Here are the down lighting do’s and don’ts to know
Down lighting is one of my favorite lighting techniques. I love creating a beautiful and soft full moon effect in the landscapes of the Austin and central Texas area. We have a lot of spectacular live oak trees which really lend themselves well for this lighting effect. So, what are some of the Do’s and Don’ts of down lighting?
DO install the lighting fixtures at least 20’ and preferably 30’ up into the tree. Placing the fixtures this high in the canopy keeps them well out of the line of sight for those moving around the area below. It also allows the light to filter through many additional branches and limbs to create a stunning and more natural moon lighting effect.
DON’T use a ‘too bright’ light source. I see a lot of people using 100-watt mercury vapor lights in trees and calling it “moonlighting”. Natural moonlight is only .01 foot candles, and it has 4000K color temperature. A 100-watt mercury vapor light will put 2-3 foot candles on the ground or more, depending on how high the fixture is; and the color is usually closer to 5600K – much brighter and bluer in tint and looks nothing like natural moonlight. We use 4 or 6 watt LED lamps with 4000K color temperature to more closely match the color of NATURAL moonlight.
DO use stand-off hanger bolts to attach down lighting fixtures to trees. Attaching mounting brackets directly to a tree will cause many problems. As the tree grows, it will grow around and eventually consume things that are attached to the trunk. This means that the mounting bracket will eventually end up IN the tree, not on the tree. Beetles and other insects will also crawl under that bracket and damage the tree.
DON’T staple wire to the tree! Ever! There are some out there who use wire staples to attach the wire down the tree trunk because it’s the fast way to do it. The first problem is that some of the metals used in those staples can poison the tree. The holes created in the tree if the staple falls out will become the home of destructive bugs that will damage the tree. There is also the critical fact that the staples holding the wire (if it doesn’t fall out) will get swallowed up by the tree as it grows. It consumes the staple and wire, damaging the entire lighting system as it pinches the wire causing short circuits. This results in a very expensive service call when we end up having to cut the wire off to make the repairs. We can’t dig the staple out because it can damage the tree even more than the consumption of the staple and wire. This just makes me crazy! We use only stainless steel screws and zip ties that will break away as the tree grows. We love trees and simply hate seeing them mistreated by installers who care more about a quick paycheck than the beauty of the environment they work in.
DO get regular maintenance for down lighting to ensure the safety of the tree and the best operation of the lighting system.
I hope these Do’s and Don’ts help you to know and understand what to look for when dealing with down lighting installations. If you do see these don’ts on your property, please let us come fix it for you. Contact us here.