Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Landscape Lighting: A Great Way to Dress Up Your Home

(ARA) – The real estate market may be in a slump, but not all industries having to do with the home are in trouble. Companies that specialize in remodeling and renovation, particularly in the area of outdoor living, are doing extremely well right now.

“People don’t want to lose money on their biggest investment so instead of moving, they’re improving their homes,” says Joe Rey-Barreau, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s School of Interior Design and education consultant for the American Lighting Association (ALA). He says now that warmer weather has arrived, people are adding decks, patios, gazebos and outdoor kitchens to their homes, and they aren’t just planning to use them in the daytime.

“The trend towards expanding outdoor living space has been growing for some time now,” says Richard Lentz, president of Lentz Landscape Lighting in Dallas, Texas. “In past years, our goal was focused on lighting the space and showing off the garden. Now we’re concentrating a lot more effort on finding innovative ways to light outdoor spaces so they can be used at night, much like they’re used during the day.”

Backyard decks no longer just have a small light near the door. Lentz says lighting designers are now installing down lights in trees and attaching them to chimneys to shine light down on the space. “We’re also putting in a lot of step lights to make the transition from the upper to lower level easier,” says Lentz, who adds that people no longer have to feel like they’re under a spotlight when they sit outside under the stars. “If there’s a tree nearby, we can shine light down from it. Attaching fixtures to a chimney is also a nice way to get light from above that feels like moonlight.”

And when it comes to lighting outdoor kitchens, innovation is key. “We do a lot of task lighting in the outdoor kitchen,” says Lentz. “We’ll utilize the arbors to hang task lighting over the sink, the grill and the table, for example, and put them on dimmers so when the light isn’t needed, it can be turned down.”

Lentz credits the recent innovations offered by various lighting manufacturers for making those projects possible. “Technology sure has come a long way in a short amount of time,” he says.

Rey-Barreau agrees. “Manufacturers realize there’s a growing market for outdoor fixtures and they have responded by stepping up to the challenge to develop chandeliers, table lamps and sconces that are rated for wet conditions so they can be safely installed outdoors,” he says.

Safety isn’t the only factor being considered by manufacturers. So is operating cost. Not so long ago, the U.S. government mandated that the lighting industry find ways to cut energy consumption of their products. Kichler Lighting of Cleveland, Ohio, responded by coming out with a line of outdoor fixtures that use highly efficient L.E.D. bulbs that require one-third the energy of incandescents.

“When people realize they can get the same light output, a nice comfortable color and reduce energy use by 75 percent, they are more than willing to make the change,” says Jeff Dross at Kichler Lighting.

There have been innovations in the area of lighting for curb appeal purposes as well. “Landscape lighting is about safety, security and aesthetics. As far as the latter goes, the key to success is being subtle. Less is always more,” says Monty Gilbertson, manager of Lighting Design by Wettsteins in La Crosse, Wisc.

Doug Prexta, who works for the landscape division of Cleveland, Ohio-based Hinckley Lighting confirms lighting the outdoors is a trend that’s here to stay. “Our business is way up in the landscape division because people are investing in their homes more and more,” he says.

For more information about landscape lighting, or to find a lighting showroom near you, log on to the American Lighting Association’s Web site at www.AmericanLightingAssoc.com or call (800) BRIGHT-IDEAS (800-274-4484).

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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