In an industry flooded by companies offering landscape lighting, there has been a letdown, a real decline, in the way landscape lighting is being experienced by end users. The worst part is the end users don’t realize they’re missing out until it is too late.
I was on the phone last week with a fellow lighting designer in Texas troubled by a recent experience. He told me about a project he was working on in competition with a competitor who offered landscape lighting.
While his client chose to go with the competitor’s bid, this wasn’t what left my friend troubled. Not long after the competitor installed a lighting system for the project, my friend was driving by and was blown away by how second-rate the competitor’s system turned out.
Putting aside the fact that the competitor’s lighting design didn’t make sense, the quality in the way the system was built and engineered looked like it was the company’s first time doing landscape lighting. The fixtures were crooked, there were exposed wires, and even the transformer was falling over. On top of it all, my friend could see how the placement of the system’s components were creating serious safety hazards.
While this system might meet the needs of the end user for now, even an untrained eye could see that this system was doomed to eventually fail.
My friend wasn’t upset that he lost the project to a competitor, he was upset that the lighting system installed for the project was done so poorly, so lazily, so unprofessionally. From the day it was put in, the system already looked to be in a state that would offend any serious lighting designer.
My Texas friend learned that the company responsible for the lighting system does landscape lighting as a side hustle to help subsidize their income. The body of their actual business is concerned with spraying for mosquitos.
I think it’s reasonable to be confused why a mosquito service would offer lighting when it’s so far removed from their company’s main focus. The only thing that confuses me more is why a client would choose a mosquito service for their landscape lighting needs over a company that specializes in landscape lighting.
The mosquito problem is a serious epidemic in the landscape lighting profession. Mosquito guys are everywhere, and I’m not strictly referring to mosquito treatment services. Service providers who offer landscape lighting outside the industry can all potentially be referred to as mosquito guys.
It’s not just mosquito treatment companies providing subpar lighting to supplement their income. Invisible dog fence companies, deck and fence building companies, pest control services, sprinkler repair services, etc., are proliferate examples.
Call me irrational, but hiring a mosquito service to do landscape lighting sounds conceptually similar to hiring an arborist to do work on your car’s transmission; or having a carpenter come work on your home’s plumbing.
Why trust someone to do work they aren’t familiar with, they aren’t specialized in, or that they only have limited knowledge in. It doesn’t matter how much a mosquito guy reassures me that this isn’t their first lighting project, my project is still going to be another novice’s experiment.
The only thing that makes sense to me about choosing to hire someone to do lighting (who doesn’t actually do lighting) is the price difference between hiring an amateur and a professional. And honestly, even that argument is suspect when you break it all down.
(And don’t worry, I break it down.)
Sometimes a client will go with a company who was able to offer their service at a lesser price point.
The thing I hate about being a landscape lighting designer isn’t losing projects to competitors over price. If the competitor also specializes in landscape lighting then at least I know the end user will be working with a professional.
The thing I hate is seeing all the lighting systems out there that ended up being more of a letdown than a money saver. Like my friend in Texas, the thing that disappoints and frustrates me is seeing how the end user is set up for failure when a company installs lighting as a side hustle.
It isn’t just the quality of the work that is upsetting, it’s the fact that people aren’t actually saving money when they go with a company that does landscape lighting on the side.
The thing people don’t see are the hidden costs that come with choosing to work with a nonprofessional. No, I don’t mean they charge more then what was originally agreed on last second. I mean the client doesn’t realize that they will end up paying more in the long run for a “more affordable” system in the here and now.
When the system begins to fail, who does the end user have to call to come fix their dilapidated lighting system?
Not the mosquito guys. Sure, the client might try calling the original installer. However, it’s likely the side hustle mosquito guy will never respond to any of the calls or messages their client leaves them about the lighting issues they are experiencing.
Lighting isn’t the mosquito guy’s focus; having to go work on old broken lighting systems is a distraction from their main business. Plus, the check cleared two years ago when they originally installed the system. Why would they be interested in going back to try and figure out how to repair the lighting system they installed when, in their mind, it’s not worth the trouble?
As outrageous as that sounds, countless clients have said the whole reason they called us was because the company who originally put in their lighting system would never respond to any of their calls about getting it repaired. Once, someone even told their client to call us for their maintenance and repair needs because they were too busy.
