Design with LED lights

Matured technology extends enjoyment of your outdoor spaces

LEDs are becoming a popular way to light and showcase landscaping around Fort Wayne homes and businesses. Photo courtesy of 1B Specialty Lighting.
Landscape lighting calls attention to a home’s design features. At the same time, it increases safety and security for residents and guests. Photo courtesy of 1B Specialty Lighting
FORT WAYNE NEWSPAPERS Ed Smith, owner, and Nate Gilmore of Illumination Solutions, which specializes in outdoor LED lighting, hang Halloween lights at Smith’s home.

You’ve laid out a brick pathway, got the patio just right along with tables and chairs, maybe added a pagoda or overhang for the deck, placed the grill right where you want it near the shrubbery you’ve pruned and perfected and maybe installed a hot-tub.

Back in the day, you’d have to find time to enjoy your backyard before dark.

Now, though, with the trend in light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, homeowners are learning their backyard can be a whole other room to their house, somewhere they can hang out for hours on end even after the sun goes down.

These lights can set a mood, showcase a swimming pool, tie together a theme or showcase particular plants or trees or even be so subtle that the light — either from the moon or nearby city lights — becomes more enjoyable.

And LEDs are becoming popular here in Fort Wayne, especially for those who want to accentuate their landscaping in the front and back of their homes with the energy-efficient lights, which can run for 15 or so years before ever needing to be replaced.

“Lighting is something that has been growing so much and so fast,” said Aaron Bentley, co-owner of 1B Specialty Lighting. “Now, people are spending more time at home and want to spend time outside.”

Bentley used to work for a landscaping company which did lighting on the side before beginning his specialty lighting business with Tom Blee about five years ago. While early LED lights had a a blue tint which some found unattractive, the newer ones are virtually the same as incandescents and much more energy efficient, saving homeowners and businesses hundreds of dollars a year or more.

Plus, there’s no need to change lightbulbs. Some warranties last for 15 years. If a bulb goes out, you get a new one.

“I have not sold a traditional system in about five years,” said Ed Smith, who owns Illumination Solutions with his wife, Amber. “The color of the warm light has evolved over the course of the last five years, and they have it just about perfect now.”

The lights are between 85 percent to 95 percent more efficient than normal lights and last 30,000 hours to 50,000 hours if they run from dusk till dawn. There’s no worries about a voltage drop like older lights, where a bulb farther down the strand might be dimmer than the ones closer to the electricity source.

“The only maintenance is cleaning the glass every once in awhile,” Smith said.

Smith’s own backyard is lit at night using a variety of LEDs, including “integrated” ones that use chips instead of a bulbs to provide light. They are placed around the yard so that every walkway that winds through his yard is lit up at night as well as the corners of his fence.

Along with the pleasant feeling the light can bring, it also brings security, something some customers don’t think about when they’re first looking into getting outdoor lighting.

“When we meet a client, we go over three things: beauty, safety and security,” said Bentley.

He said while many customers might not think of security at first using the lights, many will begin to realize just how dark the stairs going down the deck could be, and maybe areas around the home at night as well.

Some customers are husbands who are traveling for their jobs most of the time and want the house well lit for their spouses. Others realize how dark an area is while lights are being designed or installed during a project.

“I would say the security is an added benefit,” Smith said.

With the variety of backyards in the world, the ways to accentuate landscaping are nearly limitless. You can mount lights on trees or around plants, though using nails in a growing tree can cause it to try to heal over the “wound,” according to HGTV.com. A strap device is recommended if you’re going to do it yourself.

There is also wide selection of ways to “up-light” with lights on the ground to highlight a tree in a yard.

“If there’s a Japanese maple or high-end tree, I usually start with those,” Smith said.

There’s always less permanent options, as well … especially on the cusp of the holiday season.

Smith’s company specializes in holiday light displays. He estimates he will hang 40 miles worth of Christmas lights this season, with his first of the 115 holiday lighting jobs he has scheduled beginning this week.

“We usually design everything,” he said. “I’ve got customers still with me for 12 years on that.”

Meanwhile, Bentley’s and Blee’s company has branched out to commercial venues, providing outside LEDs for places like Science Central and Deer Park Pub, as well as the interior of Coney Island.

“We really think LEDs are here to stay,” he said.

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