Visions: Lighten up

The popularity of open-air living spaces continues to drive the demand for fashionable and environmentally conscious landscape lighting choices. Jeff Dross, senior product manager and trends expert at Kichler Lighting in Cleveland, Ohio, has more than 30 years of experience in the landscape lighting industry. Dross analyzes every sector of the home and lighting market and offers his perspective at national trade shows such as the National Green Builders Show, the Future of Building Conference, Dark Skies Conference and others. He’s also a member of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency and a frequent speaker on lighting trends.

TLC: What are homeowners looking for in outdoor lighting?

JD: They want to enhance home security, beautify their property and keep up with the neighbors. When the first person in the neighborhood installs fabulous outdoor lighting, there’s an increase in interest among the other residents. In my last neighborhood, I was known as “the guy with the lights.”

TLC: The big buzz seems to revolve around low-voltage lighting.

JD: When you consider how much electricity is used in all lighting, the surge in LED popularity means its going to be a long-term, viable option. It’s definitely the hot ticket, uses a quarter of the electricity and while fixtures are more expensive, you save money on the components.

TLC: How long can a fixture last?

JD: For the same light output with 75-percent less electricity, you get a light fixture that will last about 40,000 hours or approximately 18 to 30 years.

TLC: What’s behind the wildly popular trend of outdoor living spaces?

JD: Homeowners are finding too many obstacles to selling their homes so they are putting their time and resources into making their yards more owner-friendly. They are staying in their homes longer, entertaining more and traveling less. Instead of wasted outdoor space, they are landscaping areas for different uses. Why not put in a covered deck and enjoy your own backyard? I believe this will continue as the economy slips.

TLC: Why the strong interest in outdoor lighting?

JD: Professional outdoor lighting adds value to the home and property. When I sold my house in a down market, the landscape lighting gave me a strong selling advantage. Other reasons include the trend toward staying outside longer. With good lighting you can extend your time on your deck well into the night.

TLC: There seems to be a proliferation of decorative lighting products. What’s the most popular?

JD: Popular choices include teak wood path and spread light, lit urns and butterfly-themed products. The purpose is to seamlessly blend lighting with your outdoor décor. Much of residential architecture has gotten into a rut. Homeowners are looking for ways to differentiate their deck from their neighbors’.

TLC: How has path lighting evolved?

JD: I like path lighting when you know there will be impediments to easy movement. They can be aesthetically pleasing when properly positioned in the landscaping and can also serve as decorative elements.

TLC: What styles or themes are emerging as new trends?

JD: The more casual approach that blends in with the landscape is the most popular choice as opposed to a more rigid, planned look. The trend toward lighting water features like pools and waterfalls continues to flourish.

TLC: How can a landscaper get into the outdoor lighting business?

JD: Requirements vary by state and there is a degree of skill needed to install outdoor lighting. However, there are training opportunities for landscapers who want to offer this service to their clients. The first step is to talk to your outdoor lighting distributor. Most offer one- or two-day training courses. Check local codes, but most don’t require electricians, and most electricians don’t work with many low-voltage systems.

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