FORT COLLINS — By now, chances are good that you’ve already – somehow – successfully hung your outdoor Christmas lights for yet another year. But let’s face it. You taught your kids a whole new vocabulary while untangling and testing the lights, and your heart leaped into your throat with fear at least once or twice, either because you climbed onto the roof a little too soon after the last snowstorm or because you stubbornly Clark-Griswold-hopped your ladder three feet to the right to mount one last light.
A new Fort Collins startup, however, aims to help you eliminate the need for that stiff post-light-hanging cocktail by eliminating the need to hang lights altogether - all while providing you with mood-lighting options for every other event during the year as well. Oelo LLC launched earlier this month with a permanently mountable and programmable LED lighting solution for homes and businesses. The system includes a narrow vinyl track that is mounted to a home's tri or just below it, and houses as many LEDs as a homeowner wants. It can be customized to fit any building.
A spinoff of OnScene Solution -- which makes equipment that goes into rescue vehicles and fire trucks, including LED lighting -- Oelo sprouted from chief operating officer Clay Horst's own distates for hanging holiday lights. Working closely with the first-responder industry through OnScene, Horst knew of the injuries sustained each year by people hanigng lights, and Oelo officials cite a 2014 report noting that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission epgs the number of holiday-decorating related injuries at 12,000 per year, nationally.
Oelo "was an extension of, 'Let's take that our of the equation for people so they don't have to have these accidents,'" Horst said in a recent interview. "I knew we had the capabilities."
The idea is one that Horst said has been in development for about seven years as the design and circuitry was refined.
"We didn't just want to launch a product that would potentially fail right out of the gate," Horst said. "So we did a lot of lab testing and outdoor testing to make sure it was robust."
The vinyl track comes in five different colors to match a variety of trim, but it can also be painted to match any trim and go unnoticed when not in use.
Via a remote control or smartphone, meanwhile, users can choose from millions of potential color hues. Want to boost breast cancer awareness in October? There’s a pink for that. Greenlighting a military veteran in November? There’s a green for that. In addition to any single color, users also can choose from more than 83 preset options that include different multicolor combinations for Christmas, Easter and other occasions, as well as options where the lights “chase” each other across a building. Oelo offers a plain white version that is brighter and can light up an area such as a deck or patio.
The convenience and versatility does come at a premium. While the cost varies by structure, the Oelo lighting runs about $17 per linear foot to have mounted, assuming base spacing of the LEDs of 10 inches. If you want lights closer together, the cost goes up from there. The lighting comes with a fiveyear warranty.
“It’s an add-on enhancement to the outdoor living space,” Horst said. “There’s so many things that we celebrate and lighting really surrounds our lives more than we realize. We can fall in line with all of those important events.”
Oelo is primarily using a directtoconsumer sales model at this point, although the company will help buyers find installers and dealer distributors.
Horst said the company’s main competitor right now is Texas-based Inception Lighting, although Oelo is working on several other features to continue to make its product stand out. While he said he’s not at liberty to disclose most of those just yet, he did say one of the next products Oelo is working on is cameras that can be mounted on the tracks and move for surveillance.
“There is a lot of evolution available to us with just this system,” Horst said.
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