In the end, the client is left calling the professional landscape lighting company to come take a look at their failed system. After all, the professional lighting company’s focus is to help come up with solutions for their client’s outdoor lighting needs.
(See, I told you we’d break it down.)
The professional lighting company truly understands the end user’s frustration because they’ve seen how often clients end up in these unfortunate situations with their side hustled lighting systems. The end user paid good money for the lighting system the mosquito guy installed and they just want to get it working again.
Fixing the immediate problem isn’t going to fix the system’s overall issues. Especially if the system wasn’t installed properly. We once saw wire connections done with plastic bags covered in duct tape during a system evaluation. When fundamentals like having quality wire connections are bypassed with cheap lazy shortcuts, we can tell the system will need a lot more than a quick fix.
There is something you need to know about the professional lighting company: they aren’t interested in inheriting someone else’s installation mistakes (like wire connections held together by plastic bags). But they do want to help people and provide them with a better lighting experience. If you call a lighting professional about your system’s problems, they’ll do an evaluation and let you know what your options are.
The professional lighting company sees how, sadly, there isn’t any value in it for the client if they simply start putting band aids over the bullet holes in their rundown lighting system. Especially when the issues are more fundamental. If they fix one problem this time, in a few months a different problem will need to be fixed.
The end user will have to continuously keep sticking more band aids on more bullet holes to keep the system working. Like some Frankenstein monster that keeps being brought back to life, the system will continuously need to be revived.
Sometimes a bad lighting system will be in such disrepair the lighting designer evaluating it will be honest with the client and let them know, even though it can be repaired, it wouldn’t be advantageous to do so: It will cost the client more money than they are willing to spend. It might be in their best interest to completely start over with a new system.
In some cases, if the fixtures are all of high quality and in good working order, the professional lighting company might suggest giving the system a tune up. This means retrofitting all the halogen lamps with LED, update the timer control, and possibly redo all the wire connections with waterproof connectors. This option, while effective and often a great solution, can cost upwards of nearly a third of what a brand new system might run. At that point it might be better to go with a new system that comes with a lifetime warranty.
Regardless of what the end user chooses to do with their system, it will end up costing them not only money to have repaired, it will leave behind many needless headaches. Over the years, the client will end up spending more money trying to keep their low quality, mosquito guy, side hustled, Frankenstein lighting system alive and working then it probably would if they had just chosen to work with the professional landscape lighting company in the first place.
When I meet with a client and they recognize that their old system is beyond salvaging, they will ask me to design them a new outdoor lighting system with our lifetime warranty. After working alongside my clients to create a new lighting design and their new system installation is all complete, it ends up being more impactful than their old system despite, often, using less fixtures.
What I love about being a landscape lighting designer is seeing my client’s reactions after the lights turn on. Especially the reactions from clients who had their old system replaced. They are the ones who see the real night and day difference between working with a professional landscape lighting design installation company and the mosquito guys.
While doing a night time walkthrough with a client, he made a remark I’ll never forget: “Wow, this turned out so much better than what I expected. I wish we had just done it this way the first time.” I love it when our clients can see the difference in what we provide them and are satisfied with the end results.
I just wish it didn’t have to happen at the expense of my client learning this only after their first system ended up needing to be replaced.
My hope is that, as the internet continues to be the colossal resource for knowledge people turn to for answers, our clients will be able to find the information they need to make informed decisions about who they choose to trust and have work with them on their projects.
I’m not only talking about the outdoor lighting industry. There are lots of mosquito guys out there in other service industries who leave end users with a bad taste in their mouth. Knowledge is the best way my clients can avoid the mistake of paying for a bad experience that could have been a pleasant one from the start. Knowledge and research is the best repellent to keep from being bitten by a mosquito.
To learn more about how to improve your outdoor living space, call us at (801)440-7647 to schedule a free consultation, or feel free to simply fill out a contact form on our website.
Located in Midvale, Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah serves throughout Utah’s residential areas, including Salt Lake City, Park City, Draper, Davis & Utah Counties. Our outdoor lighting portfolio includes projects throughout Utah and beyond.