BlueHopper is proud to have featured in an online article written by one of the stalwarts in the outdoor lighting industry, Paul Hayden who talks about everything from heavy networking to the aesthetics of the RGBW outdoor lighting world. This article focuses on the most important parameters required in outdoor lighting systems and how the most popular manufacturers in the USA are doing in their own respect with these parameters. It’s kind of Paul Hayden to have acknowledged BlueHopper’s permanent roofline lighting and landscape lighting with parameters that have set an industry standard and serve as a benchmark for all players in the market. Here are the key parameters:
Smart permanent roofline and landscape lighting is becoming a popular trend for homeowners and businesses alike. This type of lighting is installed on the roofline, shining up at the walls, trees, and other features of a property to celebrate holidays, special occasions, causes or even just to add some ambiance to your outdoor space. This type of lighting can help to improve the visibility of your business, attract customers, and create a welcoming atmosphere. There are many benefits to using permanent roofline lighting.
Long-Term ROI: Permanent roofline lighting can give an ROI of 3 or 4 years as it’s a one-time installation. If you temporarily install lights for just 3 to 4 holiday seasons, that is the same cost as one permanent install you can use for any holiday, special event, or any other reason for years to come.
Increases Curb Appeal: It can help to increase curb appeal, add festive cheer, and create a welcoming atmosphere for your property all year round
Boosts Business Traffic: It’s about messaging to the community and engaging them. Maybe purple roofline lights on the local sports bar mean 50 cent wings, or a specific color for happy hour. One such client displays game day colors on the lights so patrons know what game they have on the huge TV. All of these instances are proven methods to drive foot traffic and sales.
Enhances Safety: Permanent roofline lighting can help to improve safety by making your property more alive and visible at night. This can be especially important for businesses where people come and go late into the night.
Cost Savings: Reduces the expense of annual holiday installations, providing a more economical solution over time.
With holiday lighting shifting towards permanent lighting, there is no end to the number of manufacturers popping up. Is one better than another? We spent about 3 months researching and comparing various lighting manufacturers which provide permanent roofline lighting and chose 6 companies to compare with about 50 parameters, to help you understand and choose the suitable solution for your property.
Product features, cost, scale of products, warranty, maintenance, and ability of future scale and enhancements were the critical criteria when comparing the six options.
The detailed comparison table is provided at the end, however, here is our quick summary table:
We also conducted a thorough study on various factors pertaining to installation in a manner that reduces maintenance hassles. Here are the key takeaways from our study:
Cost Range: $22 to $35 per foot, varies by region and complexity.
Installation Factors: The need for a lift, high roof peaks, and complex angles or curves affect labor and equipment costs.
Geographic Impact: Geographic areas also factor into the cost. Labor and cost of living rates for an area swing the pricing. For example, a similar property in San Francisco or New York would be $5 to $10 higher per foot while in Atlanta or Dallas; while a two-level roof property would be about $5 per foot higher than the similar feet but single roof roofline project (multi-roof property needs a boom lift or time-consuming with long ladders). With that, we recommend the property owner should plan for annual maintenance for an additional cost and choose the installer carefully. Make sure your installer knows the product but also has the proper experience and insurance.
Two-Level Roofs: Expect about $5 per foot more due to the need for specialized equipment like a boom lift or longer ladders.
Annual Maintenance: Plan for additional costs; choose an installer with experience and proper insurance.
Average Residential Project: About 200 feet of roofline, costing around $4,400 to $7,000.
Average Commercial Project: Approximately 400 feet of roofline, costing between $8,000 to $14,000.
System Choice: Logic dictates that if a system is easier to install, it is easier to maintain, and thus choosing a system that one can install quickly and has flexibility is a wise decision.
We would now like to list key parameters and their importance for decision-making. To be honest, we created the parameters as we learned about various system offerings and considered if they really add value for the user. Not all the systems contain the same features, and some data was not able to be found on certain topics. Makes sense, as companies want to play to their strengths and downplay other aspects. But we did our best to find the hidden details.
ROI and Durability Parameters
Reliable control technology: Reliability is a good thing. But what does that look like in this lighting world? Systems that use a 4 wire redundant system are inherently more reliable as a whole. If one pixel has an issue, it won’t affect all of them after it. Controllers with the scheduler onboard are also inherently more reliable when it comes to the reliability of lights triggering at the right times. Systems where the schedule lives on the internet are less reliable.
Weatherproof rating: The IP rating is a whole thing. It’s a certain amount of water, at a certain pressure, and a whole bunch of specifics. But most outdoor products are going to adhere to the correct ratings for the environments.
UV protection: UV is the enemy of anything outside for long periods of time, Paul’s pastry butt for one. But the strings and the lights themselves can degrade, discolor and crack. Cracks lead to water and water leads to darkness and frustration.
