How to Prevent Corrosion from Destroying Outdoor Light Fixtures

How to Prevent Corrosion from Destroying Outdoor Light Fixtures

By Mike Gambino

Over time a lighting system is only as good as the materials that they are constructed of and if you live within three miles of a brackish or salt water environment than you know what happens to outdoor products of any kind.  Living in coastal California areas will teach you this valuable lesson.  Outdoor light fixtures take a beating when installed in these areas that is why it is important do find the right light fixtures for the right areas. Even if you don’t live near the coast using landscape lighting fixtures made from materials that will last is paramount unless of course you don’t want the lighting system components to last.

What Some Outdoor Light Fixtures are made of

Outdoor light fixtures are made up of different materials and different qualities of those materials.

Below are examples of the main materials used in outdoor lighting fixtures

Spun Aluminum casts are made of pot metal or recycled aluminum that usually have reminisces or contaminants in the cast. These impurities in the aluminum cast make the fixture break down faster especially if in coastal areas.  Usually found in cheaper outdoor light fixtures.  Life expectancy is 4 months to 1 year.

  • True aluminum casts are made with raw aluminum with no supplemental materials in the cast.  This is still not the best product for coastal or outdoor areas but  will last longer than spun aluminum fixtures  especially when there is an added textural powder coat finish added.  Life expectancy of non-textured is 1.5 years to 3 years.  Heavy-textured or marine coated is 3.5 years to 7 years.
  • PVC and Composites are made from recycled plastic products that are melted down and poured into molds. These products are not desirable for outdoor lighting fixtures because they dry out and become brittle from exposure to the UV rays of the sun. This leaves them susceptible to breaking, cracking and expansion and contraction during heating and cooling which allows water ingress and intrusion into the fixture body that houses the lamp.

What Gambino Landscape Lighting fixtures are constructed of

  • Solid Brass Castings of outdoor light fixtures stand up well to salt corrosive environments.  The raw solid brass material will patina with age but must be rinsed to control salt build up. Solid brass outdoor fixtures can come in different finishes like bronze and brushed nickel made by creating a chemical reaction. Beware of cheaper plated brass which is a coating over metal which will come off and not last outdoors. Life expectancy of solid brass is lifetime with scheduled maintenance.
  • Solid Copper outdoor fixtures are made of raw copper and will last in salt corrosive environments.  Solid copper light fixtures patina very well with age, better than any of the other affordable raw materials.  These outdoor fixtures should still be rinsed frequently. Beware of the copper plated aluminum outdoor fixtures as they will not last.  Life expectancy is lifetime on copper with scheduled maintenance.

    Mike Gambino in February 2012 cleaning a first generation copper Gambino "Torino" spreadlight fixture that was installed 30 feet from the Pacific ocean in 2004. One of the most brutal environments possible. Besides some bird droppings on its cap the entire fixture is in excellent condition with no signs of degrading.

  • Stainless steel is used in transformer enclosure construction because it is a very hard metal that is impervious to the elements. Even so the surface should be cleaned of impurities on a regular basis. Beware of product that may be built of stainless steel but the hardware used to keep all the parts connected together is not which will pit rust and leave your box to fall apart.

Outdoor Light Fixture Maintenance

All outdoor light fixtures need to be maintained and cleaned to preserve the life of the product.  Imaging if you never washed your car how it would look in two years especially if you lived beachside.  If you plan on installing outdoor light fixtures in a salt corrosive area then you want to make sure you can rinse the fixture with fresh water at least once a month.  Rinsing the lighting fixture will remove salt build up, if you cannot rinse the fixture use a damp cloth to remove excess salt build up.

Another main concern with outdoor fixtures is bird droppings.  Bird droppings contain an acidic component that will break down the paint finish if not rinsed off with fresh water.

Aged Outdoor Light Fixtures

Top of a copper Gambino generation 2 "Torino" spreadlight after less than 1 year in the landscape. Some interesting patina has formed which will only become enhanced by mother nature with age.

As you can see the clear winners are materials constructed from Brass, copper and stainless steel outdoor light fixtures and components.

Even fixtures made of these quality metals that have had factory hand applied stain finishes will change in color and appearance over time. I call it mother natures way of putting her personal touches on it.

This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 20 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .

Blog articles may be published with permission on other websites without editing or removing links.

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