Outdoor landscape lighting fixtures to last a lifetime?
Blazing hot sun, torrential rains, freezing temperatures, salty corrosive air, lawn fertilisers, irrigation...outdoor landscape lighting fixtures need to be tough.
The type of outdoor lighting fixtures you choose will determine how long your landscape lights hold up to the harsh climate where you live.
Choose badly and you'll end up with a rusty horrible looking mess - and after your diligent efforts, lights that don't work in just a few short months.
Just ask the Statue of Liberty
Our dear Statue of Liberty, poised over New York Harbor for well over 100 years, is covered in the same durable metal (a thin layer of copper) used in high quality finish outdoor landscape, patio, step and pathway lighting fixtures. It's a history lesson well worth heeding.
If you choose your outdoor lighting fixtures based only on looks, function or wattage (even though that's still important), you may not get the long-lasting outcome you want. Don't choose a short-term solution, as it will cost you in time, money and frustration to maintain and replace them often.
Three Robust Outdoor Lighting Materials
- Proven to last
- The copper surface over time develops a natural green patina and darkened color due to exposure to air
- This patina provides a natural protective layer that resists oxidation so rust and corrosion don't occur
- Sometimes the darker color is induced early during the manufacturing process
- Copper is used for many marine applications because of the material's extreme resistance to salty and corrosive environments
- Copper is often mixed with other material to create durable alloys like brass and bronze
- SPJ Lighting has robust copper fixtures that will age well and stand the test of time.
- An alloy derived from copper and zinc that has high corrosion resistance
- Often a cost-effective choice because brass is easy to "machine" into products
- The zinc content should be less than 15% to prevent weakening of the metal
- Good for underwater freshwater lighting (but not salt-water due to the zinc content)
- A copper alloy (adding tin aluminum, silicon or beryllium, for example)
- Bronze has a higher corrosion resistance than brass
- Bronze is normally cast in a mold
- Good for underwater applications, including saltwater
- The finish of bronze and brass will weather to look the same
Other Common Lighting Materials
- The problem with aluminium is when it is in contact with other metals (e.g. steel, copper) it will corrode. Even pressure treated wood (which contains copper) and steel fasteners will create corrosion
- Aluminium is affected by low pH clays and highly organic soils
- If using, look for marine grade aluminum alloys (Grades 5000s to 6000s). In the 5000’s grade, the main alloying element is magnesium (Mg). In the 6000 grade, the main alloying elements are magnesium (Mg) and silicon (Si).
- Look for anodized aluminium products, which increases corrosion resistance (see Finishes below)
- If unfinished, discolouration, or “tea staining” can occur near the ocean, within about 5-10 miles, and gets worse closer to the salty air.
- Look for Grade 316 stainless to avoid corrosion
- Electropolish finishes provide the most protection
- Low quality plastics are exposed to chemical attack, heat deterioration, UV deterioration, deformation (can affect the waterproof quality of a fixture) and structural failure
- Polycarbonate has high heat resistance, can withstand temperature fluctuations and requires no protective coating.
- ABS has good physical properties and high resistance to chemical attack. However, they are less protective against UV rays when exposed to sunlight, so they are often used for can light housing
- Polyethylene is a durable shock-resistant plastic good for use in sculptural lighting products like the Smart and Green LED cubes.
Finishes are applied as a thin layer to the exterior to make metals more durable and/or attractive.
- Above ground fixtures can be anodized, powder coated or have a PVD finish (physical vapor deposition) which is a process for a high wearing, thin, highly adhered coating that won't patina in outdoor environments
- Fixtures located near soil or below grade should have a protective coating that resists corrosion
- Organic coatings include plastic (including powder coat paint)
- Inorganic coatings include zinc, zinc aluminium alloy or for aluminium a prime anodized coat with a baked enamel finish
Choose Lasting Outdoor Lighting Fixtures
This is a quick guide to commonly used metals and materials for landscape lighting fixtures.
Know the trade-offs between cost and quality.
Many lower cost products on the market use plastic and low quality alloys that corrode and degrade quickly in an outdoor environment.
Irrigation, fertilizer and soil amendments can wreak havoc on certain alloys, creating an extremely corrosive environment. Beware your beautiful garden eating away at your landscape lighting.
Don’t waste all your hard work and planning. Avoid having to redo a failed lighting project. Plan and choose wisely and you’ll benefit from years of use and enjoyment.
Download our FREE guide to choosing the right outdoor lighting system that is simple to install and easy to maintain. Your landscape lighting project is worth it....