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Are you asking the right questions to find a qualified landscape lighting company?

trees surrounded by light at nighttime   
             Are you asking the right questions to find a qualified landscape lighting company?
     The main goal of landscape lighting fixture manufacturers is to sell their product.  To this end, the more contractors out there selling their fixtures the better.  The result of this is a push by manufacturers to encourage landscape or irrigation companies to add landscape lighting to the list of services they provide.  The downside for the consumer is that often these companies end up offering the service with little to no real training on how to design or properly install these systems.  We have torn out and replaced or repaired a good number of these systems over the years.  The frustration for the consumer is that they end up spending twice what they would have in the first place if a qualified professional had designed and installed the system.  But how is the consumer to know whether a company is truly qualified and adequately trained in landscape lighting.  It is difficult to know what questions to ask when you may not understand the process yourself.  To that end we have compiled a list of questions to ask a company before determining if they are truly qualified to design and install outdoor lighting or if they are just adding it on as a revenue booster.
1)      Ask what kind of training they have undergone to learn lighting design and installation.
 Distributors may provide a half day workshop to contractors on lighting design to get them started.  This is not adequate.  Look for those who have become certified outdoor lighting professionals through the AOLP (Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals) and are members of this organization.  ILLI (International Landscape Lighting Institute) is another organization that provides professional ongoing education courses in lighting design. These are week long intensive courses that provide hands on experience.
2)      Ask if they use commercial grade equipment and whether it comes with at least a 10 year manufacturer's warranty.  There are some cheap, poorly made brands out there and “the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” (Benjamin Franklin)
3)      Ask what kind of wire connections they use.  If the answer is twist on wire connectors, beware.  Look for companies that use ace connectors or low voltage landscape lighting fittings with shrink wrap rubber covers that essentially form a new wire when installed.  Poor connections mean systems that need repair often.
4)      Ask if they use a combination of down lighting and up lighting in order to give your property depth and dimension.  Listen for them to use terms like fill lighting.  Many of the lesser qualified companies only use up lights and path lights because they are easier, but they may not be the best choice for the effect you are trying to achieve.
5)      Ask about documentation.  A reputable company should document each of their projects with a plan showing the type, placement and lamp wattage of each fixture along with a wiring diagram of which fixtures are on runs together and where the wire is buried.  They should be able to show you a sample of this documentation and provide you with a copy on completion of your project.  Documentation is critical for troubleshooting any problems with your system in the future or for another company to work on your system without having to tear the whole thing out if the original contractor is no longer in business. 
These are just of few of the questions that will help you find a lighting professional that is capable of providing a quality lighting system that is both beautiful and functional for many years into the future.  Companies that do landscape lighting exclusively will generally have more expertise.  Probably the most important aspect of a good designer is a passion for the art of lighting design.  This is something you should be able to tell from your initial meeting.  Remember, no lighting is better than bad lighting.  Some initial research can save you a headache in the future.
At Natural Accents Lighting Design we believe that lighting is art.  It is the only thing we have done for the past 14 years we have been in business.  We are certified outdoor lighting professionals and have won multiple international awards from the AOLP.  John Pletcher has served as mentor for ILLI for 5 years, training others in the art of landscape lighting design.  We only use commercial grade equipment and stand by our warranties.  Complete computerized documentation is provided for each project at completion.  It would be a privilege to provide to your lighting needs.  But if you choose to hire another company, at least don't end up disappointed by one that gives poor quality and service.         


Contact us by email or by phone 816-407-1300.

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