Rust / Corrosion Proof: A lot like UV, you want your permanent lights to look nice since they are stuck to the front of the building. Materials like ABS plastic and aluminum won’t rust, but aluminum has some corrosion over time.
Warranty aspects: This is a hotly contested topic. Some warranties are straightforward, others have lots of fine print. We encourage you to read the terms and conditions carefully. Some companies advertise a lifetime warranty, but it’s really prorated based on usage. Is that really a lifetime warranty? Typically the average seems to be in the 3-5 year range.
UL/ETL Listing and UL Standard Low Voltage System: There is some discussion on this topic as well. UL and ETL are testing companies that test government regulations to ensure the safety of an electrical product. Some systems are UL, some are not. Currently, there is no requirement that a low voltage system be UL or ETL listed, however, we believe some local governments might dictate regulation where permanent lighting is concerned especially as more and more low-cost, smaller company products are offered.
Maintenance Requirements: Check around on various forums and see which companies constantly come up with contractor callbacks.
LEDs lifetime hours: Let’s get into this term that is widely used in the industry. You will see LEDs rated for a number of hours, commonly around 50,000. That doesn’t mean they die after 50,000 hours of use, that is the time the LED chip manufacturer believes it will take the LEDs to slowly dim down by 20%. It is not a warranty, nobody is guaranteeing they last that long. It’s like a car, 3 year/36000-mile warranty, will your car make it to 100,000 miles? Maybe, but it’s not guaranteed. We are not a fan of this being used as a deciding factor. We believe it’s a misleading parameter used widely in the LED industry; warranty and maintenance aspects of the entire system are what the user should care about.
Say your LEDs are rated for 50,000 hours. That’s 8 hours a night for 17 years. Do you have any electronic device let alone lighting that is 17 years old? In our experience, outdoor lighting generally doesn’t last over 10 years unless it is made of brass, industrial plastic (ABS or better), and UV-protected material like acrylic. Aluminum or other metal, especially if not painted or anodized for corrosion protection will degrade over time. The worst is salt spray environments however other environments with significant weather changes from rain to hot sun to snow throughout the year will take a toll. Most of these products will show corrosion within 5 years.
Ease Of Use Parameters:
Scheduling with or without the Internet: Different products handle schedules differently and rely a lot on the Internet to trigger the schedule, whereas others hold the schedule locally. Which is better depends on, well, the internet. If it’s a remote location like an outer building or a rural area with unstable internet it might swap your decision.
Multi-User access including limited or as an admin: For residential installs, it’s not as big of a deal, however for commercial properties having the ability to grant and remove employee access to the lights is important.
Control range: How far from your lights can you be? WiFi can be tricky, prone to interference, and more difficult to get attached to a building WiFi system. For outdoor lighting, we do not consider Wi-Fi as a suitable option, wired control is expensive to install and maintain, while cellular brings monthly recurring costs. We see a hybrid such as Bluetooth, especially a long-range and meshing system, as a more reliable option. It allows easier commissioning, control, and troubleshooting from the installer’s point of view which indirectly benefits users.
Reliable controls: Pretty self-explanatory, you push the button the lights need to turn on.
Multizone or multi-property controlling ability: Again more of a commercial or multi-property scenario. But one app and one login for all your properties, yet be able to schedule and control them independently or together.
Year-round scheduling: Lights running schedules independent of cloud connection are vital for outdoor control aspects as we still live in a world of no smooth and 100% reliable wireless connectivity.
Shows/Effects and scenes: Shows, effects, scenes, lights that go blinky, whatever you want to call them, you want options and flexible ones. Lots of built-in effects you can customize, although we will warn you, that static repeating color effects like 3 red bulbs, 3 white, and 3 blue will be the most commonly used feature.
Holiday-specific light shows: Some products offer suggestions for certain holidays and help remind you when those holidays are.
AI Integrations: The lighting system can integrate into other smart home products such as Ring, ADT, Alexa, Google Home, Weather alerts, and Sports and News Feeds. In a connected world, it just makes sense to include integration into other platforms and products. Does the world need a roofline that changes colors when you push the doorbell? Maybe, maybe not, but users will care about outlook lights turning ON for two minutes when the security camera detects a motion at odd times, it is just an example of what integrating 2 systems together can do. Some products will be able to automatically change colors based on a vocal request, the weather, or a sports game score.
Know that outdoor lighting is evolving rapidly and thus we recommend choosing a system that is upgrading features constantly. We see integration with other outdoor or indoor Internet of Things devices would be the right choice. It ensures you get a future-proof system that keeps adding value to your expenses.
