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Ask McKay: Tips for Getting Started with Outdoor Lighting

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Here at McKay Landscape Lighting we get some frequently asked questions from our current customers, new customers, and sometimes other companies. We thought it would be nice to offer advice and answer questions in a new blog series called, Ask McKay. To kick things off, AJ, our Outdoor Lighting Designer, answers a question we get frequently from customers in the beginning stages of considering adding landscape lighting…

Getting Started with Outdoor Lighting

When it comes to adding outdoor lighting what is essential? Where should I start?

At McKay, we believe that you should start with what is most important to you and your goals for adding outdoor lighting.  The first step is to determine your needs, wants, and concerns. For example, are you looking to increase the safety of your home or is adding curb appeal more important? Do you want to extend the time you spend in your outdoor space? Maybe you like to entertain and want to wow your guests after dark?

We suggest walking around your property after dark taking notes of areas that might need light. Are your doorways well lit? Are there dark areas where an intruder could hide? Do you have outdoor steps that could be lit for safety? Make a list.

From there, depending on your need for security, safety, or aesthetics, move towards whichever one has higher priority and start by lighting key elements on your property. If adding security is your priority, we recommend highlighting the house and entry points. If you are more concerned about safety, highlight pathways, walkways, and especially steps. For aesthetics, large deciduous and ornamental trees make the greatest impact. If you are still not sure where to start, we always recommend to start by adding security lighting to your home, or you can schedule a free consultation with one of our designers to discuss your needs and help you determine the best approach.

The great thing about landscape lighting is that you can always build on your lights by adding more as you need or want. This allows you to start with the essentials and add more later, if needed. This is also great if you plan to add elements to your property like a patio, deck, water feature, or outdoor kitchen later on. We have worked with many homeowners after they have added on to their lighting system, or worked with them to install lights in phases.

If you need help determining what you want to do with your landscape lighting or just want to discuss it with a designer, McKay offers free consultations. We can schedule a time to meet, walk your property with you, discuss your lighting needs and the direction you want to take.  Lighting is all we do, and it is all we have done for more than 20 years. McKay has performed thousands of lighting assignments from coast to coast, and we would be delighted to meet and come up with solutions to your outdoor lighting needs.

If you need advice on your outdoor lighting, please feel free to contact us with your question, send us a message at or submit your question on our Contact Us page.


Lighting on Location: Maui, Hawaii

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

The McKay team has been traveling for outdoor lighting projects for some time now and one of our crews recently made it back from installing landscape lighting for a project on the island of Maui, one of the Hawaiian Islands. Although they were met with some challenges along the way, the team still managed to have a great time and enjoy every minute of Maui. For one of our team’s installers, Keith, this was his first time flying and seeing the ocean. Here is his take on what it was like working in Hawaii for five weeks.

Outdoor Lighting Maui

Outdoor Lighting Hawaii

Landscape Lighting Hawaii

Hawaii…amazing culture….stunning terrain. This is how I feel after installing landscape lighting in Maui for five weeks. I was able to install lighting at one of the most unique properties on the island. Each day we worked amongst the backdrop of untouched ranchland, with an ocean view in front of us. Needless to say, it was a rare experience. Even in winter time, the landscape was filled with lush plants and vibrant colors. The colorful, flowers became striking points of color when lit at night.

Haleakalā Volcanic Crater

Haleakalā Volcanic Crater

We worked long days and weeks near the beginning of the project to ensure that we would be done on schedule. This allowed us to have a few days off here and there to explore the island. There are more activities in Maui than I can count. One day we rented a Corvette and drove to the top of the Haleakalā Volcanic Crater on Maui, pictured above. The scenic drive takes you to the tallest peak of Haleakalā (“house of the sun”), at 10,023 feet. This is something I would highly recommend, the views were amazing, even on an overcast day. We were able to look at a peak on The Big Island and actually see snow on top of the 2 peaks! We all needed jackets or sweatshirts at the top of the crater as the temperature dropped to a refreshing 40 degrees. We hiked for about a mile to reach the crater’s edge. Here we were able to see the mist flow into the crater, and then blast over our heads as it reached our ledge. Visiting the crater is something that I hope to never forget.

