Do you offer landscape lighting in your menu of services?
If so, we’re here to help you avoid five common mistakes when installing outdoor lighting systems. Let’s get started!
Mistake #1: Designing with Fixtures Instead of Light
There are a lot of impressive fixtures on the market, and homeowners can easily get carried away trying to incorporate them into their landscapes. But, make sure you’re designing with light and not fixtures.
Decide with the homeowners where they want to have light before you determine which fixture is best for creating the desired effect. Once your customers decide what they want to see and experience at night, you can help them make that vision a reality.
If you’re not designing with light, it’s too easy to use a particular fixture in ways it was never intended. For instance, path lights look great when they’re the right size and properly placed along a walkway. But they look out of place in a flowerbed far from any path.
Focus on the light, not the fixture.
Mistake #2: Using Poor-Quality Fixtures
Outdoor lighting fixtures are made with a number of different materials, most commonly aluminum, composite, copper, stainless steel, and brass.
Getting Into the
Irrigation and landscape contractors are increasingly expanding their services to include outdoor lighting.
If your business is ready to “switch up,” you’ll want to take some training courses before performing jobs for homeowners. Although no special license or certification is needed, about six to 10 hours of class time should provide you with a basic knowledge of outdoor lighting.
Training is available through your irrigation distributor and lighting vendors such as Kichler, FX Luminaire, and Alliance.
Cast aluminum and composite are less expensive, but they’re lower-quality materials. Over time, it can oxidize, and the paint will fade considerably. (Powder coating can help extend the life of the fixture, but UV rays will cause it to discolor, chip, or peel.) Likewise, composite fixtures will begin to degrade after relatively short exposure to the outdoor elements.
Stainless steel is durable and perfect for a more modern look, but it must be kept clean to prevent corrosion. Dirt, sand, and other materials can compromise its protective layer of chromium oxide.
Brass and copper are both naturally resistant to corrosion. (They will slowly patinate when exposed to the elements, but they will not corrode.) Brass and copper are more expensive, but they’re also the most durable metals. Several manufacturers offer extended warranties on their brass and copper products.
Also be sure to use thicker-gauge wires with waterproof connections and outdoor-rated LED bulbs for a robust lighting system.
Mistake #3: Blinding the Viewer
If you’ve ever been momentarily blinded by lighting while walking along a pathway or around a pool, you know how annoying it can be. This common lighting mistake is easily avoidable. Never install fixtures in a way that exposes the light source to the eye. The resulting direct glare causes visual discomfort and can obscure the viewer’s vision
Always use glare shields on spotlights and flood lights, and position the fixture in a way that allows the shield to block the light source from viewers’ eyes.
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Mistake #4: Over-Illuminating
There are two causes of over-illumination: high bulb wattages (e.g., using a 50-watt halogen when a 20-watt would be visually more appealing) and too many fixtures positioned close together. (See sidebar, “Ditch the Runway.”)
Ditch the Runway
To avoid over-illumination on pathways, the experts at Volt Lighting recommend positioning path lights in a zigzag pattern.
Alternating the fixtures from one side to the other, instead of lining them up on both sides, offsets the “airport runway” effect and creates a more aesthetically pleasing landscape.
Also, for curved paths, be sure to position the lights so they follow the curve.
An adequately illuminated residence increases security, but the outdoor lighting installer must always consider the customers’ neighbors and be aware of relevant light pollution codes.
You can’t go wrong by consistently adjusting to the lowest possible light level. The light of a full moon has a light level of only 0.01 lumens per square foot (or foot candle). Most path lights project a level about ten times that, while a typical spotlight projects more than 100 times the level of moonlight.
Use the minimum light level for the most aesthetic lighting that still offers safety and security.
Mistake #5: No Maintenance Plan
The outdoor environment can be brutal. Heat fluctuation, precipitation, dust, insect/animal activity, and plant growth all take their toll on an outdoor lighting system. As a result, all landscape lighting requires a certain amount of upkeep.
Advise your customers of all the benefits of annual maintenance, then follow up with them to schedule an appropriate time to provide this service. Here’s a checklist of standard maintenance tasks:
Remove hard-water deposits from fixture lenses.
Bury any exposed wire.
Trim back obstructive plant growth and/or relocate fixtures.
Use a multimeter to test terminal blocks inside transformers and adjust power loads, if necessary.
Inspect and adjust timers inside the lighting control.
As an irrigation contractor, one of the surest ways to enhance your bottom line – as well as your professional reputation – is to develop a solid and meaningful relationship with your distributor.
If you’re ready to make this partnership a priority, here are a few “don’ts” to keep in mind:
Don’t Be a Stranger
The pandemic showed us how to fall back on virtual meetings and transactions when personal interactions weren’t possible or prudent. Now that we’re moving past that stage, face-to-face meetings should re-emerge as the better way to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with distributors.
