19 Aug What Does a Very High Quality Custom Designed and professionally installed Low Voltage LED Landscape Lighting Cost?
By Mike Gambino
Costs can range widely from an average of $300 to $450 per fixture installation inclusive for a very high quality LED landscape lighting system.
Low voltage lighting has come a very long way since the first plastic Malibu Light sets were introduced in the 1970s. While plastic and low end fixtures are still available at home improvement stores, these are not the materials used by quality landscape design and build specialist contractors to create beautiful nighttime outdoor illumination. To light their projects these experienced contractors will insist on higher quality fixtures to ensure they function perfectly over many years in a wide range of weather conditions.
Quality contractors use professional quality fixtures that are all constructed from non ferrous metal (will not rust) in brass, copper, bronze, in stained and antiqued or unique finishes. These high quality light fixtures last far longer and cost substantially more due to their increased build quality and superior warranty. For example, a retail fixture may sell for about $30 while the professional quality versions, run about $100 apiece or more. A general rule of thumb for a preliminary estimate of a custom high end LED lighting system is to allow about $350 per fixture to cover products and installation.
Factors that Influence Costs
Cable installed inside conduit- Higher degree of difficulty and labor intensive but make for a much more stable and long lasting system
Network of accessible Power Hubs installed throughout the property- Provide for a system that is more easily expandable in the future by making it easier to add fixtures or increase the brightness of existing fixture lamps as plants mature. Cost more during initial installation but save significant amounts of material and labor costs later on as landscaping matures.
Integrated adjustable brightness and beam spread LED’s- LED’s that can be adjusted instead of having to be replaced may cost more upfront but are more flexible and save future costs.
New landscape vs. retrofitting existing one – Lighting conduit and cable is installed after the new plants are placed into a landscape and before grass, small ground covers, flowers and surface mulch is applied. Installations in existing landscaping is far more time consuming since the contractor must work in narrow spaces between mature plants to install conduit and wiring to all the new fixtures and they must take more care not to damage existing greenery.
110 volt outlet existing or to be installed – Older homes are notoriously short on exterior outlets essential for powering a low voltage system. In order to install an outlet for the light system an electrical contractor is required to lay conduit and install the outlets. Any time this work is required there will be significant increase in cost.
Unusual long runs of wire for larger sites – Every light system requires a transformer. When contractors design an extensive system on a large property, the long runs of wire may lose voltage due to resistance, so extra cable conduit and installation labor or multiple transformers may be required to keep all lights operating at or near the same 12 volts.
Time clock or remote operation – The addition of a time clock or the integration of landscape lighting into a remote control on/off system operated by smart phones or tablets. These run about $100 to into the $1,000’s to install.
Soil type for buried conduit and cable – Sites where excavation is hindered by rock or hardpan, extensive and invasive plant roots higher labor costs may result due to difficulties in trenching.
Accessories- fixture stem risers, additional optical lensing and shrouds
Higher powered lamps- Needed to illuminate dense foliage and large trees, multi trunk or spreading plants that require multiple fixtures. Also consume more power capacity on transformers.
Fixture Types and Their Applications
Flush in grade and underwater uplights- Typically installed in ponds, water features lawns or planter beds. This fixture requires more labor to install because it must bein water or installed underground that must be set precisely so the mower can glide freely over the top. Fixtures tend to cost more as they must be built with higher standards and potted to withstand the constant threat of water intrusion
Adjustable uplights- Multiple locations in planting areas at each subject tree or focal point. made to easily adjust to changes as plants mature.
High powered uplights- Used to shine up into taller trees that the typical fixture can’t reach. Note that high output performance LED lamps may be required for dense foliage, very high and distant applications such as tall palm trees, Oaks, Pines etc.
Overhead bullet floods and spots- Mount these small high intensity light fixtures on overhead structures and up inside the canopy of trees to highlight points beneath.
Path lights- Often called “mushrooms”, these freestanding lights highlight an entry walk to provide a safer approach. Cost of simple functional fixtures is minimal compared to finely made artistic lights designed for certain styles.
Architectural lights- These are used to illuminate the house facade for security or subtle ambient illumination to highlight specific elements. These can get expensive when concealed fixtures such as under eave lights are used and extra labor is required to hide power cable.
Cost breakdown for standard 20 fixture LED lighting system: The following is a general breakdown of all the elements in a landscape lighting system. A standard installation without difficult soil conditions, large trees or extensive cable runs and site has pre existing 120 volt in optimum location
- Fixtures: $2,400
- Conduit and Cable: $600
- Weather poof Connections; $300
- Transformer: $500
- Digital Timer controller: $100
- LED Lamps: $1,000
- Materials: $200
- Labor: $1,000
Cost breakdown for a custom 20 fixture LED lighting system: The following is a general breakdown of all the elements of a more involved and advanced low voltage LED landscape Lighting installation. The has large established trees, requires extensive power cable runs from transformer and requires the installation of a 120 volt electrical source. Includes a remote controlled timer system.
- Fixtures: $2,500
- Conduit and Cable: $1,000
- Weatherproof connections: $300
- Transformer: $500
- Remote control timer system: $1,000
- LED Lamps; $1,500
- Electrical work: $500
- Labor; $1,500
Controlling costs– It is not uncommon for a property owner to attempt to lower the cost of installation by reducing the number of fixtures specified for their site. This is understandable however be aware that even though the average cost per fixture may be $350 on your project by reducing the number of fixtures you will not realize a full $350 per fixture cost savings. Perhaps only half will be realized in savings as fixed costs to the contractor do not change proportionally by reducing fixture counts.
Reducing the fixture counts to save money almost always results in diminishing the outcome and impact of the finished end product. Just something to think about when considering cutting fixture counts to save money on a project.
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 26 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 .
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