Light for highlights
Fountain lights are really important in order to display all the beauty and water movement in an architectural fountain. Even though sunrays reflect on the water and create gorgeous sparkles and light effects, in the daylight many features are missing as we cannot highlight the different elements through a proper use of light. So it is during the night when it is possible to enhance all the characteristics of an architectural fountain – the absence of natural light lets us play with different kinds of lights and colors so we can highlight water jets and features. Read More
If during the day natural light prevents us from highlighting the different elements, in the night problems are caused by road and street lights. Not so long ago, public insecurity was the reason for an impressive increase of the number of street lights in towns and villages. Nowadays, in some cases artificial light has become a real problem that we know as light pollution.
In most cases, street and road lights are equipped with sodium stem lamps. These lamps emit an orange-colored light that homogenize colors and hinders architectural fountains lighting. So when designing a fountain’s lighting system there is a series of conditions and variables to be considered: we will only succeed it we manage them properly. A summary of the aspects to be considered is featured below.
When speaking of fountain lights, the goal is clear: the light must make the fountain visible and distinguish it from its background, under natural light or in absence of it. It is also basic to highlight water features and add aesthetic interest to the jet design. The starting premise is that the number of luxes generated by the fountain lighting must be higher than the number of luxes emitted by the road or environmental lighting (whether it is an indoor or outdoor fountain).
In architectural fountain lighting (and artificial lighting in general) we can set a ‘before’ and an ‘after’. The ‘before’ would correspond to what we know as traditional or incandescent lighting, based in two kinds of lamps: PAR 38 and PAR 56. Until recently, 98-99% of the fountains were equipped with lighting systems that used these types of lamps. Nowadays, contemporary lighting is leaving traditional lighting behind thanks to the development of high-performance LED lights.
Types of lighting
In general, we can divide fountain lights systems in two big groups:
- Traditional lighting – Based in incandescence. It is scarcely used today, only to give light to high-rise water jets.
- LED lighting – Most widely used. It can be divided in two types according to color: White and RGBW.
How to choose lighting systems for an architectural fountain
When choosing the type of lighting we want to use to enhance a fountain, the first step is to know which nozzles have been included in its design. Depending on them we will opt for one light type or other. We can choose between PAR 38 and PAR 56 lights, LED or incandescent lighting, and Flot (intensive beam) and Spot (extensive beam) lights. With these options it is possible to illuminate most of the nozzles used in the design of architectural fountains.
Again, when speaking of electronic control system for fountain lighting we find two big groups: traditional systems that allow limited regulation possibilities (soy they are less appropriate) and LED systems. The latter guarantee an absolute control of possible variables – number of ON and OFF switches per unit of time, brightness level and color. In this regard, it should be noted that RGBW LED lighting makes it possible to create every type of light-color to enhance jets and water features. In traditional lighting systems, colors are added by using filters; this results in a significant loss of brightness.
Depending on the water volume to be illuminated, the light distribution in an architectural fountain may significantly vary. The kind of light must always be chosen according to the type of nozzle. For instance, when a nozzle emits an open water jet it is advisable that the lights have a bigger separation between them (so each light beam covers a wider space). On the contrary, if a nozzle emits a narrow water jet it is better to choose light crowns. Anyway, though light crowns are currently very popular they are not the best solution for every case.
In summary, we can say that lighting is the ‘magic touch’ that gives life to water in absence of natural light. Architectural fountain lighting’s success will always depend on a good design, a proper light distribution and the election of high-quality equipment.