Are you trying to decide which type of outdoor lighting fixture to select for your lighting system? It can be overwhelming, but if you want to get the most out of your investment, you’ll want to consider the quality of the material the fixture is made of.
Given the harsh environmental elements these fixtures endure here in Southern California, it’s important to choose a material that can handle the demands of outdoor use.
The most common landscape lighting fixture material options – composite, aluminum, brass, and copper – are outlined below with more information about each along with our personal recommendation.
Made from a mixture of plastics, composite fixtures can offer better structural strength than the lighting sets sold in hardware and big box stores. Composite fixtures are more affordable than comparable metal fixtures but lack the quality. Over a relatively short period, composite fixtures will begin to degrade and break down under the stress of the outdoor elements. This can lead to shortened bulb life and costly fixture replacement.
Aluminum is affordable but typically lower quality. It’s not as durable as other materials, not designed to last for long periods of time , especially with southern California’s salt air, corrosive soils and sand.. It will oxidize, and the paint will fade.
Aluminum doesn’t hold up well around salt and will corrode over time, so it’s not recommended for coastal applications. Powder coating will extend the life of an aluminum fixture, as the paint will seal the aluminum. Aluminum fixtures are highly affected by the sun’s UV rays, and Southern California gets a lot of sun. In just a few years after installation, you can expect to see these fixtures begin to discolor, or depending on their quality, even chip, peel and crumble in your hands.
Made from a mixture of copper and zinc, brass is a hard metal that holds up well in all environments. A high quality brass fixture will last for many years and the good ones have extended warranties. But beware of cheap brass fixtures on the internet—there is a reason they’re inexpensive. We only buy from manufacturers that use the best alloy ratios without junk metal thrown in the mix.
Brass will naturally patina (turn darker) over time when exposed to the elements, but it will not corrode and is a great option for your lighting system, especially in coastal environments. Brass fixtures are more expensive than some of the other metals used, but is the best quality and most durable metal and lasts the longest.
Copper is another great quality option. Like brass, copper will patina in the elements. As it is not quite as solid as brass, some manufacturers will make brass fixtures and coat them with copper so you have the best of both worlds: the longevity of brass and the beauty of copper.
People have been utilizing copper for thousands of years, and for good reason! Copper is used in a wide range of products due to its excellent thermal conductivity, good strength, and resistance to corrosion. Bulbs, especially halogen, will create a bit of heat. Copper fixtures are designed with metals to allow this heat to escape the fixture efficiently. This is important because high heat retention will negatively impact the life of the bulbs being used. The copper exterior keeps moisture out while letting heat escape through the metal itself.
What kind of outdoor lighting fixture material should you use?
At Silver Moon Lighting we prefer to use fixtures made from corrosion resistant materials like copper and brass. Since brass is an alloy made of copper and zinc, these metals are far superior to materials like plastic or low-grade metals used in cheaply made lighting fixtures. After years of trying and testing different types of fixtures, we feel that higher quality materials like copper and brass have proven their value in the long term, time and time again.
Why fixture material quality matters:
With all outdoor lighting, and electrical in general, corrosion is a major concern. Moisture is usually to blame when corrosion is found. Copper does not react with water, but it does slowly react with atmospheric oxygen to form a layer of brown-black copper oxide, which, unlike the rust which forms when iron is exposed to moist air, protects the underlying copper from more extensive corrosion. This is why we use copper and copper alloy fixtures for our installations. Our copper and brass fixtures will turn a slightly darker color as they patina. This patina process will give the fixtures a very natural and subtle finish which will allow them to seamlessly accent your home and landscaping.
High-quality materials last better than others and are resistant to corrosion, leading to fewer headaches later down the road.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss your lighting needs, please feel free to contact us or schedule a free consultation online (www.silvermoonlighting.com or by calling 858-613-3600).
Landscape lighting is what we do. Every day.
We’ve been in the landscape lighting business since 2003. Our team has years of experience creating and installing unique and elegant outdoor lighting designs and providing maintenance and repair services to homes and businesses across the hemisphere. Our award-winning company has received the San Diego chapter of the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) landscape Beautification Awards every year since 2005. Our designers have created award-winning enhancements in Mexico, Hawaii, and the Caribbean, but our focus is serving Southern California.