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Introduction to Outdoor Lighting

Mar 26, 14 Introduction to Outdoor Lighting

As most of us are unlikely to be out in our yards enjoying a glass of cool, fresh lemonade in 50-degree weather, it is easy to forget about our outdoor lighting during the cooler months of the year. However, with the warmer weather just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about how you will be illuminating your yard. Here are some basic considerations everyone should keep in mind for lighting their outdoor areas year-round.

Choosing Outdoor Lights

Outdoor/Wet Location Approved
Before selecting an outdoor bulb or light fixture, always make sure the product says it’s suitable for outdoor or wet locations (such as any item in our landscape section). If a product is suitable for outdoor locations, then it’s also suitable for wet locations, and vice versa. Unapproved products may become damaged or otherwise hazardous if sprinklers, pool water, rain, or other damp conditions come in contact with their electrical components. If you’re not sure, you can always try contacting the manufacturer to double check. Sometimes a product will say it’s ULETL, or CSA listed for these locations. These are all acronyms for safety organizations that verify products’ operating capabilities in certain locations, including indoor/outdoor, dry, damp, and wet places.

Line Voltage vs. Low Voltage
While perusing potential outdoor lights, you may have noticed many products are offered in either line voltage or low voltage options. But what exactly does this mean?

  • Intermatic Low Voltage Transformer

    Intermatic Low Voltage Transformer

    Line voltage lights run using the standard voltage that powers most appliances and bulbs in your home – usually 120 volts. This includes table lamps, ceiling fixtures, chandeliers, and more.

  • Low voltage lights require a transformer to bring down their voltage supply to 12 or 24 volts. Common low voltage bulbs include miniature bi-pin bulbs found in landscape lighting and MR16s found in indoor track lighting as well as outdoor fixtures. The primary advantage to using low voltage lights is that they are safer to use; a 12- or 24-volt shock won’t do half as much harm as a 120-volt shock. Also, if you’re buying a fixture that uses an MR16, you will have plenty of options for controlling your lights’ beam spread.

Common Outdoor Lights

Security/Motion Sensing Lights
RAB-STL200HSecurity lighting should be top priority as homes possess multiple points of entry for potential intruders. Of course, you should always keep your doors locked, but wouldn’t it be better to ward off unwanted visitors before they get too close for comfort? These 200-degree motion-activated security lights can provide great coverage for your front, back, or side lawn.

Path Lights
AP-112B-LED-T3-4Many homes have pathways or sidewalks leading up to the front entrance or around their backyard. Whether you’re using them to welcome guests to your home or guide them through your yard, low-to-the-ground path lights will create a warm, inviting ambiance in either location. We offer options in many colors and shades to match whatever theme or color scheme you may have.

Step Lights
TROY-RD1115BNAZSteps are easily the most accident-prone areas in the front or backyard, especially since their presence can come as a surprise in the dark. But with proper illumination, you can greatly reduce this hazard. Step lights will illuminate each step in a stairwell or elevated path, drawing guests’ eyes to the floor and ensuring that these spaces remain accident-free.

 

Can you think of any outdoor lighting essentials we missed? Have any questions? Leave us a comment or drop us a line on FacebookTwitterGoogle Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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How to Choose a Dimmer: Four Factors to Consider

Mar 24, 14 How to Choose a Dimmer: Four Factors to Consider

In past blog entries, we’ve suggested using dimmers to provide mood lighting and save energy, but a lot more goes into choosing a dimmer than you think. Have you ever installed a dimmer only to find that it shortens the life of your bulbs or doesn’t work at all? Chances are you’ve chosen the wrong dimmer for the light sources you’re using or the type of wiring you have in your home.

As nice as it would be to be able to install one dimmer with any lighting system and have it work perfectly, that’s just not the case. There are many types of dimmers, all designed to be compatible with certain light sources and lighting systems. When choosing a dimmer for your lights, here are the important factors you need to consider.

Dimmer Type

How many switches control your light fixture? That’s the first question you’ll need to ask yourself when choosing a dimmer. Here are the four basic types for your lights that you can choose from:

Single-Pole Dimmer – The single-pole dimmer is designed for light fixtures that are controlled by only one dimmer in your home. In other words, this dimmer is the only switch used to turn your lights on and off, as well as to dim.

Three-way or Four-way Dimmer – These dimmers are for light fixtures that are controlled by only one dimmer plus one or more on and off switches in other places in your home.

lampdimmer

Lutron Cradenza Lamp Dimmer

Multi-location Dimmer – If your light fixture uses multiple companion dimmers, you will need a multi-location dimmer. Using multiple dimmers allows full dimming control from more than one location.

Plug-In DimmerPlug-in dimmers are used to dim the bulb in your table and floor lamps. Many of these lamp dimmers are compatible with incandescent, CFL, and LED bulbs.

