Stainless Steel Lights – all the same?

We choose stainless steel lighting for a couple reasons… It looks great with concrete or other complementary applications and it resists corrosion. Two important considerations, especially for the West Coast and it’s marine climate.

Did you know that there is different kinds of St Steel? Stainless steel is an iron and chromium mix that in sufficient levels does not allow oxygen at the surface thereby causing rust. (oxidation) Add nickel and it becomes non-magnetic…stainless steel without nickel is commonly called tin. If you want to make sure it’s stainless steel, check it with a magnet. If the magnet sticks, it’s not true stainless steel. Different ratios of chromium, nickel molybdenum and carbon make stainless more brittle (like razor blades) or more machineable with greater structural strength.

So, back to landscape lighting… Stainless steel used in landscape lighting is low carbon so that it can be formed and worked more easily. The finish on it is often brushed (sclera is the word) so that any marring on the surface will be disguised as well as oily finger prints. The mixtures added to the iron will often vary to some degree so that some ‘stainless’ fixtures will still rust. These are usually lower cost fixtures….

So…How do you know what is good? To a certain degree you don’t. Unless the mfr is differentiating between 304 and 316 stainless, most true stainless is 316, marine grade. 304 contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel, while 316 contains 16% chromium, 10% nickel and 2% molybdenum. The molybdenum is added to help resist corrosion to chlorides like salt (salty like the ocean and the air near it)

So buy with confidence knowing that you now know enough to be dangerous, but not enough to really count. The application of stainless steel into landscape lighting is great in the proper setting. Used with concrete it can really stand out and complement the gray coloring…. Used with wood or other painted surfaces it can look cold and stark. Hope that helps, if you have any landscape lighting questions…I’m only a phone call away.

Bill Converse, Silhouette Landscape Lights