Outdoor lighting systems need a modicum of maintenance to live long and prosper. The lighting designer ’s mantra is “less is more”. The maintenance version is “a little goes a long way”. It doesn’t take much to keep an outdoor lighting system in tip-top shape. It just takes doing the right things at the right times. For most systems in our region, two professional inspections annually are the right times. Here’s what these maintenance visits should include.
LED bulbs, the gold standard nowadays, have very long lifetimes. 25,000 hours is a good estimate. Indeed, that’s more than 8 years of operation at 8 hours daily. However, this assumes ideal conditions. Things happen outdoors. Nature has many ways to shorten that lifespan. In any case, LED bulbs naturally get dimmer over their useful lives. Hence, every bulb in the system needs inspection. Dirty bulbs should be cleaned. Cracked, broken, and dimming bulbs should be replaced. Replacement bulbs should be selected by the maintenance pro. Brands are not all the same quality.
The fixtures take a beating. After all, they’re out there in the weather, in nature, around the clock. Lenses crack. Metal surfaces corrode. They get dirty in so many ways we can’t predict. Moreover, animals, weather, and other forces of nature move them from their positions. Inspect, repair, replace, and restore to position as needed. If some fixture surfaces appear especially corroded, consider applying a protective coating like car wax.
Cable inspection doesn’t necessarily mean digging them all up. In fact, the first order of business is locating any that weather, animals, landscapers, or root intrusion have exposed. Exposed cables should be visually inspected, repaired or replaced as needed, and reburied. Pro techs use testing devices to verify the electrical integrity of buried cables.
Terminals should be inspected for corrosion, connections secured. Also, ants and other insects sometimes infest outdoor lighting system transformers. Obviously, this can lead to major electrical problems. Hence, they’ve got to go.
COMPLETE OUTDOOR LIGHTING MAINTENANCE
With the system buttoned back up, it’s time to cut back any foliage that’s obstructing light output or threatening to damage a fixture. Landscapes are by nature changing scenes. Thus, this is a good time to re-evaluate the lighting design. It may be time for tweaks and tune-ups. A new fixture here, a different LED color there. Finally, when an outdoor lighting maintenance visit results in a big change in the way the property looks, it may also be time to re-think the landscaping details.