The company name for Dallas-based Evolve Technologies is certainly apropos in describing its evolution into the low-voltage lighting revolution. Indeed, Evolve Technologies has grown from a traditional AV-based custom installation to impressively earning more than $2 million per year from the lighting category, primarily from Environmental Lights, a San Diego-based maker of an array of lighting products. Environmental Lights’ portfolio encompasses a variety of linear LED lighting solutions for ceiling coves, stair lighting, undercabinet and more. The company offers multi-color products like 5-in-1 (RGB + tunable white) or pure whites, tunable white, and single-color white and as well as LED neon products.
Moreover, Environmental Lights’ new Remote Voltage Illumination (REVI) system is designed specifically for the custom installation channel. The UL-listed downlights come in multiple shapes, trim options and lenses with a variety of outputs and color temps. DMX inputs enable connection to many of the popular control systems for seamless dimming. Multi-channel mounted power supplies can power lights up to 150 feet away.
For Evolve Technologies, the solutions have been vital to its success. The company, which is run by three partners — Josh Little, Joshua Allred and Bryce Richardson — has six dedicated installation technicians, one full-time service tech, and a service coordinator who also does the marketing.
With that lean-and-mean structure the company performs between 50 and 70 installations per year, so installation efficiency is important. Most of its new projects in the six-figure range with many in the affluent University Park, Highland Park and Preston Hollow areas. When you mix in the company’s change orders and upgrades to previous projects, the average price point is around $35,000 per job.
The company also has carved a niche in the multi-dwelling unit (MDU) space, doing individual condos and apartments, along with common areas for access control, surveillance cameras, TV displays, and loudspeakers.
“We were very early on heavy adopters of lighting controls, both hardwired and wireless,” says Little. “There was margin in the products, and there was confusion in the space, so we believed we could set ourselves apart from the competition by focusing on lighting.”
But Little says they quickly discovered there was a common obstacle that kept cropping up on many of Evolve’s lighting projects: the electrician.
“The struggle we had was that after we installed our wireless lighting control, the master electrician would come in and create problems by putting in a cheap $26 HALO fixture versus what was spec’ed by the architect, designer or builder. So any problems that would arise after that — even if it was a burned out, non-dimmable light bulb — it became ‘our’ problem. We also started doing larger panelized lighting, and again, we had similar issues with the master electrician. If the customer pushes a button and the light fixture did not do exactly what it was supposed to do, or even if it flipped a breaker, it became our problem. We learned the hard way; we lost money on many of those early jobs. So, we tried to align ourselves with electricians we could trust,” recalls Little.
That experience drove Evolve Technologies to start specifying low-voltage lighting fixtures for its projects, and eventually selling and installing those fixtures. Fast forward to today and the company’s go-to solution is Environmental Lights.
“We can run the wire, specify the lights, and do all of the control. All we’re doing is working with an interior decorator or designer for the decorative fixtures, creating the lighting schedule and load controls for those items. We’ve really minimized our involvement with the electrician. And we are making a ton of money doing it,” he adds.
Little continues, “I explain low-voltage lighting to other integrators by saying, ‘Imagine a builder comes to you and says, “I’ve got a job that has 200 pair of loudspeakers. Are you interested?’ That is the real scenario with low-voltage lighting. We’re doing 200 lights in a house at similar price points with similar margins to loudspeakers.”
Little says the Environmental Lights products are bulletproof, incredible fixtures with rock solid power supplies and great control. “You don’t have to pray that it works. It is a fantastic thing,” he adds. “It truly allows us to take an end-to-end solution to the market,” he concludes.