tree centered on the road side. The main reason is that there is nothing around the tree to conceal the source of light and having 2 or more fixtures at the base of each tree (even if the glare is minimized) would become overwhelming to the viewer thus losing the effect of the design. Also, usually the main viewing perspective of the front of the house is from the road as one drives up and walks to the front door. That's why I'd place the one fixture on the road side.

I'm guessing that the ambient light at this location is somewhat low and so a 20 watt halogen (I'm not a big fan of the 25 watt incandescent) may work just fine. I have to admit however, that I would stay with the 35 watt lamp because you've only got one light on each tree and you lose so much of the light to the deep well and grate (and screen if you use it). Also, the 35 watt is easier to get.

A word of caution here. The carriage lights on the garage and house will kill the whole thing if they are too bright. Home owners pay a lot of money for these fixtures so I always integrate them into the design. Depending on the overall look I usually ask them to put in 25 to 40 total watts in each fixture and a dimmer. I suggest that they set the garage a little less bright than the light at the front door. The worst thing is to have 2 to 4 points of bright light ruin your fine landscape lighting design/install.

Good Luck
Jim C.

Darron, thanks for telling me about this forum. I've learned a lot already. Good news about the temperature. Nothing like getting back to work.

03-25-2007, 07:16 PM
jim excellent advice. JD Jim is dead on about the carraige lights. We too have had them kill our overal portrait. I almost always ask clients to place 20w bulbs or do it for them and they are usually much much happier with the end results.

I didnt see any mention of street lights in the original post. This will have a tremendous impact on the amount of light you need to use to get a dramatic effect.

I too would probably use 1 light per tree street side but the client may want the trees to look equally bright from the home side as well. Try to minimize glare as mch as you can by using a louvered fixture or grate. You dont want people walking down the sidewalks to get blinded either. Another option for hiding the fixture a bit from the road would be a few decorative rocks or something to draw attention away from the light. Im not a fan of below grade fixtures in mulch areas at all. Not just for the saftey aspects but mulch on top even with a cut off hides your lights.

My advice to you would be to place a lamp in the evening and get the clients approval. It may save you from reconfiguring it later. We do this in questionable circumstances where we either need to test our design because we are realativly new to lighting still or show the clients we got a better solution than what they are asking for. Whatever you decide to do be sure you leave yourself some room for expansion and wattage increases for when the trees grow.

Jim I grew up in Gilroy. I hope to bring my wife to the Garlic festival and to see monterey and big sur and san fran this summer. Hope to meet up with you.

03-25-2007, 10:30 PM
Thanks guys. I am new at this, but getting up to speed quickly with all the help of the best in the business. My first install is complete and I will be sharing photos once I get better at dusk/night time photography. The photo I sent is my second install. At this home we are concentrating on the front. And yes, the sconces are fully loaded with 70W bulbs. Thanks again.

03-25-2007, 11:11 PM
eeeek.... Dimmer switch or smaller bulbs or ask the client if they are interested in some of the up and down scones...I had a hard time convining a client of this one time but I simply turned off the blinder lights (the line voltage glare bombs) and placed demo lights at the base. Instant sale!

JC Lighting
03-26-2007, 12:29 AM

I grew up in Louisiana. I just sent you some contact information via your web site. Contact me when you come out.

Jim C.

03-26-2007, 09:45 AM
Jim I didnt get it.

JC Lighting
03-26-2007, 01:33 PM

I put xx's in all the open fields so there would be a response for each and this time it worked. Please send me an email to confirm.

Look forward to seeing you.

Jim C.

03-26-2007, 01:41 PM
got it... Hope we can make it out there in july. My wife has never seen that area and since I grew up around there I would love to share it with her.

Too bad its so cost prohibative to live out there. For what I paid for my 3 bedroom ranch on 40 acres with a 4 acre pond here you wouldnt even get a 1 bedroom studio there. I bet some peoples car insurance runs more than my mortage payments.

03-26-2007, 07:05 PM
I need to light these palms that run between a sidewalk and a road. I'm leaning towards below grade PAR 36s, but I am concerned about glare to people walking, or driving. Is this the best way to do it? I want to light them without the fixtures being seen too much.

