Misleading outdoor lighting article in Los Angeles newspaper

Misleading outdoor lighting article in Los Angeles newspaper

by Mike Gambino

This morning I woke to find not one but two articles about landscape lighting printed in the real estate section of my local Sunday morning newspaper. Now this is an unusual event as I can’t remember the last time I have seen an article based on outdoor lighting in either of the daily newspapers that are delivered to my home every day.

Both articles were not written by the newspaper staff themselves and did not feature local professionals.

The first article was for the most part your typical description of lighting effects that have been recycled over and over in other articles over the years. Nothing new or of particular interest.

The other article that did get my attention was provided by Scripps news service. It is titled

Gardener: Solar landscape lighting. This article had an obvious slant towards the do-it-yourselfer and energy savings.

That is not what I have issue with though. I have issue with the factual incorrectness and misleading use of a photo that appeared next to the article.

They open up by saying- “But installing landscape lighting can be time-consuming and costly. The lights themselves can be pricey, and a licensed electrician needs to do the installation on all but the simplest do-it-yourself kits.”

Not entirely true. Perhaps some states require a licensed electrical contractor but most do not require an electrical contractor to install a low voltage outdoor lighting system. Yes, quality landscape lighting is not cheap. However isn’t that true of just about everything else in life that is worthwhile? Cost/Value is a matter of subjectivity. The author offers no support by way of direct cost comparison between system types and equipment.

The article goes on to describe the virtues of solar landscape lighting and how in the opinion of the author it has evolved and improved of late. Where are the photos of gardens illuminated with solar light so we can judge for ourselves?  The article uses a very misleading photo (not included in article reprinted below) of a halogen landscape lighting system credited to a professional landscape lighting company that does not offer solar lighting.

Anyone expecting to get a garden that looks like that with solar lighting is going to be very disappointed.

In addition where are these amazing and improved solar lights available and what do they look like?

The only experience I’ve had with solar lighting has been their removal and disposal from clients yards who were disappointed with them and wanted a quality lighting system installed that would provide them a lifetime solution to their outdoor lighting needs.

I take issue with articles like this because not only are they factually incorrect , slanted and misleading but they can create unrealistic expectations to property owners who would like to install landscape lighting in their yards.

Here is the article reprinted below that appears on the Scripps website without the misleading photo as it only appeared in the printed version of the article in my local newspaper.

Garden: Solar landscape lighting

As gorgeous and inviting as a garden is during the day, it becomes a magical place at night if it’s properly lighted. Garden lighting can illuminate a patio for entertaining, showcase a dramatic planting or guide the way along a path. But installing landscape lighting can be time-consuming and costly. The lights themselves can be pricy, and a licensed electrician needs to do the installation on all but the simplest do-it-yourself kits.

Solar-powered lights just might be the answer. They’re reasonably priced, simple to install and safe to use. They can be moved easily as your landscape changes, and give a bright, reliable light for most any application. Solar lights of yesteryear used to glow with only a dim incandescent bulb. Today, modern units use light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which are semiconductors that put out light without hot, glowing filaments or fragile glass shells.

They can reliably run upward of 100,000 hours. Solar landscape lighting can perform year-round, even in the cold, short days of winter. In fact, as temperatures drop, solid-state LEDs generate an even brighter light. Today’s solar cells and rechargeable batteries are also more efficient, and the prices of both are coming down. Rechargeable solar batteries now use nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) rather than nickel-cadmium (NiCAD). NiMH batteries stand up to more charge cycles, last longer and can finally be disposed of without harming the environment.

For best effect, you must match landscape lights to their application. First, walk the property and develop a lighting plan. Consider how you use your yard. Do you entertain outdoors or sit on a deck? Are you concerned about the safety of pathways? Are there a few favorite focal points you want to highlight?

There are three basic landscape uses for solar lights: pathway, accent and spotlighting. Pathway lighting illuminates driveways, walkways and steps, and marks the edges of areas like ponds and patios for safety. These lights come attached to ground stakes, hang from hooks or are flange-mounted, and primarily focus their medium-bright light downward.

Accent lights generally define a place with a muted ambience that shows off nearby plantings, illuminates pergolas and built-in benches, or casts a gentle glow on deck rails or posts. They’re usually in the most noticeable locations, so choose a style that complements your overall decorating scheme.

Some use amber LEDs for a warmer luminescence, or even flicker like candles. Watertight light spheres can float in a pool or pond. There are even solar string lights that can be wrapped around fences or hung like fireflies in trees.

Spotlights are the brightest solar lights and usually the most expensive. They cast a focused beam on plants, focal points, statuary, entryways or other special features. They’re not especially decorative like accent lights, so tuck them behind plants, rocks or small structures so they cast light and draw your eye directly to the element you want highlighted. Their solar panels can be mounted away from the unit itself, to collect sunshine even if the fixture is in shadow.

One of the most striking uses for a spotlight is uplighting into a tree. I find the branch structure of a mature tree to be like a beautiful work of art. At night, with appropriate lighting, it’s even more dramatic. Ordinary branches become exciting shapes and textures when lit from below. Lighting trees along your property line attracts the eye and makes the yard seem larger. When you spotlight a special area, place a few lower-intensity lights around it to create a transition from a bright patch to darkness.

Modern solar landscape lights are a far cry from the dim, short-lived little flashlights of yesterday. Their attractive styling, long run-time and wiring-free, out-of-the-box installation make them perfect for most any garden application. And with practical and beautiful landscape lighting, you can stay outside and play in the garden a whole lot longer.

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