This unique property also had its fair share of challenges. Most of the ground was very rocky, more than we have seen elsewhere. The irrigation was set up very differently from what we are used to. This required us to be particularly careful of not causing damage. There were also many different plants that I was unfamiliar with. Luckily, the property manager did an amazing job with answering our questions. We were able to work with him to ensure that we were not causing any damage to this phenomenal property. When we first saw the completed project at night, it was simply amazing! It was challenging and fun figuring out how to light 40-50 foot palm trees. I had never seen trees like this lit, and the results were spectacular. I can personally say that I am proud of the work that we completed there. When faced with challenges, we were able to adapt and overcome to achieve our end goal.

If you have any questions about landscape lighting, feel free to Contact Us or Schedule a FREE Consultation online to discuss your outdoor lighting needs.

View our Residential Lighting Gallery and Vacation Home Gallery.

Our Top 3 Outdoor Lighting Trends for 2015

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Happy Friday everyone! Since we are counting down the days to spring, why not feature some hot trends on our radar! Here are a few things to inspire you for the next couple of days…  

Outdoor Kitchen Lighting

1) LED Lighting 

LED lighting is becoming more and more popular over the years, we see this trend continue as its capabilities expand. LED Tape Lighting is versatile and has a number of different uses: kitchens, steps, bar areas, the list goes on. Plus, it is barely visible during the day and can be used with normal LED warm white light as pictured above or in a variety of different colors.  Learn more about ways to use LED tape lighting here or view our Specialty Lighting Gallery to see other custom made lighting applications.

Outdoor Living Space Lighting

2) Lighting Control Systems

Imagine you are hanging out in your pool or by the fireplace. You want to dim the lights a bit to gaze at the stars and then easily brighten them up again before heading back inside, but you don’t want to trip over anything along the way.  Good news! There are several different types of technology out there that will allow you to do that. For the property pictured above we used a wireless control system that runs separate electrical circuits via iPhone or iPad. This is a great system when you want to have more control and easily turn your lights on and off .  Here, we were able to give the homeowners four different zones: 1) pathlights, 2) uplights and downlights, 3) outdoor kitchen and natural stone (seatwall lights, well lights and column lights), and 4) clubhouse lights. Read more about this project in our Project Spotlight: Rustic South Dakota Home Outdoor Lighting.

Security Lighting Omaha NE

3) Elegant Security Lighting Systems 

Gone are the days of using harsh, high powered lights that disturb the neighbors and devalue your property, when you can have an elegantly designed low-voltage lighting system working to enhance your security system. We feel a well lit property is less likely to have an intruder. Our specifically designed lights will enhance any on-property security cameras by allowing dark areas to come through on the surveillance screen. Learn more about how you can Boost Your Home’s Security with Outdoor Lighting or view our Outdoor Security Lighting gallery.

If you are looking to add some unique flair to your outdoor living area, these are some great lighting ideas. If you have any questions or would like to discuss your lighting needs, you can easily Schedule a FREE Consultation Online, contact us directly at 402.289.3424, or

For more inspiration be sure to check out our Galleries!


How to Reset Your Outdoor Lighting Timer

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

outdoor landscape lighting

It’s time to spring forward. To be on time for your Sunday’s activities, remember to turn your clocks forward one hour on March 8th before going to bed. While you are changing the clocks in your home, don’t forget to reset your outdoor lighting timer too. Here’s how to change your timer in three easy steps. Continue reading “How to Reset Your Outdoor Lighting Timer” »

Landscape Management: The Shining Light

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

This blog post is coming to you from our friends at Landscape Management. Editor, Marisa Palmieri, attended The Lighting Summit, an annual event we host every January that is geared for landscape lighting professionals. She recently wrote an article sharing a few things found illuminating from guest speaker Doug Smith executive chairman of Ervin & SmithContinue reading “Landscape Management: The Shining Light” »

