Eighteen participants from 12 companies gathered at the home of Jim and Pam Moreau in Nashua on an October afternoon to attend the first-of-its-kind hands-on NHLA skills development class in landscape lighting installation.
To start the afternoon, Eric Mitchell, Landscape Lighting Specialist from Northeast Lighting Supply, a division of Northeast Nursery, Inc., introduced the group to concepts of low voltage landscape lighting installation. Eric says that the installer’s job is to turn ideas into reality, meeting the client’s and designer’s objectives and visions with fixtures and zone controls. Participants learned about using light to draw the eye through the landscape, how to choose the best size and number of fixtures to achieve the desired effect, and how to work with shadows to add to the design.
Eric shared many useful tips to aid in installation and maintenance, like leaving at least two feet of extra wire at each fixture to allow for future modifications, and using tree mounts that allow for several years of tree growth. He discussed use of up-lights versus down-lights and the uses for each and he talked about using lenses to achieve different effects. Eric shared practical tips that will save participants from costly or frustrating on-the-job challenges, such as keeping fingerprints off new copper fixtures, avoiding aluminum fixtures that won’t hold up in New England weather, and plugging access holes in transformers to keep wasps from moving in.
Jason Andrews, of Phil Gallo and Associates, LLC, introduced the group to the transformer and controller technologies that are available. He shared practical advice for connecting zone controls to the home’s wifi and troubleshooting common obstacles in connectivity. Participants learned about the relationships between wire gauge, wattage, voltage, and distance, and how to design a system to meet the electrical demands.
In addition to sharing the ‘how-to’ of lighting installation, Eric and Jason talked a lot about the business side of landscape lighting, including how to estimate and plan jobs efficiently, ways of inspiring clients to invest in permanent lighting to get the maximum use and enjoyment from theirs landscape, and how to foster lasting relationships with clients.
Participants worked hands-on to unpack and prepare lighting components for installation on the property. The group built components, ran wiring, installed fixtures, and set up the new transformers to control the zone lighting. Participants came to the class with varying degrees of experience with installation of landscape lighting which created a collaborative dynamic with individuals helping each other through the process and sharing expertise and ideas.
Pam Moreau treated participants to a family-style dinner of lasagna and salad while waiting for the sun to set. With nightfall, the lights were turned on and the team made adjustments to achieve the desired effects with trees and other features lit with up-lights, down-lights, and path lights.
This hands-on skills development format proved to be a successful model with participants leaving with skills and confidence to pursue incorporation of lighting installation in their services. The NHLA education committee invites you to get in touch with us with your ideas for future hands-on skills development classes. If you have ideas for topics, or if there are topics you would like to teach, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org, NHLA Education Committee Coordinator or email@example.com, NHLA Education Committee Chair.
— Text and photos by Amy Papineau, NHLA Education Coordinator; Landscape & Greenhouse Horticulture Field Specialist, UNH Extension