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Employee Spotlight: Outdoor Lighting Designer

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

McKay Outdoor Lighting Designer

Meet one of our Outdoor Lighting Designers, Andrew J. Coleman – AJ for short. He has been part of the McKay team since 2012. Fun fact about AJ: he knows how to woodwork and has made several pieces of furniture! Find out more about him and his role at McKay…

Give us a quick rundown on the day in the life of an Outdoor Lighting Designer? 

It varies from day to day, but typically I’ll check in with the guys early in the morning to get them organized and see if they have any questions. Then, I’ll check my email and return any calls. The rest of my day consists of meeting with clients and partners, designing lighting plans, presenting bids, prospecting, and working with the guys on site.

How did you get into design?

I started mowing lawns on my parents acreage, probably around the age of 10, and I always knew that I wanted to do something with my hands. Which lead me to pursue a Degree in Horticulture. While attending college, I realized I had a talent to see things and visually meld them together and an artistry skill set of drawing a plan out.

Where do you get your inspiration?

The structure and landscaping as well as the goals for lighting a property play a integral part in inspiring a design. I’ll drive around at night and look at lighting jobs to observe the impact light has on different materials. I’ve been fortunate to go on business trips to visit other landscape lighting companies across the nation and sharing ideas with other lighting professionals at The Lighting Summit.

What is the important part of landscape lighting that you think everyone should know?

I think the security aspect that comes along with it. Many times, homeowners are mainly looking to add light to beautify their home, which is important and adds value. But after using their system for a while it becomes more of an added sense of security for them. They will tell me afterwards how much a properly designed system has made an impact to enhanced the beauty and security of their home. AND the final walk through, I think that is the most exciting part of the whole process!

What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on? 

Oh boy, that’s tough… If I had to choose just one, it would be the project in South Dakota. If I could, I would make something like that for my backyard. The design came together so nicely with all the different materials our partner used, the natural earth tones, and I had the opportunity to be creative with the lighting design.

Rustic Outdoor Lighting, South Dakota

What is one thing you can’t live without?

My family. There are many other things that are nice to have, but it wouldn’t be the same without being able to share it all with my family.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy working in the yard, gardening, spending time with my kids, movie nights with the family, watching sports like football & baseball and working out at the gym.

What is your favorite part of working at McKay?

The night visits after an install. It’s rewarding to see the design come to life and visually see how it all comes together. Also, the excitement that comes from customers when they love the lighting design. There is a lot of flexibility that Jerry gives to his employees. It’s a family here, we work as a team and yet everybody has their strengths. We share thoughts and ideas and it’s all valued here.

Find out more about AJ on our Meet the Team page or contact him directly at or 402.289.3424.



Landscape Lighting for Your Outdoor Living Space

Friday, May 15th, 2015

At McKay Landscape Lighting, we have noticed that more of our clients are creating outdoor living areas perfect for entertaining and spending more time enjoying the outdoors after the sun goes down. Weather you are using your space for entertaining, relaxation or both, landscape lighting is a key element to making the most of your outdoor space.

According to Houzz, the world’s leading platform for home remodeling and design, Spring Landscaping Survey, more than 4,500 Houzz users are in the process of, or are already planning, a landscape update. 56 percent of homeowners are making updates to improve their yards for entertaining and seven in ten are installing lights to illuminate their hardscapes.

Here are some of our favorite outdoor entertaining spaces to inspire your next outdoor living project…

Outdoor Living Space Omaha NE

Backyard Oasis:

You can vacation in your own backyard with this complete outdoor living oasis. There is everything you need for hours of outdoor activity – a pool, hot tub, fireplace, outdoor kitchen, pergola and much more – making it ideal for entertaining with friends or just enjoying an evening on a leisurely summer day. There were a variety of different lights installed for hours of fun after the sun goes down. View more photos from this project on Houzz.

Lake House Lighting Beaver Lake

Lake House Retreat:

The photo above is from a house on Beaver Lake in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. McKay installed the pathlights around the firepit and walkways, allowing for just the right amount of soft light, to still enjoy the fires glow while roasting s’mores.  View more photos from this project on Houzz.


Pergola Lighting Omaha Nebraska

Pergola Lighting:

To add ambiance to this pergola, down lights were installed at the top of each corner – they are barely visible, camouflaged into the corners. We hide fixtures as much as possible, so that the light seems to “appear” from nowhere. This design helps make this pergola a perfect space for dining outdoors or a cozy evening for two.  View more photos from this project on Houzz.


