A few projects ago, I was brought on to prep a large deck for an evening wedding party being thrown by some very eco-conscious clients. They were looking to create a magical feeling on the deck but couldn’t quite get the look they wanted. After visiting the location, I realized that there wasn’t all that much that needed to be done to give it that extra something. All it needed was some well-placed lighting. We added some candles, and for the rest of the lighting we used beautiful and earth-friendly LEDs.
These days, more and more of my clients are taking the environmental costs of their materials into account just as much as the looks and the cost. While this sometimes comes with a pretty steep price tag, this is not the case with deck and railing lighting, and it’s all because of the development of LED fixtures (LED is short for light-emitting diodes). LEDs are beautiful and are extremely energy efficient, providing light for years at a dramatically low cost. Let’s take a look at the kind of magic LEDs can bring to your property.
Benefits of LEDs
It took me longer to start using LEDs than some people I know, because I thought of them as being cold and overly bright. I didn’t think they had the soft warmth I loved in incandescent light bulbs. Maybe some LEDs are like that–certainly many of the early ones were–but LEDs now come in all kinds of brightnesses and colors. And that’s just the start. Besides their versatility, there are lots of other good reasons to use LEDs to light your railings:
- Energy Efficiency: LEDs use 75% less energy than regular incandescent lighting and last 25 times longer. The more we adopt LED lighting, the more we’ll all enjoy saving money and energy. The widespread transition to LED fixtures is estimated to generate energy savings on the magnitude of 30 billion dollars per year, or the annual power output of 44 electrical plants. All those energy savings allow you to keep the lights on long into the night without worrying about the power bill.
- Reduced Heat: One of the primary areas of energy savings comes through heat savings. Incandescent lighting loses 90% of its energy to heat, while CFL’s lose 80% of their energy to heat. LED’s are cool to the touch, producing very little heat. While making them more energy efficient, this lack of heat helps people, especially young children, avoid accidental burns, and is gentler on the materials that are in close proximity.
- Directional Lighting: Because incandescent lighting scatters and diffuses so much of its light energy, incandescent light fixtures require some kind of reflective surface to bounce, capture, and direct as much light as possible. LED lighting, on the other hand, is directional, meaning that the light energy is quite focused, creating a tight spotlight of light. LEDs work very well in delineating pathways, using a small amount of energy to deliver a highly efficient result. With that in mind, they are a natural choice for lighting a deck, patio, or a staircase. As well as being a good practical choice, this kind of lighting, when placed well, can go a long way in enhancing the architectural value of a space, creating clean patterns of light that can accentuate whatever geometry is present in the deck railing and the contours of the deck itself.
Common Types of LED Installations
LEDs are now being made that can pretty much replace any style of incandescent, CFL, or fluorescent light fixture on the market. When we’re focusing on lighting the deck and railings, there are two locations where LEDs tend to “shine” the most.
- Post Cap Lights: Railing posts are one of the most natural places to put lights of any kind. They are natural markers of space and natural draws for the eye. Some of the most delightful LED lights out there are fixtures installed underneath post caps, providing a soft light down the side of the post.
- Stair Riser Lights: One of the most practical locations for light fixtures is either set into the stair riser with the light shining out onto the tread or installed in the stair tread itself, adding important visibility to the stairs.
- Railing Lights: This is my absolute favorite place to put LED lights. All of my projects that incorporate LED lights in this way end up creating what look like magical pathways lining the edges of decks and staircases. Most of these types of lighting attach easily onto the underside of the railing, with the wiring stowed in a hollow railing cavity. Since LEDs produce so little heat, you don’t have to worry about burnt hands.
With a small environmental footprint and big savings, LEDs are a natural choice for outdoor lighting along the deck, the patio, and on your railings. One of my favorite systems is the Universal LED Light made by Fortress Railing. Produced in a die cast aluminum, and protected with a premium powder coat, it’s an extremely durable fixture. It comes in four different finishes, and easily mounts under the rail, so instead of being a clunky piece of technology, it’s actually quite discreet, allowing the lighting and the deck to be the main focus. If your project extends beyond lighting, take a look at Fortress’ larger catalog of innovative building products, like decking, fencing, and hardware.