We’ve officially entered the new year and all the holidays are past us, but winter is only just beginning in the Midwest. Snow is still falling, icicles are still forming, and the temperatures are still COLD. Not only are these weather conditions harsh on us, but it can be brutal on your landscape lighting fixtures. These fixtures are outside 24/7, sitting in the wet snow, with ice building up and melting off them over and over again. This is exactly why the material choice of your landscape lighting fixtures is crucial to the longevity of your whole system. Poor materials can begin rusting after just one winter, which will quickly cause the fixtures to fail. Luckily, there are a couple of clear-cut high quality materials that you should look for in outdoor lighting fixtures. Nevertheless, we will go over all the good and bad materials here in order to give you a full overview of your options.
While they’re becoming less and less common, composite fixtures are unfortunately still on the market. Composite fixtures are blends of multiple materials, typically various cheap plastics, done in an effort to save on production costs. On one hand these fixtures are extremely affordable, but you get what you pay for. Composite materials simply cannot withstand the wear and tear of being outside 24/7 in nearly any climate. If you’re in it for the long haul, metal is the way to go.
Aluminum is next step up in quality from composite fixtures. It’s an abundant silver-colored metal material, and is one of the cheapest metal options for outdoor lighting fixtures. Unfortunately, there’s a reason why this material is so widely available at a nice price point; aluminum is a very weak metal. On top of that, most fixtures made out of aluminum use extremely thin gauges of metal which weakens the fixture even more. Avoid aluminum fixtures whenever possible! However, there are certain situations and applications where aluminum fixtures are the only solution, so you’ve got to be flexible.
Stainless Steel is a great compromise between material quality and financial expense. Similar to aluminum it’s a silver-colored metal material, but it is much stronger and more resistant to corrosion than aluminum. The more chromium used in the stainless steel mixture, the more corrosion-resistant it will be. This is extremely valuable in dynamic climates that experience prolonged exposure to precipitation like rain, snow, etc. Precipitation leads to moisture on fixtures which eventually creates rusting and pitting, so using light fixtures with high corrosion-resistance is key to the long-term health of your outdoor lighting system.
If you want the best of the best and want your system to last year after year, then brass and copper fixtures are the answer. Copper is a base metal and brass is simply an alloy of copper and zinc, so the two materials are closely related in their chemical make-up. Copper appears as a dark-orange color while brass is more of a brighter yellow, but both materials result in a very natural patina as they age. Many people actually prefer the look of aged copper and brass, and they specifically order fixtures with patina-ed materials.
Not only do copper and brass look better than other metal fixtures as they age, but they are stronger as well. These metals aren’t going to be dented after just a week like an aluminum fixture would, and scratches on copper/brass will eventually disappear due to the patina effect. Though it is worth noting that brass tends to be slightly stronger than copper. Therefore, a common practice you’ll see by manufacturers is designing copper/brass hybrid fixtures that use the copper on all the visible pieces for aesthetics, and brass for any interior joints/grooves that will experience more stress.
Whatever material you choose for your outdoor lighting fixtures, we hope this guide helped you make a more informed decision! If you’re still unsure what’s the best option for your property or if you want a design consultation feel free to call us at 952-474-4536.