Patio Lighting Omaha Nebraska

Patio Lighting:

This patio is another one of our favorite outdoor spaces with an outdoor fireplace on the lower patio level, shown here, and a deck on the upper level.  A cozy quiet sitting area to peacefully unwind in the fresh air after a long day cooped up in the busy office. View more photos of this project on Houzz.

Knowing how and what to light outdoors, which fixtures and techniques to use, and how to light for both beauty and security, takes education, expertise, experience and acumen. With more than 20 years experience, McKay Lighting understands the elements of professional design, installation and servicing of outdoor lighting systems. The right outdoor lighting ideas and options will help beautify your space and create the perfect outdoor sanctuary for entertaining, relaxation, or both.

McKay is committed to helping you enhance your landscape and home with outdoor lighting. If you have questions regarding outdoor lighting, please feel free to contact us at or use the form below. See what a Difference McKay makes… in your outdoor living area.


Ask McKay: Will My Plants be Safe During Installation?

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

McKay Landscape Lighting Installation Process

In our previous Ask McKay post we discussed tips for getting started with landscape lighting. For today’s post, I talked to our installation technician, Keith, to help me answer this frequently asked question regarding our the outdoor lighting installation process:

What happens to my plants? Will they get damaged during the installation process?

This is a great question. The short answer is no, you do not have to worry about your plants getting damaged. During the installation process, we put the wire in the ground as delicately as possible. We know that our customers spend a lot of time and resources making their landscapes look beautiful. We want to maintain its beauty during the installation process, which is why we use spade shovels by hand to create a small trench by pushing the blade into the soil 12 to 15 inches and then back and forth to widen it. This results in a trench less than 2 inches wide to let us safely bury the wire. Doing this allows us to put the sod or soil back into place without damaging any of the turf or plants. Placing the wire in by hand allows us to feel what we are touching in the soil. In addition, installing the wire in by hand with the spades also helps us to avoid damaging any irrigation pipes, buried gas and electric lines, electric dog fences, and anything else that is in the ground. Continue reading “Ask McKay: Will My Plants be Safe During Installation?” »

Out and About: AIA Omaha Lunch & Learn

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

McKay Landscape Lighting was recently invited to present over the lunch hour for AIA Omaha, a local society of the American Institute of Architects. Our team worked to develop a lunch and learn presentation that focused on the general overview on the history of landscape lighting, different types of low voltage lighting, the lighting system, and a pictorial overview of landscape lighting projects.

The history of landscape lighting is a pretty interesting one as President Dwight D. Eisenhower contacted Bill Locklin to provide some lighting for an outdoor party. Bill created a lighting effect by using tractor headlights in coffee cans and hooking them up with a 12-volt battery. The installation was such a success, thus Nightscaping®, Locklin’s landscape lighting manufacturing company, was born. Jerry McKay had the opportunity to learn from Bill at a seminar in Kansas City before attending his Nightscaping University in California.

Mckay Lunch and Learn AIA Omaha


During the pictorial overview, pictures from some of our recent outdoor lighting projects were displayed as we discussed the installation and complexity of each. Lighting fixtures were passed around at the same time to help indicate the different types of fixtures and impact that each makes. Some great questions were asked, a few about lighting control systems, how to accommodate for plant growth, and how to install lighting into hardscapes, driveways, and such.

We are very honored and grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time with such a great organization. The McKay team has hosted several Lunch & Learns over the years. As our Outdoor Lighting Designer, AJ explains, “It is something different and it is always exciting to meet new people. For the most part, I think low voltage landscape lighting gets generalized into path lights only when, in reality, outdoor lighting is so much more and can be customized to fit individual needs or uses for the space.”

If your company or organization is interested in learning more about landscape lighting, please feel free to contact us online or directly at 402.289.3424 about setting up a lunch and learn.



Project Spotlight: Tropical Outdoor Lighting in Maui

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

In a previous post, Keith shared what it was like completing a landscape lighting project on a stunning estate in Maui. While the McKay team was out there finishing up the lighting project our Outdoor Lighting Designer, AJ, snapped photos of the final project. Here are a some of the photos and a little bit more details about lighting this tropical oasis.

Maui is a great place for stargazing and for that reason the homeowners wanted to have the capability of turning certain sections of their lights off and then back on when moving around the property. To accomplish this for them, we separated the lights into zones and strategically layered the lighting, all of which are circuited together with a control system called Unique Light Logic.

