The Realities of Oceanfront Property
Oceanfront property is the American dream. Enjoying your home’s seaside vista, the smell of the fresh briny air, and listening to the waves crash down onto the shore are some of the most enjoyable experiences of beach living. But with these luxuries come a price. The salty corrosive air, the abusive waves, violent storms, and unpredictable surges take their toll on a property (and its oceanfront landscape lighting).
Tips for Oceanfront Lighting & Maintenance
In this blog we will touch on the top five beachfront lighting tips to ensure a long-lived, magical nighttime experience including system components, advanced lighting techniques and effects, and top materials and construction for seaside projects. Let’s get started!
#1: Capture the Sea’s Natural Beauty with Moonlighting
There is much to be said about the oceanscape lighting design. Good landscape lighting illuminates beauty that already exists in the property and enhances the nighttime experience. The most obvious—and beautiful—feature of an seaside property is an ocean already perfectly lit by the moon and stars. The designer should take this as a starting point and devise a lighting design on the property that extends this natural nighttime beauty into the property. In most cases this will necessitate a subdued lighting with a natural, moonlit feel. To accomplish this, the designer may use moonlights from trees on the property and accent these with low-wattage fixtures strategically positioned to provide safe passage and usability of decks and patios. If possible, lights should be positioned to provide a natural-looking and subdued visual pathway to the ocean. No glaring lights should interfere with or distract from the ocean view. If docks or piers are present, they should be lit with glare-free lights at minimal levels for safe passage. In some cases, lights may be aimed into the water to produce both diffuse glows and dynamic, yet subtle, reflections onto pilings or piers.
#2: Use the Best Materials for Oceanfront Landscape Lighting
Landscape lighting systems contain metals that react with salts and moisture. The corrosive nature and extent of these reactions depends on the type of metal, any protective coatings, and the duration and frequency of wet contact. In fact, a study of atmospheric corrosion of metals by the National Research Council Canada revealed that the corrosion rate of metal 80 feet from the shore is 10 times that of the same metal at 800 feet. All types of corrosion are accelerated—pitting, rusting, stress cracking and loss of protective coatings (including powder coat). Thus, in deciding the materials to use in seaside landscape lighting projects, corrosion resistance is paramount.
#3: Select & Install the Right Fixture
In choosing fixtures for seaside projects, consider corrosion resistance and durability. Solid bronze is the ideal metal on both counts. It’s more corrosion resistant than copper and brass and can withstand the physical abuse of storms. Natural bronze also quickly turns a natural patina due to the salts in the sea spray, and its appearance continues to improve with age. To protect against storm damage, all fixtures should have unbreakable stakes made of solid bronze or stainless steel or be securely mounted with stainless steel screws. You might be thinking, “Well, why not use 100% stainless steel fixtures?” Good question. The answer is simple: Stainless steel is actually a very difficult metal to work with and manipulate, making it extra hard to create fixtures, and therefore very costly. As a result, stainless steel landscape lighting fixtures are primarily used for large-scale commercial, making bronze an excellent alternative for residential landscape lighting. That being said, housings for all of CAST transformers are made of stainless steel. Furthermore, since some landscape surfaces near the sea are subject to change due to wind, water, and shifting sand, an installer should leave plenty of extra wire buried near the fixture to allow repositioning when needed. The installer may also want to keep in mind that if cold sea spray contacts an exposed lamp (bulb), it may burst. For this reason, a fixture subject to sea spray should be constructed with its lamp enclosed or shielded.
#4: Elect a Resin-Sealed Transformer & Tin-Coated Wires
The heart of the transformer is its core. For best protection against moisture, select a transformer with a resin-sealed (potted) core and a stainless steel enclosure. Next, consider wiring. Many contractors use stranded copper wire for lighting jobs. A better choice for oceanside projects—and all projects, for that matter—is to select tin-coated marine-grade wire. It will cost a few dollars more, but is well worth the money for the extra corrosion resistance.
#5: Reduce Splices & Prevent Corrosion of Sockets
Wire splices are the most vulnerable part of a landscape lighting system. Its best to reduce the number of splices by using pre-wired fixtures and the CAST Spider Splice or Hub method of installation. In addition, for maximum protection, splice points should be soldered and sealed in silicone-filled wire nuts. Wire connections video link: https://cast-lighting.com/landscape-videos/wire-connections-crimp-heat-shrink. To maintain sockets In wet environments, lamp sockets can be periodically coated with lithium grease to prevent corrosion of the contacts. Also, better fixtures will have crimped and soldered internal connections to the sockets for the most corrosion-resistant construction.
Achieving the Perfect Oceanfront Experience Among the Stars
To quickly recap, enhancing the nighttime experience in a seaside landscape is the result of of a landscape lighting designer’s esthetic sense to recognize the beauty of the ocean and highlighting it as the visual backdrop for the lighting design. And, of course, this magnificent nighttime experience can be only truly be accomplished with the intelligent choice of low-voltage lighting system components.