Try to stop in periodically so they can make that personal connection. This conveys a clear message to your distributor that the relationship is important to you.
Keep communication candid and frequent. Suppliers often make decisions based on ongoing conversations with their customers. Create a process so that electronic communications in particular don’t get out of hand.
When first selecting a supply partner, keep in mind the three Ps: products, people and proximity.
Products – Make sure your distributor of choice carries the products and brands you prefer, and offers up-to-date and innovative solutions.
People – Gauge the knowledge level of the supplier’s employees. The staff should be well-informed and understand the challenges contractors face.
Proximity – Is the supplier located within a reasonable distance of your shop or job sites? You don’t want to waste valuable time running back and forth if you encounter a problem.
Along those same lines, be honest with your distributors about the size of your business. Don’t over- or under-sell it. Let them know how often you’ll need materials and what’s most important to achieve your business goals.
Don’t Sound False Alarms
If you sound a false alarm one too many times, you’ll get little to no response. For irrigation contractors, this means try not to expect immediate service from your distributor all the time. Reserve calling in favors for true emergencies.
Remember, your distributor is also juggling multiple priorities. He’s servicing hundreds of customers while also interfacing with manufacturers for required stock. You’ll make his life easier (and strengthen your partnership) if you don’t make every situation a rush request.
Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
Both you and your distributor must account for every penny. Once you understand how suppliers set price points, you can negotiate mutually beneficial terms (such as preferred product mix and delivery schedules) as well as costs. While it’s okay to purchase a few items online in the interest of cost savings, remember that solid distributor support will benefit your business more in the long run.
However, expecting a trifecta win of best price, best quality, and best service for every product you purchase from your supplier is unrealistic. Cash discounts and special account terms can be just as valuable as the best pricing, and they provide the added benefit of fostering a win-win relationship with your distributor.
If your business is too small to leverage steep product discounts, consider teaming up with a like-minded contractor so you too can enjoy the type of sales volume that qualifies for a discount.
Lastly, to minimize the risk of misunderstandings, put the result of your negotiations in writing.
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Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help
While it’s important to negotiate your best deal, be sure to ask for help when needed.
Components are continually being redesigned to improve efficiency, and new releases are common. Suppliers are incentivized to stock and promote specific items, so they’ll be glad to hook you up with the latest and greatest products. Don’t hesitate to ask if your distributor offers training for you and your staff.
Occasionally, even highly reputable brands will fail in the field. When that happens to you, make sure your supplier is informed. He’s likely in a position to offer assistance. And if there’s truly an issue with a product, your distributor can go to bat for you with the manufacturer.
More Than Just Dollars and Cents
The makings of a great supplier relationship go well beyond pricing. Of course, you want the best price to get the job done. But professionalism and mutual respect run deeper. Contractors and distributors rely on each other for their very survival.
Prudent professionals on both sides of the counter will work to ensure this valuable association receives the attention it deserves.
Along with July’s intense summer heat comes the prospect of seasonal drought.
In Ohio, we get more than our fair share of 90-degree summer days. These extreme temperatures and dry periods can cause cool-season grasses, such as bluegrass and fescue, to become dormant. That’s when irrigation contractors can expect to receive calls from concerned homeowners.
Have an Education Plan
The prepared contractor has a plan in place to address these customer concerns. You can help alleviate homeowner concerns by educating them on the grass germination and growth process.
Ohio’s Hottest Summer
July 1934 was the hottest month ever recorded in Ohio, setting the following heat records:
Columbus – 106° F
Bowling Green – 107° F
Delaware – 108° F
Cincinnati – 109° F
Findlay – 109° F
Chillicothe – 109° F
Fremont -110° F
Wilmington – 111° F
Hamilton – 111° F
Defiance – 111° F
Gallipolis – 113° F
About 160 Ohioans died of heat-related causes during the week of July 20-26, 1934. More recently, during an extreme heat wave in July 2019, the mercury levels climbed to 112 degrees in northern Ohio.
For instance, explain how different seeds germinate at different times, and the importance of watering longer but less often.
Your customers need to know that dormancy is nature’s defense mechanism to help plants survive tough, stressful conditions. Avoiding it completely during the dog days of summer can be difficult, but there are things they can do to help lessen its impact.
In general, lawns that have gone dormant should be left dormant until cooler weather sets in. Occasional watering will help prevent damage, but don’t overdo it. Overwatering a lawn in an effort to “wake it up,” can be very stressful to the turf.
Inform your customers that bluegrass can typically withstand about six weeks of dormancy before it suffers drought damage. Factors that can accelerate dormancy include secondary heat from buildings or fences, or south-facing slopes.