Bulb Type

Incandescent/Halogen – If you are using standard incandescent or halogen lighting in your home, standard incandescent dimmers are what you’ll need to reduce the brightness. These dimmers work in a very interesting way. Many people might think that dimming involves reducing the electrical current, but actually, dimmers rapidly turn the bulb’s circuit on and off at rates much faster than we can see (typically over 100 times per second).

Compact Fluorescent and LED – In order to dim energy-efficient lights, you should first make sure that the lights themselves are capable of dimming. Because technology is advancing, dimmable LED and CFL technology is becoming much more reliable. Once you’ve got your dimmable bulbs, then you can focus on making sure your dimmer is compatible. If you were to try to use an incandescent dimmer with an LED or CFL, it would only cause your lights to not dim correctly or malfunction completely.

Magnetic Low-Voltage (MLV) – Low-voltage lighting systems require the use of a transformer to regulate the line voltage. If a transformer used within a lighting system is magnetic, you will need a magnetic dimmer. Magnetic dimmers are inductive and use symmetric forward phase-control in order to dim.

Electronic Low-voltage (ELV) – Electronic transformers in low-voltage lighting systems require a compatible electronic dimmer. Electronic dimmers are capacitive and use reverse phase-control for dimming.

Wattage

Once you know what kind of light source you’re using, you have to be sure the wattage of your bulbs is compatible with your dimmer. That said, you also must take into consideration how many bulbs you are using on one dimmer. Some people assume that just because LEDs consume less wattage, the same incandescent dimmer can be operated with more LED bulb that consume a fraction of the wattage of an incandescent. Due to something called inrush current, or the maximum, instantaneous input current drawn by an electrical device when first turned on, using more LEDs than you would incandescents on a dimmer will only render the dimmer ineffective.

For example, if dimmer can handle 300 watts of electricity and five 60-watt bulbs, that does not mean that it will be able to handle 30 or more LEDs at 8.5 watts. If a dimmer could only handle five incandescent bulbs, only use five LEDs.

Leviton IllumaTech Dimmer

Leviton IllumaTech Dimmer

Control Style

Once you’ve gotten past all of the technical elements and narrowed down your choices, you can start to focus on the more superficial stuff – like how the dimmer looks. Dimmers come in many different colors and styles, so it’s all a matter of personal preference. The styles of the dimmer switches are varied and come in options as varied as toggles, rotaries, and even touch-sensitive dimmers.

Do you have any questions about finding the right dimmer for your lighting system? Leave us a comment or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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HPS vs LED Grow Lights

Mar 21, 14 HPS vs LED Grow Lights

We know that LEDs are all the rage in household lighting, saving you hundreds in energy and maintenance costs over the life of the bulb. But what about when it comes to indoor growing? Are they worth the extra investment? Do they provide extra benefits that HPS bulbs don’t?  The most popular types of grow lights are high pressure sodium bulbs (HPS) and LEDs. While both are used to mimic the sun, the differences between them are substantial.

HPS

High pressure sodium lamps have long been a staple of indoor growing. They are favored amongst growers because of their ability to produce a variety of light across the lighting spectrum and because they can be used in all stages of plant growth, from the vegetative to the flowering phase.

HPS grow light fixtures have a few things going for them. For starters, they’re relatively cheap. For example, for about the cost of a night out on the town, you can get a 250 or 400-watt reflector complete with ballast; you need only to supply the HPS lamp.

Sun System 900514 250 - 400W Grow Light Kit

Sun System 900514 250 – 400W Grow Light Kit

Not only is the cost of the whole kit pretty inexpensive, but so are the replacement bulbs. The same 250-watt replacement bulb for your grow light kit will run you about $12. So all in all, when the time comes to replace your bulbs, you’re not looking at a whole lot of out-of-pocket expense. Plus, these all-inclusive kits are ready to go right out of the box, making it super easy to start growing.

However, there are some downsides to HPS bulbs. For one, they produce heat, and a lot of it. Heat is detrimental to your plants, so it’s important to have air circulated throughout your grow space. That being said, adding a ventilation system will up the cost of your indoor growing experiment.

Another downside of HPS bulbs are the life hours. While a bulb with a life hour rating of 24,000 hours isn’t too shabby, you’ll go through those bulbs faster than you think. For example, during the flowering stage, your plants will need 12 hours of light, while the vegetative stage requires about 18 hours. So with those numbers, and assuming my math is correct, your 250-watt HPS bulb rated for 24,000 life hours will last about 1,333 days, which equates to roughly more than three and a half years. Not bad, but it still doesn’t compare to LEDs.

*From the moment an HID bulb (high intensity discharge), such as an HPS or metal halide bulb, is switched on, the quality of light steadily decreases. For best growing results, replace these bulbs every 9 to 12 months. 

LEDs

As mentioned above, LEDs (light emitting diodes) are gaining popularity in the household sector as more and more people are realizing their incredible energy efficiency and impressive longevity. The same holds true for LED grow lights.