Vacation Home Lighting

Coming from the Midwest, lighting palm trees is not something we typically do.  There are various different types of unique plants with heavily dense foliage found in Maui, which presented us with some challenges. To get above the plants on the ground we used multiple different telescoping and standard risers. We needed to shoot the light up quite a distance, while keeping the light away from the plants on the ground.

All LED lighting was used on this project to accentuate the lighter green palms with more of a pure white temperature. At McKay, we prefer to use a color temperature that will best compliment the property. LED lighting is more versatile by offering different color temperatures such as pure white, cooler light, or the more traditional warm white.

Water Feature Landscape Lighting Maui

To highlight the beauty of this unique water feature in the front of the house, McKay installed two underwater lights – one at the base, accenting the pond space, and one directly under the falls. We contained the light on the water feature while keeping the light away from the walkway and doorway. Pathlights light the steps leading to the back outdoor living space where uplights shine on the palm trees and pathlights that bathe the pool area.

Palm Tree Landscape Lighting Maui

Lights accentuate this palm tree from the base up.  There is a tree deep in the background (upper left corner of picture) that stands about 2 feet tall, with a flat top canopy covering about 20 feet. It looks similar to an umbrella, therefore it cannot be lit like our traditional trees with one spot at the bottom. To light a tree with this type of breadth we installed spots at different angles in the garden to highlight its canopy.

Palm Tree Landscape Lighting Maui

In this photo, we lit every other palm trunk and used a wider beam to canvas the whole spread and highlight the tops of the palm trees. For the mango trees in the background we installed two up lights at the base to shine on the trunks and highlight the canopy.  Also shown is path lighting along the walkway to the greenhouse, where orchids grow.

Before heading back to Nebraska, the McKay team trained the house manager on how to service and maintain the lighting system then developed a system to reorder parts or bulbs.

We’ll travel to wherever you need us in the United States and give you the same McKay quality guarantee. Whether it’s your primary residence, lake home, seaside retreat, or urban escape, we help you set the mood, make a statement and add distinction…with just the right amount of light.

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

See more of this project on Houzz or in our Vacation Home Gallery.


Signs Your Outdoor Lighting Needs Maintenance

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Grilling season is upon us, I can already smell the barbecues firing up. This means that we will be outside more, especially in the evenings. If you have a landscape lighting system, it’s a great time to have it serviced, before the McKay spring rush hits in a few weeks. Regular outdoor lighting maintenance will ensure the optimum performance out of your lights year after year, and will make sure everything is working properly so you can enjoy your evening outdoors. Our service technician, Keith, shares some signs to know when it’s time to maintenance your outdoor lighting system.

Landscape Lighting Fixture Your Fixtures are Misaligned or Out of Place:

Over time, fixtures get knocked around by pets, kids, mowers, even snow can shift their placement as well as many other culprits. Misaligned fixtures can ruin the intended impact of your lights. It is good to have all of your fixtures straightened and adjusted back to their proper alignments.

You Have Lights that are Dim or Out:

Dim lights could mean that your lenses are dirty; it’s 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.

If you have lights that are out, the bulbs need to be replaced. You will want to make sure that you get the correct bulb and wattage when replacing your lights.   Also, 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 the bulb life.

There are Exposed or Cut Wires:

Sometimes during landscaping or plant removal projects, wires can accidentally get cut or damaged. Plus, the freezing and thawing of the ground during the winter months can sometimes cause a wire to work its way to the surface. If this happens, the wires need to be reburied. 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, and our technicians will find and repair any damage.

It Has Been A While Since Your Lights Were Installed or Serviced….

If you installed your landscape lighting several years ago and never received regular maintenance, it would be beneficial to get your system checked out, especially if you have lights installed around your trees. Simply put, trees grow and landscape changes. This may require adjusting staples to allow slack in areas. Sometimes wire needs to be re-routed on the tree, or just re-stapled. Falling branches or animals can knock the fixtures out of adjustment too.

Performing these simple maintenance items can really help with the longevity of outdoor lighting. We believe that you have better things to do with your time than buying and changing light bulbs or adjusting fixtures. That’s why we offer an Annual Service Program. Once per year, we change out all of your bulbs, ensuring proper bulb wattage and beam spreads, and clean all of the lenses. You can then call us throughout the year if any go out. The cost of the replacement bulbs covered under warranty. We also straighten and adjust all of the fixtures back to their proper alignments, ensure that all timers are reset and adjusted properly, perform different maintenance checks, and make repairs where needed. A simple repair now can save money and hassle down the road. Contact us to find out more about our Annual Service Program or make a Service Request online.