Seasonal Drought Survival Tips
Provide your customers with these practical tips on how they can mitigate the effects of dormancy on their lawns:
Grow drought-tolerant grasses. Most grasses can withstand some dormancy very well, but some grasses cope better than others. For instance, buffalo grass, fine-leaf or tall fescues, and older varieties of Kentucky bluegrass are the most drought-tolerant species found in Ohio.
Several municipalities within the Columbus metro area maintain watering schedules year-round, but particularly during the hottest months. For example:
Westerville – Addresses that end in even numbers can water grass on even-numbered days, and those that end in odd numbers on odd-numbered days. (This restriction does not apply to flowerbeds, trees, shrubs and gardens.
Delaware – During periods of limited rainfall, addresses that end in odd numbers can water on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday; even-numbered addresses may water on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. All watering is prohibited on Mondays.
The communities of Gahanna, Dublin, Hilliard, Upper Arlington, Powell, Bexley, Grandview, and Granville impose similar restrictions during the driest months.
Newly sodded or seeded lawns should not go dormant. Grass must be well established in order to survive a period of drought. Likewise, lawn that has been damaged by disease or insects does not tolerate dormancy well. It is advised that you water the lawn regularly to keep it green.
Keep turf as high as possible by raising the mowing height to 3-4 inches during the hottest time of the year. This allows for deeper root development, and tall grass dries out more slowly than shorter grass.
Understand a dormant lawn’s water needs. A sleeping lawn needs at least half an inch of water every two to three weeks in order to stay alive. If the lawn is receiving that much rainfall, then there is no need to water at all.
Minimize traffic on the lawn. Foot or vehicle traffic can kill the grass and cause bare spots in the lawn.
Once summer passes, thoroughly water the lawn to wake it up. Apply enough water to penetrate the soil down to the root — about six to 12-inches below the ground. After about several weeks of cooler temperatures and adequate precipitation, the lawn will be green once again.
It’s hard to believe, but we’ll soon be heading into July, and you know what that means…Smart Irrigation Month!
Sponsored by the Irrigation Association, this annual initiative is designed to promote the social, economic and environmental benefits of efficient irrigation. This year’s theme is “Proud of our past. Focused on the future.”
First launched in 2005, Smart Irrigation Month has gained traction each year, as various stakeholders recognize the potential impact of efficient irrigation during the hottest summer months and year-round.
Help Ohio Declare
Smart Irrigation Month
Over the past 17 years, many states have declared the month of July to be Smart Irrigation Month, including our neighbors, Indiana and Michigan. Unfortunately, Ohio has yet to join them. You can help change that!
In past years, numerous states and municipalities have jumped on the bandwagon to officially declare July as Smart Irrigation Month. (See sidebar.)
Landscape irrigation contractors have taken advantage of this opportunity to differentiate themselves and add value for their customers by promoting water-saving products, practices and services. These businesses report that participating in Smart Irrigation Month campaigns has resulted in new customers and increased sales.
This year’s Smart Irrigation Month is also about focusing on the industry’s future and the many ways efficient irrigation will continue to benefit society through more sustainable landscapes. Here are just a few of the innovations that irrigation professionals can anticipate down the road:
No More Wires
Wireless valves will likely become the norm, particularly for larger installations. Wireless technology will use long-range, low-power, wide area networks. Instead of batteries, inline, turbine-based generators will provide power to supercapacitors.
These wireless valves are expected to include ultrasonic flow sensors that use sound waves to determine the flow velocity within a pipe. This technology can provide very detailed alerts to help technicians and homeowners improve system efficiency.
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Some of today’s ongoing labor shortage may be alleviated through drone-based irrigation inspections. These drones can be equipped with a bevy of detectors to replicate – and exceed — human sensory capabilities.
Armed with infrared, thermal and acoustical sensors, irrigation drones will fly to each station and locate problems, which will then be pinpointed on a geographic information system (GIS) map. The data will be collected and used to automatically provide suggestions, such as upgrades to components that fail most frequently. This information would then interface with software that can instantly create work orders, pending human review and approval.
Alternate Water Sources
Alternative sources of water for irrigation will likely become increasingly important in the future, especially in areas of water scarcity. These alternate sources could include greywater, rainwater, and even condensate from air conditioning. Onsite tanks can be used to collect, store and filter the water, which is then delivered to highly efficient subsurface drip irrigation piping.
Using A/C condensation will be particularly helpful for the hottest areas and during the hottest months, when condensate quantities are greatest and evapotranspiration is highest.
Over the past several decades Ohio’s green industry has continued to evolve.
It’s become an art, a profession, a business, a science on the cutting edge of biotechnology, and an industry. Its associated organizations and trade shows have evolved as well.
Let’s look at some recent changes to green industry trade shows with an Ohio connection.
From CENTS to MGIX to MidwestGREEN
The annual trade show for the Ohio Green Industry Association (OGIA, formerly ONLA) has experienced multiple iterations over the years. For more than half a century – from 1964 through 2016 – the show was known as the Central Environmental Nursery Trade Show, or CENTS.
