Everything You Should Know About Landscape Lighting and Snow
Depending on where you live, winters can be marked by the less-than-stellar views of bare trees, and the sight of the outside can just about give you a chill during those snowy days.
But landscape lighting can illuminate your house and landscape, bringing warmth and beauty regardless of the season. Not to mention, landscape lights are the perfect way to illuminate those pathways and staircases that can become slippery hazards in the dark.
It is vital to conduct routine winter landscape lighting maintenance. However, many homeowners simply adjust the lighting system timer to account for long dark days and don’t consider the effects of snow on outdoor lighting. This guide covers everything you need to know about maintaining your landscape lights when it snows.
Benefits of landscape lighting in snowy conditions
The three main benefits of winter landscape lighting are visual appeal, security, and safety.
Landscape lighting improves the enjoyment of the outdoor spaces you work hard to maintain. Even after the sun sets, you can showcase the beauty of your garden. The same applies during the winter season.
Security is the second key benefit of winter outdoor lighting. The number of daylight hours is shorter during the winter. Exterior lighting makes it difficult for people to trespass unnoticed.
The final factor is safety. Lights along driveways, path lights along walkways, and patios reduce the risk of people slipping on clear or black ice and injuring themselves.
Four common questions about landscape lighting in the snow
But how do you know how to take your spring, summer, and fall lights into the winter months where they can be faced with snow and the related harsh conditions? There are tons of questions when it comes to landscape lights and snow, and we've broken down some commonly asked questions so you can confidently enjoy your landscape lights year-round.
1. Do landscape lights melt the snow?
While we’ve touted the praises of LEDs over halogen lights before due to their energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness over time (as well as other LED-related benefits), while LEDs don’t get as hot as halogens, they still produce heat.
The difference here is that with LEDs, most of the heat is absorbed by the heat sink installed in the unit, so it won't melt snow the way you might imagine. However, professional-grade LEDs can melt some snow, while lesser-quality ones probably won’t. Either way, you'll still need to clear that snow from your bulbs to allow them to shine brightly during the winter months. And even though halogen bulbs might melt more snow, we’re still fans of LED lights over halogen year-round, no matter the weather.
Along with clearing freshly fallen snow from your bulbs, you’ll also want to wipe away debris and other deposits after it snows, just like you would during your routine maintenance, because a blocked light won’t give off any light. So, make sure to keep your lights clear.
Related: Click here to read more about landscape lighting seasonal maintenance.
2. Can landscape lights withstand moisture?
Here’s the short answer: If they are high-quality fixtures, they can handle moisture. Snow and ice can cause electrical issues to landscape lighting systems when they melt. Similar to the question below—will lights survive the winter— in low-quality fixtures, the seam between the lens cover and trim may not have a proper seal, allowing moisture to enter your fixtures.
This is where moisture becomes a problem for your lights, and it can also lower their lifespan overall. LED landscape lights are sensitive to moisture. If the bulb comes into contact with water, it will short. But it’s not just the LED bulb you should be wary of. Condensation in the outlet increases electrical currents, causing short circuits. Short circuits can cause electrical fires.
When you notice any moisture in your fixtures, it needs to be removed right away, as procrastinating this task can cause build-up and corrosion inside the fixture, which greatly shortens not only its lifespan but also the light’s ability to do its #1 job: shine.
Keep outdoor outlets covered, and if they look damaged, exercise caution and contact a licensed electrician.
3. Can landscape lights design survive the winter?
The answer to this question depends on the quality of the fixtures you’ve installed. While it’s tempting to go for lower-cost fixtures to try and make your landscaping budget go further, that’s not always the best option for your investment over time but for the survival of your fixtures. To help make this decision easier, here’s a rundown of how different types of fixture materials withstand the harsh winter weather:
Plastic: To put it simply, fixtures made from plastic just don’t hold up well at all, especially not in the frigid winter temperatures. They have the tendency to crack and split, which ends up wasting your landscape dollars as you’ll have to replace them much more often, and they’ll end up in a landfill.
Stainless steel: Due to the fact that stainless steel must be constantly cleaned to maintain its beauty and protect it from corrosion unless you enjoy spending a lot of time cleaning your fixtures, stainless steel might not be the best option for you no matter the weather, but especially in the wintertime when any type of outdoor maintenance can be quite chilly and uncomfortable.
Bronze: Bronze is, by far, our #1 recommendation for outdoor lighting fixtures. Why? It does well in ANY environment, including the harshest of winters, and it will last for years and years, making it cost-effective over time when compared to other fixture materials.
In fact, we have CAST bronze fixtures that are still serving our customers after 20 years! Even if it means you need to add the fixtures to your landscape more slowly than you’d like to, investing in bronze fixtures will literally pay off for years to come.
4. Will ground freeze impact landscape lights?
The ground freezing will most likely impact your landscape lighting wires due to the freeze and thaw, which can often force wires to the surface. You may also find that your mounting stakes have heaved up during this time from the freeze and thaw. Those may need to be pushed back into the ground and straightened.
As part of your routine landscaping upkeep, it's always a good idea to inspect for any exposed wires and any damage to those wires. Ideally, you'll have buried any wires that were unearthed during your spring and fall maintenance, so check from time to time during the winter months just in case newly exposed wires are out in the elements. If you need repairs, it's always important to contact your landscape lighting team to make those repairs.
As we’ve mentioned above, regular and proper maintenance of all aspects of your yard is essential to the continued enjoyment and protection of this valuable asset. Specifically, it will also be beneficial where your lighting is concerned, helping it to continue illuminating your winter landscape while providing the safety features you’ve come to rely on from your lighting now and into the future.
Winter comes with harsh weather conditions that can affect the form and function of your landscape lighting design. Heavy snow can dull or obstruct the illumination of your outdoor space. Thus, landscape lighting fixtures should be able to melt snow. However, moisture from melting snow can short-circuit the electrical system. So, you must regularly remove accumulated snow from lighting fixtures.
The quality of outdoor fixtures will determine whether your landscape lighting project is cost-effective. Plastic fixtures may be cheap at the onset but cost more in the long run because they can’t withstand the freeze and thaw of the winter.
Having your snow lit by your landscape lights is a unique, but beautiful feature available to many of us during the winter months. Making sure you do proper maintenance and investing in suitable materials is a surefire way to make sure you enjoy that view for years to come.