As options for outdoor lighting grow, so does demand

06/30/2014 4:48 PM

07/05/2014 7:32 PM

I’m sorry to raise the point, but the days are getting shorter again.

As of July 6 we’ve lost more than 7 seconds of daylight a day since the summer solstice on June 21, the longest day of the year. In the next two weeks, we’ll lose another 17 seconds a day, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

I know. I don’t like it either. It’s a reminder of what’s to come: January!

So here’s my plan: I’m going to take advantage of the warm weather and sit on my front porch or back deck every night after work from now until the first frost. That, of course, will require lighting.

Turns out there are a lot of options, thanks to growing consumer demand.

When the American Society of Landscape Architects asked its members to rate the expected popularity of several residential outdoor design elements earlier this year, 98.3 percent of respondents said lighting would be in demand, and 92 percent said outdoor living spaces, defined as kitchens and entertainment spaces, were going to be hot.

So it is fair to assume that much of that outdoor lighting is going into outdoor living spaces in the form of sconces, chandeliers, built-in deck lighting, string lights and even table and floor lamps, though the latter don’t always work so well here, where Kansas winds could pick them up by their shades and blow them into the next county.

Outdoor lighting also made several hot outdoor trend lists for this year, including one by Freshome, a design and architecture magazine, which placed it at the top of its “11 Hottest Fresh Outdoor Trends in 2014.”

Local residents seem to be following those trends.

George McMillen, a sales rep and consultant at Wilson Lighting in Overland Park, says his clients often put as much thought and money into their outdoor lighting as their indoor lighting.

“People want to live outside just like they do indoors,” he says. “It started about five years ago, but it’s gone gangbusters over the last two years. The average lighting budget for outdoor living spaces has gone up 50 to 60 percent during that time.”

His clients, he says, spend as little as $200 for one ceiling fan and a light to $50,000 for more elaborate setups.

They want them installed on ceiling beams, next to grills, over bars, under bars and to spotlight objects on the patio.

“LED is everywhere,” he says of the efficient light-emitting diode bulbs. “It can create very soft illumination yet be crisp and clean. There’s LED tape lighting under the toe kick of an outside bar, wall sconces that give an indoor feel and pendants over a bar.”

Outdoor lights, which are also starting to look more like indoor lights, come in a wide variety of styles ranging from traditional to modern and industrial.

Even the lighting options for more modest decks and patios have increased.

Brian McBee, a salesman at Kansas City Cabinet Supply, pointed to a wall at the shop with FortressAccents post caps and LED lighting.

It’s a universal system with a two-piece cap that can be machine-screwed onto any deck post and then outfitted as a downlight or a glow ring, he explained.

The caps cost between $10 and $27 each, depending on the size, which ranges from 2 to 6 inches. They can be installed on hollow composite posts and even solid wood posts, if you bore a hole into the length of the post to hide the wire.

LED downlights are $52 for a pack of four; the glow rings are pricier, at $65 each.

“It’s low-voltage, so homeowners can do this themselves,” McBee says. “The only thing is, if you don’t have an outdoor outlet, that’s an issue.”

Electricians can usually install one quickly and relatively inexpensively. And if you are getting that done, McBee recommends having them also put a power switch inside for convenience.

FortressAccents also offers lights that can either be attached farther down on the side of the pole or embedded in the deck or patio floor.

“You can make your deck look like a runway if you want to,” McBee said, pointing at small round recessed lights that he said are often used on stairs.

A lot of McBee’s clients don’t realize that they can install cap lights to existing decks. They also often want solar lights, but solar lights are a nightmare because they don’t last, he says. LED lighting might seem expensive upfront, but it has a long life span.

“Lighting is becoming a category that people are exclusively shopping for,” he says. “We’ve always had low-voltage lighting, but it was big and bulky. It wasn’t nearly as nice as now. The last two years have seen a big change, thanks in large part to LED.”

To reach Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian, call 816-234-4780 or send email to cgregorian@kcstar.com.

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