Our customers like knowing that their family is safer because we take care of their lighting systems. As the lead service technician, my highest priority on a service call is to make those lights look and perform as good, if not better, than the day they were installed. That is the attitude that has been instilled into our entire Service Department. We do not leave until those lights are happy!


4 Outdoor Lighting Ideas for Your Deck or Patio

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Warmer weather means more time spent outdoors with friends, a glass of wine or ice-cold beer, and snacks while the young ones try to catch fireflies. You can enhance these long, leisurely evenings on the patio with the right lighting. Here are some outdoor lighting ideas that will help spark your imagination and plan that perfect outdoor living area.

Deck Lighting Ideas

Deck Lighting:

Adding lighting to the posts of your deck can easily extend the time spent outside enjoying the evening while adding safety too. These custom designed fixtures are installed onto prominent posts of the deck and have a relatively large spread. They provide light close to the ground and signal the railing location. At McKay, we have a variety of fixtures to choose from, which easily allows us to match the color and surface of your deck and increase its beauty after dark.

Outdoor Deck Lighting

Bistro Lights:

Also referred to as string lights or globe lights, these versatile café inspired outdoor lights can be added to a deck or patio to create a unique ambiance with soft, glowing lights. Installing a grill light is a nice feature that makes grilling easier and safer after dark.

Outdoor Seatwall Lighting

Outdoor Seat Wall Lights:

Seat wall lights are a beautiful application for patios and can be used on a free standing feature or works well on steps too. This application adds just a splash of light to low profile areas, highlights natural stone, and the light allows the feature to be easily seen in the dark – helpful if you have guests that are unfamiliar with your property.

LED Tape Lighting

Stair Lighting:

This small touch adds ambiance and prevents falls. There are several ways to add lighting to the stairs of your deck or patio. In the photo above we used LED tape light on the stairs and railings, but you can also use seat wall lighting as mentioned above. McKay tries to hide fixtures as much as possible, so that the light seems to “appear” from nowhere.

Our team of outdoor lighting experts will work with you to create the perfect custom designed outdoor lighting plan for your deck or patio. We have experience with a variety of different types of outdoor living areas, from smaller decks with a simple table and chairs to large patios with large pergolas and many seating areas; and from traditional outdoor deck lighting to some of our more unique designs and fixtures. Outdoor lighting can be custom designed to create the perfect outdoor living area for the many ways you live your life.Download Your Free Idea Book

Schedule a FREE consultation online with one of our designers to discuss your outdoor lighting needs!


Adding Layers of Landscape Lighting to Your Home

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Last week we talked about getting started with landscape lighting and how you can always add more layers of lighting as you need or want later on. This week we wanted to share a story of one of our clients who did just that.

He and his wife had been discussing if they wanted to stay in their house or move. After much consideration they decided to stay in their house for the long haul. Since they were planning to stay in their home, he wanted to add more layers of light.

He met with Jerry, and asked him how he would light his property if it were his own.  They walked the property together and talked about certain areas and why they would need light, how each area gets used, or if it could be a potential threat.  This allowed us to add lighting based on his needs and our experience, with a security thought in mind, while not spoiling the aesthetics of the property.

Outdoor Security Lighting Omaha NE

Keeping security lighting in mind as there had been a theft previously, we added down lights in the backyard and expanded the light to the perimeter of the property, deep into the trees, and on both sides of the house. There were some lights in their window wells controlled with a switch within the house, and we replaced them with low voltage lights allowing them to turn on automatically with the rest of the system each night.

The first time around, we installed the basics, lighting a few trees and adding path lights. This time he was looking to add more security and aesthetic lighting. Therefore, we expanded the light in the trees and around the perimeter of the property, up lit the house, added lamp posts around the patio, and down lit the driveway.

McKay Lighting originally installed the landscape lighting around their home and maintained their system with regular service over the years.  At McKay, we believe that an integral part of why our clients continue to come back to us to add layers of lighting is because of our continuing superior customer service, both in the field and in the office. As their lifestyles change, so does the way they live their lives at home. One outdoor remodeling project can domino into another and our clients know they can depend on McKay to meet their every outdoor lighting need as it changes along the way. We build a rapport and with that comes earned their trust. And because of that trust, our clients always know that McKay will keep their lights burning brightly every night.

If you need advice on your outdoor lighting, please feel free to Contact Us Online or send us a message at

View our galleries for outdoor lighting ideas.


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.

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402.289.3424    •    866.663.5434 Lovely Lights. Safer Nights.