by Lani Furbank
Finding an honest contractor is one of the top concerns for homeowners starting a new home improvement or design project. We often meet clients who have had poor contractor experiences prior to contacting us; they’ve encountered second-rate lighting contractors who simply didn’t deliver or meet their expectations.
When deciding whether or not to work with a lighting contractor, you want to make sure he knows the craft and isn’t going to take shortcuts, such as opting for cheap, inferior materials or eliminating important steps to cut corners. Subpar contractors will derail your home improvement plans faster than you can flip a light switch!
The normal homeowner isn’t familiar with the technical details of lighting, so we wanted to share these common lies that are often told by untrained contractors. It’s important to be aware of these so you can weed out the phonies and hire a reliable professional instead.
Ten Lies from So-Called Lighting Experts
1. “This drop-in bulb is designed for an enclosed fixture.”
Not all light bulbs are safe to use in enclosed fixtures. A true lighting professional knows that there are a number of factors to consider before choosing the right bulb, but many companies are eager to go with a common, inexpensive bulb – even if it’s not the right bulb for the job. It’s important to do a little bit of research so you know the kind of bulb your lighting contractor is trying to sell you. Know the facts so you can make an educated decision.
2. “Our lighting system is ‘set it and forget it.’ No maintenance is needed.”
In a perfect world, we all hope that our lighting systems will run forever without needing maintenance. In reality, there can be hiccups and malfunctions, no matter how great the equipment or the installation team is. If a contractor isn’t up front about their maintenance and repair schedule or availability, there’s a good chance that you’ll have trouble reaching them when you need service.
3. “Aluminum fixtures are durable.”
Aluminum just doesn’t stand up to the outdoor elements, no matter what manufacturers say. At Enlightened Lighting, we prefer fixtures constructed from cast brass, which are much more durable, and have a more polished look.
4. “This bulb should be equivalent to a 50-watt halogen.”
Not all light bulbs are created equal. Most MR-16 LED bulbs aren’t technologically advanced enough to be able to match the light output of a 50-watt halogen. Contractors who really understand the technology available can help you pick the light bulb that is best suited for your home.
5. “This bulb is about 500 lumens.”
While this may not be an outright lie, it points to laziness on the part of many lighting contractors who merely estimate lumen output. Estimating lumen output is very simple, but it doesn’t give the customer complete accuracy. You want your contractor to give you official figures that are proven to be correct.
6. “A corn cob LED path light bulb is a great option.”
Corn cob LED path lights (with multiple columns) are commonplace and inexpensive, but they’re not the best option on the market. Because of the low cost, contractors are eager to recommend them. However, these lights emit low levels of light, and are prone to failure because it’s very likely that individual columns will burn out, rendering the whole light useless.
7. “This fixture may look like it was made from plumbing components found at Home Depot, but it really is the best path light in the industry.”
There are fixtures on the market that are made out of PVC pipe, but these fixtures are outdated and are cheaply made. They are neither aesthetically pleasing nor built to last. No professional contractor should ever condone the use of these fixtures, but again, because they are inexpensive, these plumbing parts often end up being used in unsuspecting homeowners’ lighting systems.
8. “We use well lights because they produce the best light.”
Well lights don’t produce the best light output, but they are some of the cheapest light fixtures available! If your contractor is pushing well lights, it’s probably because of the low cost, not the quality.
9. “We do not bury the wire so it is easier for you to find it later when you are digging.”
Burying the wire — and calling Miss Utility — is a crucial part of finishing a lighting installation job. Leaving wires exposed is not only a hazard, but an eyesore. Often, laziness is a motivating factor behind not burying wires. Hire a contractor who is willing to do the whole job, not just part of it.
10. “I am an expert in lighting.”
These days, the word ‘expert’ is thrown around arbitrarily. However, in the lighting business, there are certifications, membership organizations, and extensive trainings that can prove someone’s expertise in the trade. Many contractors claim to be an expert after completing a simple, three-day training course with a manufacturer or franchisor. These training courses don’t even begin to cover the wealth of information that is required to be a great lighting contractor. Before choosing your lighting designer, ask how many hours he has spent in the field, as well as what certifications and memberships he holds.
Educating yourself about the complexities of lighting can be tricky. Luckily, there are plenty of trained professionals who can beautify your home the right way. Knowing a few insider secrets will help you stay away from shady contractors and avoid common outdoor lighting mistakes.
At Enlightened Lighting, we have years of experience and a long list of satisfied customers. Contact us today to get started on your own outdoor lighting project!