Nothing is as exciting as seeing your new lighting system on the first night its switched on and discovering just how truly dramatic the changes are to your home and property after dark. To maintain these beautiful effects consistently night after night, a small degree of system maintenance must be performed periodically.
Life outside in the elements is difficult for even the highest grade of fixture components that Lighthouse provides. Our lighting equipment must endure the punishing effects of seasonal rains, snow, dust and dirt, overgrown plant material and even physical abuse from time to time.
Left unchecked, these factors can take a toll on the fixture’s finish, lenses, gaskets and other components over time, causing the dramatic effects that you experienced on that first night, to diminish over time.
However, with a little TLC, your lighting system can remain looking and functioning like new, indefinitely. Here is a rundown on how we recommend servicing your lighting system.
- Frequency: Lighthouse recommends a system tune-up and cleaning every 6 months or at the very minimum at least once per season. Neglecting your system any longer could have permanent, negative effects such as irremovable mineral build-up on the fixture bodies, which can become unsightly over time and a diminished light output due to corroded and dirty lenses that block the light.
- Fixtures: We recommend wiping off dirt and mineral build-up with a soft cloth while also adding a small degree of surface protection against water and debris. Our Lighthouse technicians have found that WD-40 is a great applicant to revitalize the finish of your fixtures and protect it against the elements. Simply spray a small amount into your cloth and wipe onto the fixture. The fixture will appear shiny and new for a few days but the protection remains.
- Glass lenses: This is one of the most important parts of system maintenance. If the lens covering the light source gets dirty, it decreases the amount of light passing through the lens, thereby reducing the lighting effects on walls, plants or trees. Sometimes a simple wipe down and application of Rain-Ex on the glass will take care of the issue. However, if you live in an area with hard water, your irrigation system may be applying a coat of lime or calcium that can be much more difficult to remove. If your once clear lenses appear frosted from the hard water, a razor blade can be used to scrape the lens clear again. This takes a few minutes but is not overly difficult to do and is incredibly important to restore the full lumens needed as in the original lighting scene.
- Adjustment: Over a season, your soil can move quite a bit, especially in the northern climates where freeze and thaw cycles cause your dirt to heave. This constant movement of the soil will cause a misalignment of your lighting over time. Surprisingly, you may find that the adjustment screws on some of your lights have worked themselves loose, causing your fixtures to lean down. Your light fixtures can also be inadvertently kicked out of proper alignment if you employ a landscape company to install fresh mulch in your plant beds every season. Therefore, it is always a good idea to re-check alignments after new mulch has been installed or any landscape work has been done. Another thing to watch for will be lights that seem not to work after mulching. This is especially common with well lights that are used to up light architecture. Not to worry, they have simply been covered with mulch and need to be cleaned off.
- Exposed wires: As I mentioned in the previous section, your soil is constantly moving throughout the season and wires can occasionally find their way to the surface as the soil pushes them out. Our Lighthouse technicians take a quick look through the beds to see if any have been worked up out of the ground (especially in the spring after a hard winter). If some are exposed, simply rebury them as needed.
- Power Center (transformer): We also like to do a visual inspection of the transformer or “power center” to ensure there are no signs of damage or overload. Open the transformer case and look inside. Visual inspection should reveal no signs of wire burns, or physical damage. Wire burns can happen if the system is neglected for a long period of time. Micro-vibrations from the electro-transference of power in the transformer core itself will tend to loosen the lug clamps over time causing the loose wires to arc and create burn marks against the back of transformer wall- OR WORSE. It is important to check and re-tighten these lugs as needed at every service. It is also a good time to evict any critters or bugs that have taken up residence inside your transformer. Spiders are the most notorious for finding a way inside a warm power center when the cold nights of fall descend on us.
- Timer/Photocell: While you have the transformer open, now is a good time to check the controller to ensure the current time is accurate and that it is functioning properly. Some black electrical tape can be used to cover the photo-eye if your transformer is equipped with a photocell on the outside of the transformer itself. It usually takes 1-2 minutes for the photocell to activate the lighting once covered.
- Trim back plant material: It’s a good time to check if any plant material has overgrown your light fixtures in the past 6-12 months since the last service call. For lights that are lighting the architecture of your home, you will need to trim plant material that is covering the light. Architectural lights are generally set in a very precise location and therefore can’t be moved without dramatically changing the effect on the walls. Fixtures that are lighting trees or plant material can be moved slightly as needed or you can opt to trim. As your landscape matures and grows over time, fixtures will need to be moved to more effectively illuminate plants and trees in their more mature state of growth. Our technicians will often recommend adding additional lighting to better illuminate trees that have grown into much larger specimens.
- Adjust down lighting: At Lighthouse outdoor lighting, we are always creating unique lighting designs that call attention to the beauty of your landscape. One of the effects we love to use is “moon-lighting” from luminaires placed high in trees that gently illuminates the ground and flora below. These fixtures and cables have been cunningly concealed on trees but do require adjustment occasionally to account for tree growth. Every two years or so we are required to back out the attachment screws about 2-3 turns to leave room for branches and tree trunks to grow and expand without swallowing up the lighting equipment. Trees are ever-growing, so we must adjust with them over time to keep your trees healthy.
These are the basic maintenance details that must be addressed on a regular basis to keep your lighting system operating at 100% efficiency. It is not overly difficult to maintain your system, but if you’re like most busy professionals, it is not something you think about doing and will be neglected for 2, 3 or even more years.
Generally, most people remember to service their lighting after it’s too late and an obvious problem with the system emerges. Thankfully, our Lighthouse Outdoor Lighting® teams across the country offer a simple, lighting system maintenance program to our clients.
If maintenance isn’t high on your priority list, but you would just like to enjoy your system looking great all the time, then our simple maintenance plan is for you. We schedule your cleaning and tune-up service on an automatic 6-month rotation (or more frequently if you require it). Call your local Lighthouse representative today and let’s get your lighting tuned up and looking good again.