I have two favorite spots in my house: The first is a chaise lounge sitting next to a large window overlooking the Vine Maples in my backyard. The second is my kitchen window with a view of two old mossy-branched walnut trees. I see squirrels scampering, birds looking for food, and the occasional mama and baby deer during the day. There is nothing but the darkness to greet me at night – no lights, except for a bright garage light from a distant neighbor. And so, I eagerly said yes to the opportunity to play around with a lighting demo kit.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know what lighting can do; clients tell me all the time about how much enjoyment they get from their yard at night, especially since they can see their garden when they get home from work. But there is a difference between knowing what something is like in theory and experiencing it for yourself.
Setting Up the Lights
It was with much excitement that I, along with Blessing Landscapes lighting guru, Paul Welty, went about setting up outdoor lighting in my yard. The kit came with eight light fixtures and the lighting transformer, which powers the system, all from FX Lighting. It was a pretty straightforward installation of lights in my front yard. I started the project by downloading the Luxor app on my phone (it works for both iPhone and Android), plugged the transformer into an outdoor outlet, and then entered the IP address and password to connect to the internet. We then ran two strands of lighting wire that had spots about every 10 feet to clamp the light fixtures onto and connected them to the transformer. As for the actual lights, I put a couple of uplights near an old cherry tree and a large red Weeping Maple. We spaced out some path lights along the front walkway and a few wash lights to highlight an existing ornamental statue in my landscape design and brighten the dark entry. The lights themselves have two little clips; one clip per each side of the strand of wire. We then angled the lights for maximum viewing pleasure.
Here’s Paul hooking up the wires for the transformer.
(note: his mask was brought down for photo purposes only).
A quick note about the lighting system we were using: the FX Luxor ZDC System. ZDC stands for zoning, dimming, and color, and it is one of the most advanced residential lighting systems available. The transformer allows you to group lights to create different scenes, such as for holidays, or just the ability to have them on at different intensities and times. And of course, with the color, you can pick from 30,000 or so colors. Fortunately, when we got the transformer, there were already several scenes created that were easy to choose from via the app. The first was labeled “2700,” showing what all the lights would look like at regular intensity. The second scene had all the lights dimmed down to 25% intensity. The third was called “Thanksgiving” and made half the lights purple and half the lights orange. There were a few other preprogrammed scenes as well, and of course, it was pretty easy to create a lighting masterpiece after playing around with the settings for the different scenes.
To give you an idea of what I was up against, here is the front of my house with nothing but the oh-so-lovely house lights on. Please keep in mind, dear reader, I have never attempted lighting photography, and I know it shows. Also, since this is a demo kit, the lights used may not be the exact model of lights we would have used in the same application. You have to work with what you got, but I think this will give you a pretty good idea of the possibilities.
This second photo shows the house lights off and what the lights look like slightly dimmed:
And lastly, here is a combination with a couple of red and orange colors mixed in with some regular colored lights:
Before I started this endeavor, I pretty much thought that color lighting was a gimmick. After getting the opportunity to play with it, though, I loved being able to warm up the lights to a nice yellowy-orange glow, and of course, to brighten some lights like the path lights while dimming others such as the wall washes. The rest of the family enjoyed them too. My daughter insisted I leave them all purple, and my husband, who has never once thought or complained about our current lackluster lighting, said, and I quote, “This is pretty sweet, how much is it and when are we doing this?”.
What usually is just a neon glow from the neighbors’ garage out my kitchen window was suddenly a fun focal point (purple for my daughter).
I got several key takeaways from being able to use the demo kit for a few days. It was nice to see what is possible in various parts of my landscape. Seeing my favorite spots lit up gave me an appreciation for my garden; it made my house feel bigger and created beautiful and exciting views where I usually would have just had a black hole.
I also got a good idea about where lights should go and how many I needed. I realized I didn’t need to light up the entire yard, just a few high impact areas. I could see the differences of what adding a light or moving it just a few inches would make.
Lastly, I was able to determine if having the zoning, dimming, and color capabilities with the ZDC system was something I would be keen on and worth the additional cost. The ability to use the lights as you would with a basic system (having lights go on and off) against all the functionality of the ZDC system, with the simple click of a button on the app, I could easily switch between the two and see if it was a feature I wanted to invest in. I must say that I genuinely enjoyed creating scenes and adjusting each light to my every whim. Full disclosure: I have dimmer switches on almost every light switch in my house, and I use them all the time, so I knew dimming was going to be a feature I would appreciate in the outdoors. The color options helped take the lighting experience from “that’s really nice” to “holy cow!” When it was time to give back the lighting kit, and our home was plunged back into the black void, I was ready to get the ball rolling in getting an outdoor lighting system for our garden.
Whether it’s because you want to have your outdoor lights go on from dusk to dawn or make your house look festive for the holidays at the push of a button, contact Blessing Landscapes to schedule your free onsite evaluation with our lighting expert today!