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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 & Smith

Last month I traveled to The Lighting Summit in Omaha, Neb., to join the crew from McKay Landscape Lighting and their guests—16 landscape lighting professionals from across the country.

Jerry McKay, a member of the LM Editorial Advisory Board, started the Summit last year to create an intimate conference and networking event for lighting professionals. It includes a few speakers, a nighttime tour of McKay lighting projects and even a home-cooked dinner by Jerry’s wife, Cheryl. All in all, it’s an excellent event.

As I looked through my notebook from the Summit, which I’ll write more about in a future issue, I went back to a few comments I highlighted during a talk by Doug Smith. His presentation was supposed to be about marketing, but it was about much more. Smith is executive chairman of Ervin & Smith, a digital marketing agency he founded more than 30 years ago. It’s been named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies and voted one of Omaha’s “Best Places to Work.” Smith is a marketing authority, for sure, but he also has a lot to share about business and leadership.

Here are a few things I found illuminating. I thought they might interest you, too.

Don’t discount. “If you don’t believe in your price, the client senses it,” Smith said, noting he doesn’t
consider himself a pro salesman. Still, he tries to learn about sales whenever he can. For example, he’s a fan of author and speaker Mark Hunter, aka The Sales Hunter. He emphasizes it’s important to scale back a project when a client asks for a lower price. Sometimes, that means walking away. “It’s hard to turn away business, but if the bottom 10 percent of your accounts aren’t profitable, you’re better off letting them go to focus on getting better jobs,” Smith said.

Details matter. Smith referenced the proverb “For want of a nail,” which I’d never heard before:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost, 
for want of a rider the battle was lost, for want of a battle the kingdom was lost, and all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

When Smith explained it, the message was clear. It certainly applies to marketing and branding, but it could extend to profitability, customer service … the list goes on.

Stay strong. “Be a better person than you really are,” Smith said. What he meant was, it’s OK to have a bad day, but you can’t show it because it doesn’t serve your team.

“A few harsh words that aren’t warranted can create hard feelings that last for years,” he said. “You need all these people on your side. You need to be the shining light in your company.”

View the article via here.

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:

  1. Install lights by all exterior doors. Use lights all night.
  2. Install outside light fixtures where bulbs are hard to reach.
  3. Illuminate house numbers for quick emergency response.
  4. Trim shrubs back from doors and windows. Don’t give burglars a place to hide.

OPD suggests adding motion sensors, but we believe that by the time the sensor goes off to alert you of the intruder, they are already too close for comfort. Why not avoid the temptation altogether with security lighting that stays on throughout the night. Chances are that an intruder will think twice about trying to break into your home. In addition, we recommend keeping your security lighting on consistently even when you are out of town – no one will ever know that you are gone and you will be more at ease knowing your home is safe.

How do you know if you should add security lighting? Walk your property at night and look for the dark spots where a potential intruder could hide.  At McKay, we believe that you can have security lighting without the harsh, high powered lights that disturb the neighbors and devalue your property. Our professional designers know how to design an outdoor security lighting system that adds beauty and distinction… while also persuading criminals to “move on down the road.” You can have lovely lights and safer nights, view our Outdoor Security Lighting Gallery.  Our designers are here to help, so if you have a question regarding adding or improving the security lighting to your home, please feel free to contact us directly at or online at our Contact Us page.

To see the Omaha Police Department Residential Burglary Prevention flyer, click

5 Winter Maintenance Tips for Outdoor Lighting

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

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.

1) Keep Lenses Clean: It is important to keep the lenses of your fixtures clean. Minerals deposits, dirt, and debris can completely dim or block the light from a fixture. This is especially true for low sitting ground fixtures. You can clean the fixtures using a non abrasive cloth and a CLR type of cleaner. Sometimes it takes a bit of elbow grease to get them clean. Fixtures may also need cleared off after a big snowstorm if there are drifts. Halogen bulbs will melt most of the snow away. LED bulbs do not output as much heat; this is why they are more efficient. This also means that they will not melt as much snow either.

2) Check for Exposed Wires: The freezing and thawing of the ground can sometimes cause a wire to work its way to the surface. The wires should be reburied before the ground freezes. It is important to inspect the wire before burying. If there is copper wire showing, it will need to be repaired before burying. We recommend contacting us for service if the wire is damaged in any way.

3) Adjust Fixtures: Over time fixtures can be moved out of alignment or damaged from landscaping, snow removal, or wind in the cases of down lights in trees. Periodically we recommend walking through your property and re-aligning any crooked fixtures. When removing snow it is important to take care around fixtures. If you use a company to remove your snow it is important to make them aware of the fixture locations near the drives and walks. It is also possible for you to purchase indicators flags or poles from a local hardware store. The best way to maintain your system is to prevent accidental damages.