Boost Your Home’s Security with Outdoor Lighting

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

security lighting, seawall lighting, bollard lighting, bollard,

The end of February is upon us and we have been daydreaming about spring lately. With warmer weather comes more time spent outdoors.  If you are anything like me, as soon as it is warm enough I like open all the windows in the house to let in the fresh air. With as many benefits that this offers, keep in mind that it could also increase the risk for a potential break-in. As we start to countdown the days to spring, we wanted to share some bright ideas from Omaha Police Department’s Residential Burglary Prevention flyer with some ways you can increase your home’s security and prevent burglaries from happening: Continue reading “Boost Your Home’s Security with Outdoor Lighting” »

5 Winter Maintenance Tips for Outdoor Lighting

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

Residential Outdoor Lighting

Here are five tips directly from our service team with some ways you can keep your lights shining bright and well maintained all winter long.  Continue reading “5 Winter Maintenance Tips for Outdoor Lighting” »

Project Spotlight: Outdoor Lighting Rustic South Dakota Home

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

The McKay team traveled to South Dakota to install outdoor lighting at a very neat residential home. The homeowner’s goal was to create an old rustic feel by using distressed wood, natural stone, colored and stained concrete, and burnt steel panels. Landscape lighting was very essential as it sets the mood at night while adding safety allowing you to move around the space with all the various different levels and materials used.

To enhance the home’s rustic character, we installed path lights for safe walkways, up lighting, down lighting, well lights, and specialty lighting around the outdoor kitchen and pool grotto.

Outdoor Lighting McKay Landscape Lighting Omaha

Outdoor Fireplace w Pool McKay Landscape Lighting Omaha

To make the fireplace stand out installed well lights in the concrete before it was poured to accent the natural stone features.  When installing lighting to new or existing hardscapes there is some prep work involved that includes working with contractors to core the holes in order for the wire to be completely hidden.

Treehouse Outdoor Lighting South Dakota

For the clubhouse, we installed four strategically placed fixtures two in the tree facing down on the walking bridge and 2 in the clubhouse soffit. This will allow the children to play safely after it starts to get dark and softly accents the clubhouse.

The homeowner wanted to use a newer piece of technology, a wireless control computer system that runs electrical items. This is a great system when you want to have control and easily turn lights on and off by using a remote or your iPhone.  We reconfigured our wires and transformers giving them four different controls: 1) pathlights, 2) uplights and downlights, 3) outdoor kitchen and natural stone (seatwall lights, well lights and column lights), and 4) clubhouse lights.

Outdoor Kitchen McKay Landscape Lighting Omaha

A combination of functional and aesthetic lighting serves multiple purposes. The homeowners and guests can safely get from the pool to the deck while highlighting the stone features of the home with strategically placed fixtures and a pathlight. Seatwall lights accent the stone of the outdoor kitchen. The light on the columns serve a dual purpose accenting the stone while highlighting the step for safely.

The last night on the job, our designer and installation team did a walkthrough with the homeowners to make any necessary adjustments and check for dark areas that might need additional lighting. We meticulously covered their whole system and answered questions. During the walkthrough, they decided to add lighting to the unique stone walls by the grotto.  We compared a copper spot versus a microflood, showing them the difference in light spread between the fixtures and decided to add a couple of each in various locations.

They thanked us and showed us the difference between their backyard with landscape lighting and without landscape lighting. Wow, what a difference! The landscape lighting set the mood and created a great backdrop to the backyard, which is what the goal was from the beginning.  With properly sized and placed lighting, you can create an inviting backyard that will not over power your space like 110 volt electrical fixtures would.

Pool Lighting McKay Landscape Lighting Omaha 02

These homeowners had been planning the backyard of their dreams for years, not knowing their favorite part would be the landscape lighting, which in our opinion is the icing on the cake. With a team of professionals and a great plan, anything is possible.  To request a free design consultation to discuss your outdoor lighting needs visit our Schedule a FREE Consultation page or contact us directly at or 402.289.3424.