In its peak year of 2002, CENTS showcased 1,357 booths that were occupied by 710 exhibitors, and the number of registered attendees topped 13,000. In subsequent years, however, show attendance began to dwindle, as more green industry professionals chose to transact business online.
In 2017, the event was rebranded as Midwest Green Industry Experience, or MGIX — in an effort to include more of its diverse audience — and the roster of educational sessions was expanded. The trade show itself was expanded in 2018. Then, later that year, the association revamped the MGIX format into a series of networking programs and dropped the trade show altogether.
Well, now it’s back – in a limited capacity and under a new name: MidwestGREEN.
This year, in addition to keynote speakers, multi-track educational sessions, and round table discussions, MidwestGREEN, will also offer 50 exhibition booths for showcasing and demonstrating products in a scaled setting.
MidwestGREEN is scheduled for Nov. 1-3,
at the Columbus Convention Center.
From OFA Short Course to Cultivate
You may know Cultivate as the national trade show hosted annually by the American Horticulture Association (AmericanHort). The event has been held every year (except for 2020) at the Columbus Convention Center since the organization was formed in 2014.
What you may not know is that the trade show traces its roots back to 1930. That’s when the Ohio Florist Association (OFA) held its first Short Course event in a Columbus hotel. By 1964, the Short Course had expanded to 50 booths and drew 1,000 attendants. That figure more than doubled by 1981. With 259 booths, the venue was changed to the Ohio Center and the Hyatt Regency Columbus Hotel.
Cultivate 2021. Photo: AmericanHort.
Ten years later, the Short Course trade show moved to Cincinnati and expanded to 599 exhibitors. By that time, 77% of OFA membership was located outside of Ohio. So the organization changed its name to the Association of Horticulture Professionals. (But it kept the OFA acronym.)
The event moved back to Columbus in 1998 — and there it has stayed. By 2004, the Short Course had become the industry’s preeminent trade show and education series; overall attendance topped 9,800 that year.
By the time the next decade dawned, Short Course was the largest horticulture show in the U.S., as well asone of the largest trade shows of any type in North America.
Then in 2014, OFA merged with the 138-year-old American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA) to form AmericanHort. Today, the organization boasts a national and international membership of more than 20,000 green industry professionals.
Following in the footsteps of the OFA Short Course, Cultivate has now become one of the largest trade shows in the country, with more than 650 exhibitors and 100+ educational sessions.
Cultivate ’22 is scheduled for July 16-19, at the Columbus Convention Center.
From GIE+EXPO to Equip Exposition
The trade show that became the Green Industry & Equipment Expo (GIE+EXPO) began in 1984 as the International Lawn, Garden & Power Equipment Exposition. For more than 20 years the show’s venue has been just over the river at the Kentucky Exposition Center, making it a must-attend event for many Ohio green industry professionals.
OPEI Through the Years
1952: Eleven manufacturers charter the Lawn Mower Institute, a nonprofit trade association.
1956: Engine manufacturers are invited to join the organization.
1960: The association changes its name to the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.
1962: OPEI becomes a member of the American Standards Association (now the American National Standards Institute).
1984: OPEI launches the International Lawn, Garden & Power Equipment Exposition (EXPO), the industry’s first trade show.
2001: OPEI merges with the Portable Power Equipment Manufacturers Association (PPEMA).
2007: OPEI merges the International Lawn, Garden & Power Equipment Exposition with the Green Industry Expo, creating GIE+EXPO.
2010: Hardscape North America (HNA) co-locates with GIE+EXPO.
2017: GIE+EXPO is named the 10th largest trade show in the United States.
2021: OPEI rebrands GIE+EXPO as Equip Exposition and opens a branch office in Louisville.
The event is managed by OPEI, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. (See sidebar, “OPEI Through the Years.”)
In 2007, OPEI partnered with the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) and the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) to create GIE+EXPO.
In 2010, hardscape and outdoor living products were added to the show when Hardscape North America (HNA) co-located with GIE+EXPO. For many years running, this green industry exposition has reported record attendance and exhibit space; by 2019 it was the sixth largest trade show in the United States.
Like most live exhibitions, GIE+EXPO went virtual for 2020. But in 2021 it came back with a bang, boasting increased attendance numbers (about 24,000) from all segments of the green industry.
At that time, OPEI introduced a new name and brand for the annual event: Equip Exposition. The organization also opened a branch office in Louisville, demonstrating its dedication to the show and its investment in the host city.
The 2022 expo will once again feature more than 1,000 exhibits throughout its 675,000-sq.-ft. showroom and 20-acre outdoor demonstration area.
Equip Exposition is scheduled for October 19 through October 21, at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.