LED landscape lighting has become very popular over the last few years, not only because of tech advances, but also because it enhances the aesthetics of the area that is lit.
By Potshangbam July
LEDs are currently the most ubiquitous and preferred option for landscape lighting because of their energy saving feature and high colour rendering index choices. Plus, LED lights last longer in comparison to other bulbs. Years back, LED lighting was not popular as awareness levels were very low and their high cost was a hindrance to potential buyers. The scenario has changed dramatically, now. With technological innovations and declining prices, there is a tremendous surge in the demand for LED products.
LED lights have transformed the lighting industry, be it indoor or outdoor lighting. With their superior quality and advanced control technologies, they have taken landscape lighting to the next level. They are now adding a new dimension to the changing facets of outdoor landscapes.
Why LEDs for landscape lighting
Retrofitting your existing garden lights with LEDs is the most practical thing to do for various reasons. They are not only energy efficient but also slash your electricity bills. In comparison with traditional lights like halogen bulbs, LEDs use a lot less power. As a result, there is a significant drop of about 15 to 20 per cent in the overall cost of landscape lighting. LEDs have a lower wattage, which makes it easier to run a number of fixtures without worrying about voltage drops. Durability is another plus point of LEDs. They are known for their robustness, and are resistant to shock, vibrations, and extreme weather. They do not need to be replaced often as they have an average life span of 25,000 to 30,000 hours.
Additionally, LEDs are easy to install and manage. Retrofitting the existing landscape lighting system with LEDs is easy and quick. Also, LEDs are environment-friendly and generate less heat than incandescent bulbs. Even when they are kept near plants, they are not harmful to the foliage. In fact, they energise the plants. LED lights allow landscape designers to direct light on the desired spot. And for outdoor applications particularly, precise control of light distribution is very important to avoid wasting the light in areas where is it not needed. With the tunable light setting, users get more flexibility.
Last but not the least, aesthetics is an aspect that cannot be ignored when it comes to landscape lighting. LEDs come with better architectural integration and concealment, which adds an artistic dimension to the landscape. The biggest benefit of LED landscape lighting is the possibility of seasonal colour effects to match the vegetation and the surroundings. The colour temperatures can be adjusted without having to change bulbs or add colour filters.
The key technological advance in LED landscape lighting is the adoption of controls and automation systems. The lighting control systems are rapidly evolving as microprocessors and communication technologies are becoming smaller and more reliable. They effectively control the lighting operation via voice or an app on a smartphone or tablet. The control options come with timers, zoning, dimming capabilities, colour creation and with optional Wi-Fi control. The lights are automatically turned on between dusk and dawn, and turned off according to occupancy or available daylight. They help save energy by dimming the light levels as per the ambient light in the surroundings. And with proper zoning of lighting, one can decide how much of the landscape to illuminate. Many light systems are compatible with smart homes and gadgets like Alexa and Google Home. This has made it possible to control the landscape lights even from remote locations, using voice commands.
Some LED lights come with motion sensor lights. They are helpful from the safety and security viewpoint, as they automatically turn on the lights as soon as they sense movement within their action range.
They measure body heat and wavelengths to figure out if humans are present. Motion activation saves thousands of hours of running time per year, and at the same time controls energy wastage. However, the switch has to be in ‘on’ mode, so that motion sensors can detect the movement of people.
Another notable technology development in LED landscape lighting/ outdoor lighting is the colour changing feature. Certain models can access 30,000 different colour choices for landscape lighting. The interesting thing about this technology is the option to customise landscape lighting in tune with your mood, special occasion or season. The colour palette menu allows users to save up to 250 custom colours with selected hues and saturation levels, and they can also add themes to control systems from smartphones.
Points to consider when choosing LED landscape lighting
While choosing LED products for landscape lighting applications, there are certain factors that need to be considered before making the final decision.
- The first thing is to check the luminous efficiency (the watts to lumens ratio). One should calculate the number of lumens produced per watt of electricity.
- Correlated colour temperature (CCT) is another important aspect for landscape lighting. It refers to the colour appearance/characteristics of the light. It varies between ‘warm’, like the yellow light of an incandescent bulb, or ‘cool’ like the bluish light of fluorescent lamps. It is measured on a temperature scale and is measured in units called Kelvin. The higher the K, the cooler the light.
- For landscape lighting, how the light spreads out from the bulb depends on the beam angle. There are different types of beam angles with respect to LEDs, depending on their application. Therefore, it is important to figure out the right beam angle for your individual requirement, as this can create dramatic effects in gardens.
- Not all LED lights render the same colour accurately; some render it better than others. The colour rendering index (CRI) is a measurement of how colours look under a light source. The index is measured on a scale between 0 and 100. All colours look the same at zero (0), but when the CRI is at 100, it shows the exact colours of the object. Do note that it is not necessary to have a high CRI all the time. This factor should be considered based on the application.
- User-friendly adaptive control systems such as dimmers, timers and motion sensors should be considered. They enhance convenience and safety, and lead to additional energy savings as well as lower maintenance costs.
With a gradual decline in the prices of LEDs, coupled with the rising concern about the environment, the adoption of LED products has increased considerably. As a result, there is a significant growth in the LED lighting market. Governments across the world are taking aggressive steps by offering incentives and rebates on the replacement of traditional lamps with LED products. LEDs consume less energy, save money and have a long life span. The arrival of efficient and advanced technologies, such as daylight sensors and control systems for remote monitoring, have made these lights very popular for landscape lighting.