Types of Landscape Lighting Fixtures Part I: Landscape Lighting Fixture Material
Landscape lighting fixtures can be made of plastic or composite materials, as well as different metal types. The most common types of metals are aluminum, copper, brass, bronze and stainless steel.
Composite landscape lighting fixtures are made from a mixture of plastics and are easily the least expensive fixture type to buy. You can find these at the big box home improvement stores and even places like Sam’s and Costco. While they are much less expensive than professional grade products, I don’t recommend using composite or plastic fixtures unless you are only planning to be in your home for a few years. Or, if you just want your house to be lit immediately and you are ok just putting in something temporarily until you can get better fixtures in place.
Aluminum is less expensive than other metals and can be a good option if you are on a budget. It is still going to be more expensive than composite but not so much more that it is not affordable.
Brass is a great material for landscape lights. It is made primarily from copper and zinc, but cheaper brass fixtures will have additional filler metals that will compromise the alloy. Make sure the fixtures are solid brass as well and not just brass plated, as the metal coating will fall off over time and leave your fixtures susceptible to corrosion.
I like quality brass a lot and I’d say over 70% of my installs are done using this material. Homeowners tend to like the look of it because it blends in very well with mulch and landscape materials and it’s very robust and long lasting. But be wary of cheap brass. There are many manufacturers who use the cheapest brass they can get away will selling and tout that it will last forever when it may not last any longer than premium aluminum with a good powder coating.
Bronze is another great alloy made from copper, tin, zinc and lead. But again, the zinc/tin/lead content should be low. Bronze is incredibly durable and is second only to stainless steel in its resistance to corrosion. The main drawback to bronze is that there aren’t many styles to choose from. Sand-casting bronze is a difficult artisan process, so there aren’t many manufactures who produce it- meaning you won’t have a ton of options. For this reason, it can be expensive. But if you want a fixture that is going to last and you are okay with limited selection, bronze is a terrific option.
Why is fixture material important?
Well, of all the lighting in and on your home your landscape lighting is absolutely going to take the most abuse. It must be outside 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year and must withstand the natural elements. If you are going to spend money on something that has to hold up in those conditions you need to ensure that the material you are selecting is going to be suitable to those environmental factors.