Unlike their HPS counterparts, LED grow lights emit very little to no heat, therefore eliminating a detrimental factor to your plants and a further expense from your grow room since you don’t have to add a circulation system.

California Lightworks CLW-SF-200-VM 200W LED Grow Light

California Lightworks CLW-SF-200-VM 200W LED Grow Light

While your HPS bulb may be rated for 24,000 life hours, some LED grow lights are rated for nearly four times that. For example, this 165-watt LED grow light is rated for 80,000 life hours, which equates to 4,444 days or roughly 12 years, based on using the lights for 18 hours during the vegetative state. With such a long life, the LED fixtures won’t have to be replaced nearly as often as the HPS bulbs. Chances are, the paint will fade before the lights go out on this thing.

So we know that LEDs offer incredible longevity, but what about energy efficiency? The 165-watt grow light mentioned above is equal to a 200-watt HPS bulb, but only consumes 165 watts, thereby saving you 35 watts and lowering your energy bill.

What about the colors your plants need to thrive? For the proficient growth of plants, there needs to be a combination of cool and warm light. Tall and spindly plants love cool light, while warm lights produce shorter, fuller plants. With LED bulbs, both tones are available in a single bulb, striking that perfect balance your plants need.

The only downside of LED fixtures is price. Just like household bulbs, LED fixtures are going to be noticeably more expensive than standard light fixtures, about double to be exact. However, their longevity and energy savings more than makes up for the initial cost.

So, decision time: HPS or LED? Honestly, either one will work just fine for indoor growing. The question is whether you want to shell out the extra money up front and not have to worry about changing your fixtures for a decade or save some dough upfront and lose the longevity. Many people opt for what they know and are familiar with, so HPS usually gets the nod. But as LED technology progresses and prices drop, we should see more and more diodes being used in indoor grows.

Which fixture are you more partial to, LED or HPS? Tell us in the comments below or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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Fun Lighting Solutions for the Kid’s Room

Mar 19, 14 Fun Lighting Solutions for the Kid’s Room

Kids’ rooms are often the most challenging rooms in the house to decorate. While most homes typically adhere to a particular style or color scheme, the kid’s room usually breaks away from the mold as a vibrant, wacky wonderland filled with storybook characters, games, toys, and other such nonsense. Since there is little hope of carrying over your usual style into this domain, you may as well keep up the adventuresome spirit and try out some of these fun lighting ideas!

 

Colored Light Strings

coloredlightsWhile clear Christmas lights are no stranger to bedroom décor, colored lights are unusual because they can be hard to match and don’t provide the enchanting, yellow glow that many people strive for. However, as kids’ rooms tend to contain a plethora of colors, there’s nothing to match, and these lights still give off plenty of illumination. Plus, your child is guaranteed to enjoy the cozy feeling of being enveloped in a warm, dim prism.

Rope Light Word Art

dreamDoes your child’s room have a large, blank wall space that you have no idea what to do with? If so, you should consider DIY rope light wall art. Rope light is an interesting way to illuminate, as well as personalize, your child’s space. Just configure the shape or the word that you want, and their bedroom is sure to emanate it.

Seem like a daunting task or a lot of work?  It’s really not – we’ve done it ourselves. Take a look at our DIY Rope Light Word Art blog and video tutorial to see how simple it really is to make your own rope light art.

Night Lights

sleepingmoonnightlightNight lights have always been a staple of children’s bedrooms, helping them sleep with ease as well as navigate through the night without mishaps. If your child’s bedroom doesn’t already have a night light, you should definitely invest in one. We recommend any of our LED night lights. Some even come in kid-pleasing designs, and considering that these bulbs are intended to operate all night long, the LED technology will save you money in the long run due to the lowered operating costs.

RGB Color-Changing Tape Light

tapelight RGB color-changing LED tape light was practically invented to complement the lively atmosphere of your child’s room. Flexible and thin with a sticky, adhesive backing, tape light is easy to place anywhere you want it. Popular placements include outer rims of desks, along the tops of headboards, and around the sides of windows. Moreover, using an RGB controller, you can mix and match the colored lights as well as create fun patterns your kid will love.

LED Light-Up Stuffed Animals

animal  lampStuffed animals are probably already in abundance in your child’s room. Why not use one of them to practice your DIY skills and give your child an adorable, plushy, light-up playmate? Plus, it’s simpler than you’d think: all you have to do is cut open the animal, intermix battery-operated LED Christmas lights with the stuffing, and sew it back up (leaving a small space to access the on/off switch, of course). Or, if you’d rather the animal be a stiff, stand-up lamp that plugs into the wall, all you have to do is coat the animal with fabric stiffener (the animal must have a thin fabric for this to work) and use regular LED Christmas lights.
*WARNING: Do NOT try this with incandescent lights – they get far too hot!

Do you have any interesting ideas for lighting kids’ rooms? Let us know in the comments or give us a shout on Google PlusFacebookTwitterPinterest, or LinkedIn!

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