Night Life

Outdoor living spaces are one of the more popular places for homeowners to focus their attention. Undiscovered yards are new hotspots for home entertaining and relaxation. As is the movement toward decks and outdoor kitchens, outdoor lighting is a big part of the outdoor living trend. Consumers are specific in asking for lighting that protects, as well as reflects the beauty of their living space.

With this area of home remodeling taking off, the market potential for remodeler is rising along with it. Showing consumers a total package of outdoor features and options can be the key to getting their business. Having someone offer a complete package including lighting could be their deciding factor on whether to go with a company or chose to go it alone for sub par results.

“Some homeowners tackle lighting on their own with mixed results,” says Thomas Fenig, president of Outdoor Lighting Perspectives franchising. “Professional outdoor lighting is just that; professional. A simple drive by at night illustrates this difference.”

Motivating Factors

According to Fenig, consumers are typically motivated by three factors that relate to the question of focus for their yard: aesthetics, safety and security. As far as aesthetics, consumers want what is likely their single largest personal investment to look outstanding at night. They also want the dimensions and architectural details of their home highlighted.

“The purpose of outdoor lighting is to light up stuff you want to accent to make it pleasing at night more so than during the day,” says Duane McCall, owner of De-Kor by Mile High Balusters. “Consumers are also not as concerned about which composite or wood they are going to use but they are more interested in the accessories they’re going to use.”

Their second motivation is safety because homeowners want steps, walk ways and outdoor living areas well lighted to decrease the chances of fall-related injuries. Lastly, they are looking for security because lighting is perhaps the single greatest deterrent for crimes from vandalism to break-ins says Fenig. “As far as what consumers would like to be doing, the answer is enjoying their new backyard living room.”

Intermatic’s research follows right along with what Outdoor Lighting Perspectives discovered. The motivating factors in homeowners’ decisions on outdoor lighting really come down to enjoying the outdoors. Deciding on what they are looking for not only impacts their new space, but impacts the lighting design.

“The main reason people are looking at outdoor lighting is to beautify their homes and to be able to extend the time they can enjoy the outdoors,” says Nick Jacquez, director of category management and brand development for Intermatic’s Malibu brand. “Safety and security are important to them as well, but those are secondary. First thing they need to think about is their yard and how they want to use it. What do they want to highlight? Are their walkways clear and easy to walk up to?”

It appears that homeowners aren’t making their decisions carelessly either. Although easier to fix and replace than a new countertop, the thought process behind a lighting scheme may be just as intense. Consumers don’t see their outdoor space as a single-use area. They’re always looking to do more.

“Lighting helps set the outdoor mood at night,” says McCall. “The outdoor space might be that special area where wife and husband can come together just to unwind at the end of the day.”

Shifting the Market

“Consumer research clearly demonstrates that billions are being spent on home improvements in general,” says Fenig. “A big trend in the outdoor lighting category is not just lighting the front facade of a home, but focusing on the applications associated with expanded outdoor living areas. People spend more time at home and want to enjoy these new living areas during the day and at night.”

The potential for remodelers in the outdoor lighting market is great. In typical ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ tradition, homeowners are looking for new ways to make their spaces stand out and to incorporate them with a whole house look and feel.

“Outdoor lighting is probably the most cost effective way to add curb appeal to a home,” says Jacquez. “Only about 20 percent of homes have elaborate outdoor lighting. So There is quite a bit of upside potential.”

Residential Offerings

Intermatic has been in the home controls market for 115 years. In the ’60s, they purchased a small outdoor lighting company to build another market for their timers that has become their revered Malibu brand. Today, Intermatic’s Malibu low voltage and solar lights come in a wide variety of styles, finishes and uses and they’ve even expanded into fountains and mosquito traps to help create a whole outdoor system for its customers.

“Low voltage is a great way to light up features of landscaping,” says Jacquez. “Not only for uplighting trees, walls and the house, but also outlining areas you want to use more like the patio and pool. Solar lighting is great too, but it is accent lighting used more for walkways or places you don’t want to run cables.”

De-Kor by Mile High Balusters is also making its mark in residential lighting with a unique product that combines balusters and lighting into one cohesive system. The balusters contained in the railing panel contains a number of lights that are wired directly through the railing itself. These wires are small and inconspicuous and about the size of a single telephone wire. This means no corded mess or need to bury wires running different directions. The potential here for homeowners is that they can use these panels exteriorly and also interiorly in stair railings for a complete integrated home look.

“The tremendous amount of shift for outdoor lighting is from customers,” says McCall. “Homeowners are putting a bigger importance on extending their living areas to the outdoors. The outdoor space has become more sophisticated as people add fireplaces, kitchens, heaters for winter and hot tubs to make it more of a year round addition to the house. Now they want to be able to fully enjoy their time at night too.”

To build on their success and take advantage of the market shift, Mile High Balusters also offers its customers a suite of products that include color and finishing options as well as transformers, in order to complete a whole project. It manufactures a proprietary DC transformer pack for its lighting and with a remote control system; homeowners can control the intensity of their outdoor lighting.

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives offers a variety of products and are unique in that they not only have their own exclusive product lines, but have access to popular brands as well. All of its products work at 12 volts and feature quartz halogen lamps which offer a white, natural light. A key element of its lighting is that it has gone to great efforts in product design and installation to ensure that the light source is not visible, because homeowners don’t want to be staring into harsh lights.

Many lighting companies are getting into the outdoor lighting game or continuing to see the potential in this growing field. RAB Lighting, Vista Professional Outdoor Lighting and the subsidiaries of the JJI Lighting Group are all well versed in outdoor lighting expertise and are a small sampling of other companies in the outdoor lighting market.

Intermatic is currently working to expand the use of LEDs from into the outdoor market more. This includes more styles of lighting that really fit in with an outdoor lifestyle. Intermatic is also exploring ways to fully utilize their transformer power packs to benefit other devices besides lighting and make the outdoors a more universally working system.

“We’ll continue to integrate LEDs into additional projects for both outdoor and indoor lighting tying all aspects of the home together,” says McCall. “We’re also looking into integrating exterior lighting into a whole-house computer control system.”

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives, whose network of dedicated franchise owners totals 74 as of October 2006 expects to add at least 50 new locations in the next five years.

“At the risk of sounding corny, it is very bright,” says Fenig on the future of outdoor residential lighting. “With more and more outdoor living rooms and a greater acceptance of professional outdoor lighting at more demographic levels, the growth will far out pace other categories in the home improvement sector. The trend will be more backyard emphasis.”