Standard Warm white and Colors: There are two ways LEDs can make warm white. One is to have a single color WW led along with the Red, Green, and blue that typically make up a pixel. The second is to mix the warm white from the Red, Green, and blue. In the market, there are only a couple of companies that use a 4-wire redundant data system that increases reliability in the case of a pixel issue but is only available in an RGB chip as of today. However the warm mixed whites are pretty good, and the ability to set lights with various whites via the app is important as well.
Easy to Add and Retrieve Schedules: This is a critical feature if you are not a fan of setting the lighting programs for every holiday or cause. Schedule and forgetting and changing only when required for years to come could save a ton of time, an important part of excellent user experience.
Custom Programs: Businesses and homeowners would like to add custom programs to celebrate special local events or show solidarity for specific causes. We have varying definitions of custom programs. I usually refer to an effect as “user customizable” if a color or something about the effect like a speed is able to be changed within the architecture of the app. To our knowledge, no company offers a complete creation of an effect.
The detailed comparison table:
Remote Control: The ability to control and program remotely is an important aspect, especially for businesses as the admin doesn’t have to be on-site while using the lights for various purposes.
Scalability Parameters: If you have a large or multi-unit commercial or residential property, you might need to think about potential future upgrades. It can include expanding the same system across the property or adding different product mixes such as landscape lighting, wall and tree washers, additional Christmas/holiday decorations, pool lighting, lighting for patio and outdoor structures, etc. Furthermore, when you plan to do so, you would still want to maintain the ease of use, ability to give control access to others, ability to control and troubleshoot remotely, and easier maintenance.
Product family: Some companies are just roofing, but others have figured out that there is a whole living space outdoors, and a blank canvas to paint with color. MR16 landscaping lights, Patio Bistro lights, floods, wall washes, and other decorative lights and controllers are options in some product lines. The bonus is having all those lights under one app, one control umbrella. One place to set colors, patterns, and scenes and one schedule for it all.
Number of Properties or Overall Property Area: The companies that excel in the commercial space have the ability to have different properties and different schedules, but all are available on one login.
Multi-Zone Control: The ability to create either physical or virtual zones. Maybe you have a roof peak you want a different color or one output on a controller to play a different effect, those would be examples of multiple control zones.
Multi-User Control: Never give your kids control of the lights. It never goes well, ask Paul how he knows. However if your spouse wants it on their phone…but in all seriousness, it is a topic of discussion especially in a commercial environment. In restaurants for example, if there are 3 different evening managers, wouldn’t you want all of them to have the ability to change the schedule or the colors? What if one person leaves? Can’t have angry employees in control of your lights. Some systems have the ability to manage multiple accounts with different permission levels, so you can just yank their permissions and grant them to the new guy.
Daytime Appearance: This is a big one. Do you mind lights protruding from gutters, and aluminum channels hanging down? The visibility of the product in the daylight should be considered, the less visible the better.
Night-Time Appearance: You would think this would be an obvious one, but it’s not. Some systems are designed to face down, the result is more of a flood/wall wash type look. Others are designed to replicate the look of a traditional C9 holiday light.
Here’s the detailed comparison table:
Products Range Parameters:
We see BlueHopper as an excellent overall system for commercial as well as residential properties. It provides a wide product range with easier control due to the long-range Bluetooth mesh system. In a space that is all about innovation, BlueHopper was awarded the 2023 Most Innovative Outdoor Lighting award by Lightfair International. Lightfair is a highly respected organization in the lighting industry with the largest annual lighting exhibition where all large to small lighting companies have been participating for decades, the award confirms our findings as well.
It has various integrations, various features, ease of use, and a wide range of products, is relatively affordable, and has a decent warranty. BlueHopper’s outdoor lighting solution is the most suited solution for large commercial and municipal properties given its multi-user and multi-zone controls aspects.
If you’re on a budget and looking for a DIY solution Oelo, however, DIY in this space is time-consuming, Some cheaper solutions lack proper controls and lots of features, and proper planning is required, any mistakes can lead to more time and resources and you are on your own for the maintenance. In case you don’t have a BlueHopper installer in your region, Gemstone followed by Jellyfish are preferred options depending on the overall appearance you are looking for.
Here is a comparison of different systems for large residential or commercial properties based on the factors discussed above:
To summarize, permanent outdoor lighting is a great way to add festive cheer and increase ROI for commercial properties and residential homes when it comes to exterior lighting. With careful planning and execution, permanent outdoor lighting can be a great way to improve your property’s curb appeal, show your customers that you care about the community, and save money on your energy bills and every-year installations.
Here are some additional tips for choosing the right permanent roofline lighting system:
- Consider your budget and do the ROI analysis.
- Consider an installer with reputation and maintenance offerings.
- Consider the system’s current and future potential features with respect to your future plans and the property type.