4) Check Bulbs: Extreme temperatures can shorten the life of the bulbs. It is important to change a bulb as soon as possible when it burns out. In a low voltage system each bulb draws a small amount of voltage when they are working. As they burn out, the good bulbs nearby receive more voltage. This can shorten their lives. You must also remember that we have less daylight during the winter months. This means that your system will be running longer each night. We recommend utilizing the McKay Annual Service Program. Once per year we change out all of your bulbs and clean all of the lenses. We also make any adjustments or repairs where needed. You can then call us throughout the year if any go out. The cost of the bulbs will be covered under warranty.

5) Check for Common Moisture Related Problems: Ice and snow can also cause issues with the outlets for the system. More specifically, as melting occurs you may find that your GFCI outlet has been tripped. If this happens you will need to push the “reset” button on the outlet. Use caution when working with electricity. Do not stick anything into the sockets. Sometimes the outlet simply needs to be reset and the cover closed properly, or replaced if damaged. If the outlet itself looks too damaged or will not reset, you may need to contact a licensed electrician. Remember, when there is power loss the timer inside of the landscape lighting transformer will need to be reset. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about resetting timers or outlets. With all things electrical, please remember to use caution. Do not attempt any repairs if you are not familiar with the electrical systems. Safety is the number one priority.

Benefits of a Properly Maintained System: A properly maintained system will make your home safer and more beautiful at night. Lighting can aid in preventing potential intruders or vandals. Properly working walkway lighting can also help you to avoid dangerous slips and falls due to ice and snow. Most of these tips presented can be applied to any time of year, not just winter. Any major lighting or electrical issues need to be handled by professionals. Once again, this is why we highly recommend our Annual Service Program. Our customers like knowing that their family is safer because we take care of their lighting systems.

If you would like to schedule a service please contact us at 402.289.3424, email, or visit or Service Request page to make your request there. Signing up for outdoor lighting service has never been easier! Also, if you have any winter maintenance related questions, please feel free to ask in comments section below or contact us directly!

Project Spotlight: Outdoor Lighting Rustic South Dakota Home

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Over the summer 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 called Crestron, 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 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.


Outdoor Fireplace Lighting: Making your Outdoor Living Area Shine at Night

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Outdoor Lighting OmahaAs summer draws to a close, fall evenings in your outdoor living area are beginning to near.  Perhaps one of the focal points of your outdoor living area is a unique outdoor fireplace.  This unique aspect to any outdoor area brings warmth and a gathering point for guests. While a nice fire will give off a decent amount of light, outdoor lighting for fireplaces will add a unique element to your outdoor fireplace.

Since many fireplaces are made from natural stone, McKay often uses uplighting on the outdoor fireplace to create unique shadow effects.  This practice allows light to gently crawl up the fireplace instead of the light overpowering the structure and taking away the effects of a nice fire.

McKay also uses downlighting to light fireplaces.  If trees overhang the fireplace area, downlighting can be used to provide a nice effect on the fireplace.  Not only will downlighting create a great effect on the actual fireplace area, but it will also provide lighting around the fireplace area to keep it safe at night for you, your family and visiting guests.

The most easiest way to install fixtures for the the most effective outdoor fireplace lighting is to plan the installation before construction begins. The lights can be installed and then concrete or pavers are put in after. While this is the cleanest installation method, McKay’s lighting technicians will provide a flawless installation. McKay’s lighting technicians have much experience installing fixtures, and making the finished product look great.  One of the goals of McKay designs is always to make sure that the light looks great at night, yet is not easily seen during the day.

This post only details one unique aspect of lighting – outdoor fireplace lighting. However, the idea of uplighting and downlighting on stone structures  can be applied to a number of different aspects of your outdoor living area. The shadow effects of uplighting will bring any area to life after sunset and downlighting will keep your outdoor living area safe. If you are interested in learning more about outdoor fireplace lighting or other unique lighting ideas for your home, please contact one of McKay’s lighting designers at 402.289.3424 or through our website here.


Unique Outdoor Lighting Ideas: Gazebo Lighting

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Outdoor LightingMcKay Lighting has experience lighting a number of different aspects of a property.  One unique aspect that often appears is gazebo lighting. Gazebos are often an integral part of a property and McKay provides adequate lighting to make sure that it commands attention after the sun has set.

Often, high-powered commercial lighting is used to light a gazebo.  These types of high-voltage lights provide too much light to the structure and can often overpower the gazebo and make it difficult to enjoy the outdoor living area because of glare. With McKay’s gazebo lighting expertise, your gazebo will shine brightly in the night, but instead through the use of low-voltage lighting. This softer lighting will provide your gazebo enough light to look great at night, but will also allow you to enjoy that outdoor living space deeper into the night.

As with many other projects, McKay employs both uplighting and downlighting into its gazebo lighting designs.  Of course, spotlights provide some light from the base of the gazebo, not different than the traditionally high-voltage fixtures that often surround the structure.

