What to know before purchasing landscape lighting or irrigation products

November 8, 2017 -  By
Photo: ©istock.com/urfinguss

Photo: ©istock.com/urfinguss

Landscape lighting and irrigation services have some differences. Electricity and water don’t exactly mix. But contractors who offer these services have a few things in common: They both want to provide customers with the best coverage while conserving resources.

That hasn’t changed, although the products for these services have evolved. Both are becoming more efficient and tapping into the advances in technology to provide contractors and their customers with better results—whether that’s by reducing water usage or lighting up a home using less wattage.

A few lighting and irrigation professionals shared what they’ve seen with product updates and their approach to purchasing these products.

Landscape Lighting: Product Upgrade

Andrew Coleman
McKay Landscape Lighting
Omaha, Neb.

Halogen bulbs continue to make their exit from the industry as more professionals turn to LEDs for their lighting services.

Staying ahead of the curve with lighting can give companies the edge—something that’s important in today’s market, says Andrew Coleman, outdoor lighting designer at McKay Landscape Lighting in Omaha, Neb. The company offers lighting design, installation and maintenance services to about 90 percent residential and 10 percent commercial clients.

For the past three years, McKay Landscape Lighting has strictly used LED lights, making the switch from halogen. The company continues to service its existing customers who use halogen, educating them on the benefits of converting to LED.

Lighting products are becoming more refined and customizable to keep up with tech-savvy consumers. Photo: McKay Landscape Lighting

As a company that has provided landscape lighting services for 25 years, the team looks for products it’s proud of to represent the McKay name, Coleman says. The staff wants something that’s reliable and doesn’t burn out prematurely, so it tested LEDs with some willing customers and on their own properties before changing over completely.

“If we didn’t make the switch and continue to educate and do research on our own, we’d get passed up,” he explains. “We knew LED was coming full force.”

As part of the education efforts, McKay has invested in professional photography to show clients the before and after shots of halogen versus LED lights, and it’s much brighter.

There have even been upgrades from one generation of LED to the next. As LED lights have evolved, some of the fixtures have become smaller and sleeker, allowing Coleman and his team to reach areas, like soffits, they previously couldn’t with LEDs or halogens. “That can make a pretty big impact,” he adds.

These fixtures also have grown in capability, with 20-watt LED lights that are now comparable to 120-watt halogen bulbs. The McKay team used them to light up a historic campus building early this year, and it was able to light up four stories with the LEDs.

“That’s exciting for us,” Coleman says. “We were able to do some things that we weren’t able to do with halogen or even the first versions of LEDs.”

He says it’s important for owners to do their homework when purchasing lighting products. They should focus on developing relationships with suppliers, instead of only looking at the price.

“Find a fixture and manufacturer you’re comfortable with, and do business together,” Coleman says. “Don’t just hop around and look for the best deal. It’s more about the relationship.”

McKay is tasked with taking care of its customers, so the team wants a manufacturer who will do the same for them, providing support if there’s a product issue.

Landscape Lighting: Illuminating Technology

Ty Rosser
Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah
Midvale, Utah

As the desire to create and expand outdoor living spaces continues to grow, so does the need for landscape lighting. Contractors have to find products that will provide both the practical and “wow” factors.

“The trend right now for landscape lighting is to provide an aesthetic backdrop oriented around people’s outdoor living spaces,” says Ty Rosser, lighting designer at Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah. “The goal is to provide people with functional light without sacrificing beauty.”

“The goal is to provide people with functional light without sacrificing beauty,” says Ty Rosser. Photo:Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah

And that’s what the team focuses on at Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah. Located in Midvale, Utah, the company provides lighting design, installation and maintenance services to residential customers—in addition to a few light-commercial projects each year.

Beyond just the aesthetics, lighting products are also offering refined control options, smartphone app controls and the ability to give clients customization options. Consumers continue to become more tech-savvy and want instant options, and that trend is impacting how they want to interact with their lighting systems.

“It’s incredible the way that the end user, the homeowner, can customize (his) lighting effects and enjoy (his) lighting when and how (he) wants,” Rosser says. “Smart app technology has really opened up a world of new possibilities. We’ve seen a lot of neat new advancements over the years that continue to become more refined and end-user oriented.”

While some of the latest features and technology are catching both his and his customers’ attention, Rosser says the company continues to turn to trusted, consistent options when it comes to product selection.

“We try to avoid the new flash in the pan products when they crop up,” Rosser says. “In our mind, the only true test to know if something is going to be dependable is the test of time.”

Rosser encourages contractors not to cut corners when purchasing lighting products: “Use products that are going to fit your designs—and not the other way around—know your product’s value and use products that are built for life,” he says.

And when looking for a manufacturer, Rosser says his company turns to one that meets its design needs and specifications. The partnership has to be the right fit to be successful.

Irrigation: Remote Control

Josiah Ball
Native Land Design
Austin, Texas

Conservation continues to be a hot topic throughout the irrigation industry, but implementing digital tools is also gaining ground on both commercial and residential properties.

“Irrigation products are moving heavily into the world of smart technology,” says Josiah Ball, irrigation manager at Native Land Design in Austin, Texas. “Systems that can be controlled by your personal computer or cell phone are rapidly growing in popularity, with both individual residential systems, as well as the larger commercial systems.”

Being able to turn systems on/off, adjust programs and troubleshoot diagnostics remotely and in real time with a touch of a screen is the direction products are going. These functions allow contractors to provide a more rapid reaction time to issues and requests from the client, Ball says.

Irrigation products that can be programmed to environmental conditions make a big difference in landscape quality and water conservation. Photo: Native Land Design

Another growing trend in the commercial sector is the growing use of two-wire systems, he adds. They can help make contractors more efficient with their time and resources, adding to their appeal.

“The two-wire systems allow for the entire property to be wired in the early stages of the property development and then tied in individually as the property grows and expands—and also allows for a drastic reduction in the length of wires needed for a site,” Ball says. “This, in combination with advances made in programming options, troubleshooting and tracking water conservation, is adding to the growing popularity of the two-wire systems.”

As for new irrigation products and systems hitting the market, Ball says ones that can be easily programmed to different plant types, elevation changes, soil types and other factors can make a big difference in the quality of the landscape and water conservation.

“It’s always exciting to see the technology advances of products growing and making work more efficient and effective,” Ball says.

Implementing products that assist with conservation efforts is especially important in areas like where Native Land Design services. With offices around Texas, Native Land Design is accustomed to working with drought conditions and water restrictions.

The company provides commercial landscape design, construction, enhancements, maintenance, water management and irrigation services and has an annual revenue of $15 million.

When it comes to purchasing irrigation products, Ball says they look for manufacturers with a long history in the industry that are making advances with the product technology. He also prefers working with vendors that have knowledge of the systems and parts he’s purchasing.

Although there are regularly new irrigation products and companies, Ball says it’s important to do business with one that’s qualified and available to give advice.

Or, “an issue can quickly turn into a nightmare with a suffering landscape and unhappy client,” he adds.

It’s important for the manufacturer to have a network of suppliers and regional support technicians for the brands of systems he works with, as well.

“When you know you can trust not only the price you’re paying for your products, but also the advice and recommendations from the vendors that you’re buying them from, it adds a peace of mind and assurance that what you’re buying is needed and correct,” Ball says, “and that the quality of the products you’re purchasing (is) worth the cost.”

Photo: ©istock.com/urfinguss (1), McKay Landscape Lighting (2), Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah (3), Native Land Design (4)

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