Funny and frustrating first night with lights.

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by starry night, Aug 31, 2011.

  1. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,228

    I first cold called this lady because it looked like her home had more lights out than on. She said OK I could survey her system. I found several lamps out, wiring connections with regular nuts, transformer lying on ground. She agreed to the maintenance but also agreed to look at what else I could do.
    So last night I was there experimenting with lights. I was worried about somehow scaring her or her family as I walked around in the dark (even though she knew I was going to be there.) Instead, I was the one who jumped when SHE came walking around the corner of the house.
    I found out that most of the layout should have been done during daylight hours! I was tripping over wires and searching for things I dropped. What a scene! Does anyone where a lighted miner's helmet?
    Here is the frustrating part. I knew what I wanted to light but couldn't figure out what lamp I needed. I'm talking spotlights here with MR 16s. It seems from reading on this forum that a 20 W halogen (or similar LED) is the most commonly used but those didn't seem bright enough. The 35W seemed about right (maybe slightly too bright; use a filter?)
    I guess the question is whether I should use 35s. The only factor I can guess is that the surface is absorbing a lot of the light. The home has sand-molded brick in a darker red color. Am I right?
    Comments will be appreciated.
  2. emby

    emby LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ontario
    Messages: 380

    Hi Phil,

    Yes when aiming fixtures at night as we all should do, we wear LED head lamps that can be picked up at any local hardware store. Try not to shine it in your own eyes or anyone else that will be aiming as it takes about 15 minutes for your "night" eyes to come back.

    You have asked a pretty important question and I will try to explain the best I can. If you really want to learn more go to page 17 in Jan Moyers' 2nd edition and read all about reflectances of building materials.
    Once you have decided what your going to light you then need to decide on the light source you will use. The surface colour of anything you want to light is very important. For comparison lets say that you have a white/buff bricked wall and a red bricked wall side by side. For testing purposes, lets say we just plunk one fixture in front of each wall about a foot from the base. We will graze both walls with each fixture. If you place a 20 watt BAB MR-16 in both fixtures you will notice a huge difference in what you see. The white/buff wall will reflect 48 percent while the red bricked will only reflect 30 percent. To make both walls equal you will need more lumens on the red bricked wall or reduce the lumen output on the white/buff wall. To make your final adjustments you can then proceed to insert filters such as a spread lens or a linear spread lens. Just remember that when you go to use a spread lens you will cut the CBCP by 25 percent and double the degree of spread.
    LED light sources are improving every month but there are a couple of things to think about. One thing that I try to compare is the lumen output or CBCP of a LED to that of a halogen CBCP. If I am used to designing with halogen and if I want to maintain the level of illumination using LED's, than I have a couple of options. One is to seek out an equivelant LED light source based on the CBCP and the other is to use more fixtures.
    I hope that this has helped.

    PS: Yes I know John K I could not resist.
  3. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,228

    Thanks for the response, Ken. I looked at the chart in Jan Moyer's book.
    I haven't read the book cover-to-cover yet; just have referred to certain sections or chapters. I decided after working on the lights again that the 20W is sufficient and probably preferable because it is quieter. I found those LED headbands in the big-box store tonight. I got one with the flasher on the back of the head so people can see me from behind. (Just kidding.)

    Next I need some path / spread lights to put in the landscape beds to give the lighting some depth. I feel more confident tonight.
  4. Tomwilllight

    Tomwilllight LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 284


    I've learned to refuse to "fix" another installer's installation. I've done it and I will not do it again. I could have installed new for less than it cost the client for me to spend the time to figure out all of the stupid things the first installer had done.

  5. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,228

    Tom, This is my first job and already I agree with what you said about fixing someone else's mistakes. The proposals I will be giving the client both include mounting the transformer properly, using new wire and proper connectors. So, yes, the addition of my additional lights will not cost the client much more than just doing the basic "fixes."
  6. Tomwilllight

    Tomwilllight LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 284

    Good luck Phil!

    If you have any questions... just post. As you know, there are lots of folks here who will be happy to advise you.


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