American Nurseryman Magazine - Horticulture Magazine and Horticulture Books - The Future of Lighting - May, 2013 - FEATURES

American Nurseryman Magazine - Horticulture Magazine and Horticulture Books - May, 2013

FEATURES

The Future of Lighting

Concentrating solely on high-quality and low-cost LED systems, one company is lighting the landscape contractor's way to savings-and profits.
By Sally Benson

It's a young company with a bright idea - make landscape lighting easy, affordable and profitable. And i-lighting LLC, based in North East, Md., has done just that. Started in 2005 by owner and inventor Scott Holland, i-lighting has experienced enviable returns: According to Sean Ryan, the company's vice president for sales and marketing, 2013's year-to-date sales volume is four times greater than last year. Over the past few years, the company's been able to report 100 percent increases in sales.

"Easy PlugTM technology is the magic behind it," says Ryan. Invented by Holland about a decade ago, the easy-plug concept eliminates the need for cutting, splicing and nutting, which cuts installation time significantly. But more about that later.

A three-pronged approach

What has proved to be the winning combination for this company is its dedication to a three-fold approach to lighting design and installation.

  • LED technology, which saves up to 80 percent of energy costs when compared to standard incandescent lighting
  • DC power suppliers, which convert AC to DC at the 110-volt outlet and reduce the risk of shock hazards, reduce line voltage drops and often do not require permitting
  • i-lighting's proprietary Easy PlugTM installation system, featuring the company's unique Y-connectors

Why LED?

LED lights are considered safer and are longer-lasting than incandescent or halogen types, making them just that much more attractive to contractors and consumers alike. Very little heat is emitted, which translates to a reduced risk of burning a playful child's hand or a curious pet's nose. "Kids don't get burned, and they're great for the environment," Ryan claims. LEDs emit nearly 20 times less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than incandescents, and because they burn cooler than standard bulbs, they attract fewer insects.

Installation of landscape and stair lighting
with i-lighting's Easy PlugT System can
take half the time of a standard job.

Installation of landscape and stair lighting with i-lighting's Easy PlugT System can take half the time of a standard job.

Then there's the growing popularity: "There's a huge market shift happening in LED," Ryan states, "and we're in the middle of it right now. In North America, it's a nearly $2 billion market; by 2016, it's expected to increase by 45 percent. This is the perfect opportunity for contractors to cash in, to be a part of that shift."

Helping clients save 80 percent on their electric bills is a terrific selling point, and Ryan offers contractors another message: "LED lights are rated for 50,000 hours of use or more; that's approximately 17 years worth of use at 8 hours per night. You'd change 42 incandescent bulbs by the time you change one LED bulb." Even so, i-lighting offers a lifetime guarantee on its LED lights.

i-lighting's patented Y-connector, part of its
Easy PlugT System, makes landscaping lighting
installation quick and easy. Simply plug A to
B-no need for cutting, splicing or nutting wires.

i-lighting's patented Y-connector, part of its Easy PlugT System, makes landscaping lighting installation quick and easy. Simply plug A to B-no need for cutting, splicing or nutting wires.

AC to DC

i-lighting's system converts alternating current to direct current at the 110-volt outlet; what's the advantage to that? Switching to DC makes for safer installations by reducing the risk of shock hazard. Installation also can be a bit cheaper (and faster), because in most cases a permit is not required.

But what's attractive to the homeowner is that using direct current results in minimal line voltage drop - lights remain bright no matter how far they're placed from the power source. No more fading into the distance and losing the vista at the back of the garden - or the safety at the far end of the path. Add to that photocell technology that senses ambient light and automatically turns lights on and off, providing homeowners the security and convenience as well as savings.

Masonry lighting features durable metal
housing and i-lighting's 6-inch Easy PlugT "T"
wiring harness.

Masonry lighting features durable metal housing and i-lighting's 6-inch Easy PlugT "T" wiring harness.

Easy PlugTM wiring connections

The company's patented Easy PlugTM System is sold in ready-to-install kits, essentially a plug-and-play approach to landscape lighting. The unique Y-connector, invented by founder Scott Holland, facilitates installation by allowing the contractor to daisy-chain in any direction, and the plug system eliminates the need to cut, splice and nut wires. "There's no polarity," Ryan says. "If they plug together, they work."

Landscape and masonry Y connectors are coated with Tecknol 506 corrosion resistant treatment - the kind that's used on marine vessels - which allows extensions and connectors to be buried without the need for conduit. Extension cables are available in 5-, 10-, 15-, 20-, 25-, 30- and 50-foot lengths; custom lengths also can be ordered.

"With i-lighting, for the contractors, they can go out and offer a path light (system) for less than half of the leading LED brand," Ryan says. "It's a sturdy, incredibly durable product that will take half the installation time."

All of the fixtures, which include path lights, uplights and masonry lights, plus outdoor deck and stair lighting and fence and outdoor structure lighting, come with Y-connectors. The contractor purchases extension cables to fit his or her design. "It's simple," Ryan claims. "Just estimate the number of extensions of specific lengths - or we'll help you with your lighting design."

Consider the savings

LED systems can save money over time when compared to installations that employ either incandescent or halogen bulbs. But i-lighting's Easy PlugTM System is said to save both time and money - and time is money. Installation takes about half the time of a standard LED system, allowing the contractor to move quickly to the next job site. When comparing the energy costs of LED to halogen and incandescent bulbs, the savings with LED are dramatic: i-lighting estimates that typical incandescent and halogen bulbs will cost $109.53 per year to use, while an LED bulb will cost $5.47 per year. Of course, specific utility bills will vary, but it's estimated that residential LED installations use at least 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.

Path and porch lighting provide safety and security as well as highlight a
well-maintained landscape.

Path and porch lighting provide safety and security as well as highlight a well-maintained landscape.
Photos courtesy of i-lighting

Looking ahead

With a sound foundation of significant growth in just a few years, i-lighting is planning a bright future. "We intend to establish a network of dealerships" across the country and perhaps internationally, Ryan asserts. That plan was just made easier to attain with the bestowal of the first Governor's Cup Grant Award in the inaugural InvestMaryland Challenge. The business competition honors innovative, early-stage business services operating in the life sciences and high-tech industries. i-lighting was selected from among hundreds of entrants to receive a $100,000 grant. Says Scott Holland, "This award is testimony to the rewards of effort and perseverance. We are truly committed to our continued growth and expanding our success into new national and international marketplaces."

For i-lighting, it's an opportunity to find more ways to light the landscape. For landscape contractors, saving half your installation time can quickly turn to profit. Looks like a bright future for all.

Sally Benson is editorial director for American Nurseryman; she can be reached at sbenson@mooserivermedia.com. Visit i-lighting at www.i-lightingonline.com.