The first thing I would have to ask is, are these palms the only thing that you are lighting? It would be difficult to say how you should go about this until we know the whole picture and how these palms are going to blend into your portrait. How about filling it in a little and let's see where it goes.

Mike & Lucia
03-26-2007, 11:06 PM
First - Paul is absolutely correct - what is the complete plan?

Second - be careful of dimming incandescent lamps. The color becomes yellow and clashes with your clean halogen white.

Third - specific fixture choice and methods. If you use only one fixture close to the base of the trunk at the street side, you will create back lighting when viewed from the residence. Not a bad thing, just be aware. As Billy said, only not as strongly as is his usual - NEVER place a well in the mulch. If you plan to keep the fixtures inside the mulch ring, go with a stake mounted MR-16. Check the photometric charts of your favorite lamp manufacturer, but I would think a 20w - 60 degree will do what you need. Fitted with a hex louver and a good shield you should be able to minimize glare.

Also, keep in mind, here in NJ we don't have much experience with palms! But, I rarely use only one fixture on a tree (or anything else) that is viewed from 360.


03-27-2007, 12:19 AM
a hex louver will narrow that beam considerably. Not sure on the exacts but I guess i am noticing around 40 degrees or so .

I dont think you will have much prob nailing it at that configuration tho. COuld be a 35w lamp tho depending on the ambient light. Play with it one night and see but even if you use 20w now be sure and leave space for 35 later.

an attactive fixture in front of the tree isnt a huge deal as lot of guys make it out to be but it will get kicked out of adjustment. This is why I suggested some ornamental boulders or something to hide the light.

Thats just my take on it im sure everyone will have a different opinion. This is where I rely heavily on my demo kit because while it maybe the textbook right way to do it or how you like it the client may have a diff opinion. Its up to you to meet thier needs and to make it safe and a quality job.

03-27-2007, 09:10 AM
The plan, starting from the left of the house moving right, is: The number plate inside the white rectangle I would love to light with a 25W/80 degree PAR 36, I like the output of these lamps, but I've been sufficiently warned by many not to use these in mulch beds. So, I will use a bullet with a 20W/BAB. Just in front, directly behind the mail box in the photo, I will use a down light sufficiently high enough to down-light the sago and surrounding bed. The window left of the entrance, I will use a wall wash under the window (back-lighting a cardboard palm), and a bullet (20W/24 degree) set back catching the upper portion lightly. The two columns with 35W/FRBs.
That's a topiary to the right that I will wall wash behind it in a recessed area. The right of the house I will use two bullets setting the border of the architecture. I am looking at several (tasteful) pathlights to set at the entrance, but will decide after we see how much ambient light is created by the building. I know I'm probably missing something, but I'm allowed to ... I'm a rookie.

03-27-2007, 09:20 AM
The bed far left has two pines, oak (I think), wax myrtle, and yellow green variegated ginger. I am going to downlight the wax myrtle/ginger. Moon light the parking area. And uplight the oak. The triple date palms...I haven't decided whether to up light, or down light, these. I was going to experiment and see what looks best.

The important thing about this angle is that it is the "money shot" for all who drive or walk by. The home next door is lit and looks nice. What I'm looking for is: They see the home next door first and say, "That's nice." Then their eye is drawn to the to areas mentioned above and say...."Holy ****! That's really nice!"

03-27-2007, 09:24 AM
Thanks for all the help.

03-27-2007, 09:52 AM
Ok, if you are going to do these things I would guess that you want people to see it, right? If you front light the palm trees at the very front of the property, you stop the eyes right there. Remember that the eye always goes to the brightest thing in its line of vision. By front lighting these palms they become the main focal point instead of the home.

I would back light those palm trees and guide the eyes inward to your main focus, the home.

03-27-2007, 10:14 AM
if the homeowners insist the palms in front have lights in front and you cannot talk them into backlighting at least make them alot more subtle than the rest of the project. Kinda like an appetizer of whats to come further up the drive. Rememeber the palms are NOT the focal point in this project.

I would really try to ditch the carraige lights by the front door and use an up and down scone on a dimmer or similar indirect light if you can talk the client into it. Uplighting on either side of the door with narrow 12 degree bullets and stack a frosted lens and louver inside would look nice too but thoes bombs are in the way.