Why such disparity in costs between service providers for a custom built low voltage LED Landscape Lighting System ?

Why such disparity in costs between service providers for a custom built low voltage LED Landscape Lighting System ?

By Mike Gambino

If you have ever consulted with a few independent custom landscape lighting designer builders about having a system built at your home or business. Costs that run the gamut to very high to very low. You will never ever find any two alike or similar in their design ideas, products they recommend or finished built cost to install that system at your property. A lot of this may sound like common sense however it has been my experience in the more than twenty seven years of meeting with prospective custom landscape lighting system buyers for some the differences are not so apparent. My intent is to clear up some of the misconceptions or misunderstandings with this article.

slide05_simply_magicalPeople Matter

To begin with, please understand that the single most important decision you will make that will directly affect the outcome of your project is the hiring of the person and company who will actually be doing the design and construction of your custom system. This can be said of most every other home improvement project however even more so in regards to custom landscape lighting systems. You will find that most other things will congruently fall in line with the best choice of the optimum service provider for your system. A few weeks back I wrote an article titled The wild west of landscape lighting which you can read here for more information.

Experience and Reputation Matters

Success or failure leaves clues. Reputations, good and bad , especially in today’s online world follow and brand a service provider. Again this may be obvious but the better the reputation for delivering successful results, the more opportunities a design builder will be given which results in more hands on experience a service provider will have with designing and building custom low voltage LED landscape lighting systems. Therefore the better prepared they will be to handle the inevitable challenges that crop up during a build on your site.

Expertise only comes from repetition and number of hours spent in the garden with hands contact with the soil doing actual physical work. Experience and expertise rarely comes to those with poor reputations.

Salespeople may do a great job of convincing you to buy but may not be the best representatives for their company about the actual capability and creative value they bring to a project. With the best Reputations and experience and expertise comes high demand (who wants to roll the dice and hire an inexperienced contractor?). Realistically speaking, with a supply and demand economy, the higher the demand and lower the supply the higher the price. That being said Reputation, experience and expertise alone doesn’t always justify a higher price or excuse the need for a buyer to perform her due diligence before selecting the best service provider for their project.


There are no standardized minimum build standards in the low voltage LED landscape products selection category. There are different grades of quality within material choices. Take LED lamps for instance. There is a huge disparity in price, performance, versatility and  longevity between a $50 LED module that was designed to work well outdoors and made specifically to fit inside of its accompanying fixture with built in heat sink, integrated dimmer switch (to vary brightness) and interchangeable optics (to create different light beam spreads). Compared with a random $20-$30 plug in light bulb that was not designed for any specific outdoor rated fixtures without any of the adjustability features that come with an LED module.

Do not become confused with those advertising non rusting components such as stainless steel, Bronze, Brass and copper because the heft, durability and heat dissipating qualities (crucial for LED lamps) widely vary amongst differing designs. Products Die Casted from molds involve tooling investments are almost always generally better, more solid and more durable than their machined or spun counterparts.

Product Quantities

Probably the single most often heard buyer objection besides bottom line cost of a custom built system is the quantity of materials specified for a project. It is a common concern of buyers that their lighting will be “too bright” or will somehow look like Las Vegas or Disneyland which is how some describe it. Most equate fixture quantity with brightness but this is very misleading. Although it may sound counterintuitive the truth is, when using a good designer, higher fixture counts absolutely do not result in overall higher ambient light levels or perceivable over lighting. Because a good designer knows that the key to a successful , effective and visually pleasing end result is with the use of multiple fixtures that are of the lowest effective output, placed at strategic angles such that the least amount of surface brightness on the subject appears with the least amount of glare to the beholder. This is what is well known by experienced designer builders and universally misunderstood by most custom system buyers.

Contrary to what buyers sometime perceive that builders are out to sell fixtures to boost their own bottom line profit at buyer expense. This is never the case with honest, successful designer builders. The word gets out fast if the value does not meet the higher price.

Designer builders who do not specify the appropriate material quantities and qualities and cut corners just to meet a prospective buyers unrealistically low budget are doing themselves, their clients and their industry as a whole a disservice. Unfortunately there is disproportional number of buyers who demand it and a large number of service providers who are willing to play this game.

A game that nobody wins !

facebook logoThis landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all 20160627_004632146_iOSrights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 27 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.Gambinolighting.com . 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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