Allen Guenthner, landscape designer and project director

Photo: Exscape Designs

Landscape lighting can be a valuable upsell. But a frequent amount of warranty work led Exscape Designs, headquartered in Novelty, Ohio, to pursue new possibilities when it came to installing path lights. Their solution — incorporating lighting into the surrounding tree canopies and eliminating path lights when possible — not only solves the ongoing warranty issues but can create a unique feel to the space.

Path lights are inherently problematic, says Allen Guenthner, landscape designer and project director for the company. Being so close to ground level, they can get damaged easily. Whether it’s from shoveling snow, falling limbs, mowing, or even just knocking them over when walking, it doesn’t take much to do damage. So, Guenther says this is the first year that they’ve started suggesting other options to replace path lights altogether.

“We’re always looking at ways to hide the light sources to begin with,” he says. “So, we’ve started pitching projects in which we are putting lighting in the canopies of trees and projecting it down onto the path, eliminating the need for path lights. This is beneficial as we have more warranty issues with path lights than any other type of lighting.”

Guenthner says that this is not only a solution to frequent warranty issues but also helps create a “mood” in a way that path lights never could.

“There is a totally different feel to a space that is lighted this way,” Guenthner says. “It’s like the path is awash in moonlight. And as opposed to needing a dozen path lights to light up a path, we might only have three or four fixtures.”

The key, says Guenthner, is the appropriate brightness and positioning of the lighting. When done right, it’s a beautiful look.

“Path lights aren’t necessarily the most attractive option but this is something really beautiful,” he says. “It sets a mood that path lights simply couldn’t achieve.”

Still, Guenthner says not everyone is sold on the idea. For one, it’s more expensive in terms of upfront cost. But Guenthner says that over time, clients are going to reap the benefits of not having to have fixtures frequently replaced.

Of course, the client must also have trees in positions where it can help provide lighting to the path. If they don’t, this could be another reason why this solution won’t work for them.

In terms of selling a job like this, Guenthner says they’ve been most successful by setting up a demo. In other words, rather than trying to explain what a difference tree canopy lighting can make, it’s easier to show clients.

“With a demo, we set it up with the fixtures in the trees so that customers can have the actual feeling of what it was like to have it set up this way rather than path lights,” Guenthner says. “Once they see it, it’s an easier sell.”

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