McKay Landscape Lighting is celebrating its 21st year of business. We are proud to be a market leader as one of the oldest and most dedicated lighting firms in the Midwest. Based out of Omaha, Nebraska, we serve a 200 mile radius that includes Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Sioux City and Des Moines, Iowa, and Kearney, Nebraska.


Unique Lighting Features: Colored LED Tape Lighting

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Outdoor Colred LED Tape LightingLED landscape lighting has become more and more popular through the past few years and McKay has unveiled a number of unique LED lighting fixtures.  One of the most unique LED lighting applications we have used is this colored LED tape lighting. The pictures in this post show the different looks that can be created with this LED tape lighting.  While many applications using the tape lighting use normal LED white light, this unique tape light can bring a number of different colors to your outdoor living area.

This type of lighting fixture has a number of different potential uses. The picture above shows the colored LED tape lighting installed under an outdoor bar area. It can be installed in a number of different ways including under long benches or even under outdoor stairs. Like other LED products from McKay, an LED bulb does not need to be changed as often as a normal halogen bulb and also uses considerably less energy.  If you are looking to “go green”, this colored LED tape lighting is a great option!

Just like so many other McKay Lighting fixtures, this colored LED tape lighting is installed so that it is barely visible during the day, but clearly seen at night.  In this case, the tape lighting is installed so that it does not hang down and so remains tight against the surface it is installed on.  McKay lighting technicians have had considerable experience installing this type of lighting and will work with a homeowner to make sure that the LED tape lighting stretches an adequate length and that the color suits the outdoor living area.

If you are looking to add a unique flair to your outdoor living area, this colored LED tape lighting is a great option. While the picture in this post includes only one application and two colors for the tape lighting, there are a number of different ways to use the lighting and also a number of different colors that can be used to add another dimension to your outdoor lighting system.

If you are interested in learning more about applications for colored LED tape lighting, please contact McKay today to speak with one of our designers.  We will work with you to determine some unique ways to bring unique life to your outdoor living area while also “going green” and saving on energy costs and maintenance. Please contact us at 402.289.3424 to set up a free consultation to learn more about this new and unique option from McKay.

Fixture Spotlight: Outdoor Gate Lighting

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Deck LightingOne of the most important things that McKay designers consider when providing a new lighting design is safety. Downlighting and lighting around a front door are fairly broad tactics that bring added security to a home. However, one of the more specific designs that has been used recently is outdoor gate lighting. As the picture indicates, installing a fixture right above the gate creates a safer and easier way to enter your backyard.  There has already been a post regarding driveway gate and wall lighting here, but this post focuses more on gates to backyards, pools, etc.

The gate to your backyard is an area that you want to keep well-lit, not only to keep intruders off your property, but also to make it safer for when you or guests are entering/leaving your backyard.  McKay often uses downlighting on these areas to provide a gentle light from a tree above.  However, this design may not provide enough light in some situations. By installing an outdoor gate light directly on your fence, it will provide substantial light around the area to make opening the gate considerably easier.

McKay lighting technicians have considerable experience installing these outdoor gate lights. Our specially designed fixtures are produced in a number of different materials that will match your fence material. And because our fixtures will not always match the color of your fence, we have developed a method to paint our hand-crafted fixtures to perfectly match our fixture color with your fence. McKay designers will work to make sure that the fixture blends in as much as possible with the gate during the day, while providing the perfect amount of light at night.

Outdoor gate lighting is not an easy installation for someone without the experience of numerous lighting installations.  McKay lighting technicians have been specially trained to install these fixtures so that no wire is visible. Also important is making sure that the fixture is installed straight and in a way that it will not move, since it is near a gate that will often open and shut. Keeping these facts in mind, a homeowner can be confident that their installation from McKay will be flawless.

If you are interested in learning more about outdoor gate lighting, contact McKay today.  Also, if you like the look of the fixture posted in the picture above and would be interested in seeing how they would look on your deck railing, please visit this prior post. To set up a free consultation with McKay, please contact us at 402.289.3424.


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