Here is Sarasota we are classified as a coastal environment because of our proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. This means we have a greater amount of salt in the air. What we also have, more so than most coastal environments, is heat. Ask any local and they can relate to you the blast furnace levels of heat we Sarasotans experience in the summer. This heat evaporates the water that rests on outdoor surfaces, including outdoor lighting, from rain and morning dew and leaves the solids including a lot of salt. The solids are then baked onto the surface from the heat and the cycle happens again each day. This effect is amplified the closer one gets to the water. That is why Florida is considered the harshest environment in the U.S. for outdoor lighting.
Here are a couple pointers to help choose outdoor fixtures that will maximize your investment by increasing the life of the finish and thereby the light fixture itself.
The most important factor, which seems obvious, is to buy a fixture made of a material best suited for this environment. That means Brass, Wrought Iron or Copper. These metals are time tested having been used for centuries. This is the best option if you live right on the water. The problem is they are pricey and the styles of fixtures tend, though not always, to be more traditional coach light, lantern styles. There are also composite materials that are non-metallic that work great and are much less expensive. They will never corrode but can fade in direct sunlight.
Second is maintenance. We suggest quarterly that you wipe down your fixtures and apply a spray on Carnauba wax or you can take it up a notch and head to your local boating store and purchase a bottle of CRC Formula 656. This is a silicone based spray used to protect marine equipment. It displaces the water and doesn’t allow it to settle on fixtures thus preventing the evaporation cycle. This is extra important when dealing with fixtures made of Cast Aluminum which is the most common material used for residential outdoor lighting because of cost and style selection. In our experience people feel like outdoor lighting should not be on their list of maintenance items. After all don’t we all have enough to maintain without throwing that into the mix? But think about it this way, no one would leave their car out in the sun everyday for years and expect it to look brand new without washing and waxing it and automobile clear coats are about as weather resistant as current technology allows for.
So in summary if you want great looking outdoor fixtures either plan to increase your budget or when you are outside enjoying the beautiful spring days or summer evenings give your outdoor lighting fixtures fifteen minutes of love every three months in the form of a nice wax or silicone wipe down.