However, McKay also employs downlighting into our gazebo lighting projects.  This downlighting comes in two forms.  First, downlighting from any trees near the gazebo lights the top of the structure as well as paths leading to the gazebo. McKay also has installed downlighting from within gazebos.  This kind of lighting provides a soft light to the inside of the structure.  Not only does the structure look great at night, but also makes it much safer for anyone sitting within the gazebo or walking near it.

Installing downlighting within a gazebo commands great attention to detail.  Makind sure that the wire is hidden and that the light is pointed perfectly has been mastered by McKay’s lighting technicians.  You can be sure that the lights within your gazebo are perfectly installed and that they are hidden as much as possible so that you do not have to see the fixture during the day.

If you are interested in learning more about McKay’s unique lighting designs, specifically regarding gazebo lighting, please contact a McKay lighting designer today.  We will work with you to make sure that your outdoor living area both looks great and is very safe. To set up a free consultation, please contact our office at 402.289.3424 or through our website here.

Project Spotlight: Lake Home Lighting

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Lake House Lighting Beaver Lake, NE McKay Landscape Lighting 07 (1)As summer begins, time outside on the patio starts to sound great. If you are lucky enough to have a lake home, time at the lake sounds even better.  McKay Lighting has provided lighting solutions to a number of lake homes both close and far from the Omaha metro.  This project spotlight focuses on a lake home near the Omaha area.  While you may not think of lighting at your vacation home as important, there are a number of important reasons to have a professionally designed project installed at your lake home.

This project includes a number of the important design features that McKay implements specifically for homes on lakes.  These unique lake home lighting designs include high-quality dock lights, sea wall lighting and fire pit lighting among many other unique lighting fixtures. There have been previous posts on both sea wall lighting (here) and fire pit lighting (here).

The picture included in this post shows both sea wall lighting and dock lighting.  This unique project added fixtures underneath the dock in order to create the unique effect of light shining down onto the water. Although not as easily visible, there are also small lights on the corners of the dock that provide a broad range of light to the area. These small fixtures provide the perfect amount of light to keep you safe on the dock while not overpowering the area and allowing you to enjoy a peaceful evening on the dock. The installation of these fixtures is where McKay stands out. Our lighting technicians have worked on a number of docks and have mastered the components that goes into a successful dock lighting installation.

Sea wall lights were another important aspect of this project. These high-quality fixtures were expertly installed around the sea walls of the lake.  These lights once again provide the unique look of water shining on the water and also provide the stellar look of shadows on the rocky sea wall. These unique fixtures are fairly new to McKay and are highly recommended by McKay’s designers. They are made of extremely durable materials, yet almost blend into the rocky wall.

There were a number of other lighting design tactics used in this project. However, the dock lighting and sea wall lighting were the most unique and provide a great example of the difference that lake home lighting by McKay will make.  Even if you do not spend much time at your lake home, adequately lighting it will not only make it look great at night, but will make it safer. If you are interested in learning more about lake home lighting, pleas contact McKay today at 402.289.3424.

Garage Door Lighting: Unique Ways to Light Garage Doors to Add Safety and Curb Appeal

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Soffit Lighting

Garage door lighting may not seem a high priority when creating a landscape lighting design. However, garage doors are often prominent portions of the front of a home.  Adding garage door lighting to your home may be an easy way to add unique curb appeal to your home at night. Instead of high-powered commercial lighting or cheap motion-sensing bright lights, unique garage door lighting ideas from McKay will bring an added dimension of lighting to your home.

The picture included in this post shows garage door lighting with two different design aspects. First, uplights above the garage add a unique look on the dormer windows above the garage.  These lights are designed to add the correct amount of spread up to the windows.  It showcases the windows at night and will bring out unique woodworking around the windows.  The lights are also installed in a way that reduce the glare into the windows, yet makes them really “pop” after the sun has gone down.

The more popular use of downlighting is the soffit lights that are used in the home pictured.  These lights are installed into the house and shine down along the garage door and immediate area around the door. If your home has unique garage doors, these soffit lights will bring out the unique aspects of your doors and will add a tremendous amount of curb appeal to your property. These lights are nearly invisible both during the day and at night.

While the uplighting mentioned above is mostly used as an aesthetic aspect of a lighting design, the soffit downlighting is an important security aspect to any home.  When properly lit, the area will be adequately lit, shining light as you arrive home or leave late in the evening.  The light will also leave your home safer in the case that you accidentally leave the garage door open at night as criminals will be deterred from entering a well-lit area.

If you are interested in learning more about low-voltage lighting for your garage door lighting needs, contact a McKay Lighting designer to learn more about our designs and to learn how to bring added safety and curb appeal to your home.  As always, you can fill out one of our Free Consultation Forms, or you can visit our Galleries Page to learn more about our other kinds of lighting designs.

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402.289.3424    •    866.663.5434 Lovely Lights. Safer Nights.