If you live in coastal areas you will understand the importance of picking your outdoor fixtures carefully, as the salt air can cause havoc with standard grade outdoor fittings, leading to premature rusting and failure. The best outdoor lights for coastal areas will have their housings made of non corrosive materials such as bronze, copper, stainless steel or plastic.
Why is salt air so corrosive?
The issue of corrosion becomes even more important when working with fittings which require a watertight, electric housing – such as lighting. If you are within 50 miles of the coast you will experience elevated corrosion due to the hygroscopic (the attraction of water) action of salt in the air, this results in the formation of a corrosive electrolyte solution which causes havoc with standard grade fittings.
Which materials should the lights be made from?
The recommended materials to have outdoor lights made from in coastal areas is either bronze, copper, stainless steel, or plastic (polycarbonate). The reason why these materials work best is due to their high resistance to corrosion. Painted steel and aluminium will both corrode under the paint and eventually disintegrate.
Ordinary stainless steel will stain so unless the light manufacturer is using grade 316 or 2205 (both quite expensive grades) you will find they will stain and degrade over time.
Bronze is one of the best choices as it produces a superficial oxidation layer (verdigris patina- the black/brown colour you see on statues) which protects the metal from the elements. Beware of bronze plated as they will most likely not be suitable and may degrade quickly.
Copper can be treated with a protective paint/laquer or left as it is – in which case it produces the weather resistant green patina – copper carbonate.
Plastic – polycarbonates are usually used in security lights where function takes precedence over design. This material may not look as attractive as the others but it will perform every bit as good. Lights made from polycarbonate are usually the most competively priced also.
Maintenance of coastal lights
As the materials listed above are very good at withstanding the elements on their own – the only maintenance required will be to wash the housing and glass ever so often with a soap solution to remove built up salt deposits. Take care not to scrub the light housing to much as you could remove the built up patina which may remove the protection the patina naturally provides- in which case you would be doing more harm than good.
Choosing the correct bulb
We have covered the correct type of housing your outdoor light should be in, now we need to decide what type of bulb it should have. There are many bulbs you can choose from- incandescent (standard bulb which has been around since the beginning) halogen, fluorescent, compact fluorescent (CFL), parabolic reflector (PAR), High Intensity Discharge, Xenon and Light Emitting Diode (LED). It is most likely that an outdoor light will be either halogen or LED. In this day and age i can think of no reason why you should specifiy a halogen bulb in your outdoor light. LED lights offer endless advantages to any other bulb- but to name a few – lower running costs, longer lifespan, almost no heat created, more durable, more suitable to enclosed housings, brighter light, better colour choice and they are now comparable in price to any other bulb.
What is IP rating?
IP rating or Ingress Protection rating is a figure given to electric enclosures to standardise how good they are at keeping foreign bodies out of the enclosure – this can be dirt, dust and water.
The IP ratings you should be aware of are as follows..
IP65 dustproof and water jets
IP66 dustproof and stong jets /powerhose bad seas
IP67 dustproof and immersion in water
IP68 dustproof and complete continuous immersion in water
Usually an IP65 or IP66 is sufficient for outdoor waterproof lights IP67 and IP68 would be overkill for outdoor lights unless they we installed on the deck of a fishing boat or in a swimming pool.