Layout Landscape Lighting
This is one of several articles on planning the Layout Landscape Lighting for low voltage light for the safety and security of your home. If it is just a run on the sidewalk to your front door or to light up some of your plants and other items around the outside of your home, you will find some useful information on this site.
When looking to install landscape low voltage lights to your outdoor space, wire runs will be a major factor to consider. Several different styles of wire runs will be discussed here. Hope you find the information helpful for your landscaping needs.
Now let us look at some of the steps to get your outside lit up after dark.
Planning your layout
Mapping your layout
First, you must make a map of the area that you will be planning your lighting for. A grid map will make measuring the distance easier. Plot all of your special features in the area you are going to install your lights. This will include trees or special items that will need a spotlight or special illumination.
See this article on the wire to select the correct wire size for your installation after you have determined the length of each wire run. Having the incorrect size wire for your landscape will cause excessive voltage drop and your lights will not work properly.
Mark the location of all of your lights and the wattage of each light. All of this information will help in the design of your wire layout and give you the total wattage to select the correct transformer.
Where to place the transformer
The placement of the transformer will depend on several factors. First will be a 110-volt outlet with a ground fault circuit. The second factor will be a central location for your wire runs.
The transformer does not have to be placed in a location that gets light if you use a remote photocell to control when the transformer will turn on. Other forms of light control can be placed anywhere your transformer ends up.
Thinking of voltage drop
Voltage drop is when the length of the wire is so long or not big enough to handle the amount of voltage for your lights. The longer the run is the more voltage drop you will have. Use this guide for the correct wire size. The transformer will have multiple taps for several different voltages to make sure all lights are of the same brightness.
Styles of your lighting runs
This is the most common run of lights. A single wire runs from the transformer to a run of lights. The lights sometimes run in a straight line but not always. This design is good for the edge of the driveway or walk. If the run is too long the lights at the far end from the transformer will have a lower output because of the voltage drop.
Daisy chain or circle
This design will have lights that are connected in a round pattern. The main lead wire will connect to the circle wire that will power the lights. Making sure that you have a similar amount of wattage on each side of the run will make sure that all of the lights will have them around the same brightness. Make sure that when the ends of the wires are connected that you do not cross polarity, you will short out your transformer.
This style will be for a long run of lights. The power wire will connect to the main run in the middle somewhere to make sure that both sides will get the same power to the ends. If you make one long run and connect to the transformer on one end the lights at the far end will not be as bright as the ones at the beginning.
When you have multiple taps on the transformer, you can make multiple runs to your lights. The longer runs can be powered by a higher voltage tap to make sure that the lights have the same brightness.
Working around obstacles in your yard
Under the driveway or walk
This is the hardest obstacle to overcome. If the driveway or walkway is solid material like concrete or asphalt, running your wire around the obstacle will work out better for you. The standard depth for going under an object like this is 18 inches. This would take special equipment or have to be done before the driveway or walkway is finished.
If you have a short distance you can maybe use conduit of some kind to run the wire in to protect it.
Around water features, spas or pool areas
Check the specifications on your transformer, most state that the wire runs must stay 10 feet from any water feature. This is a safety item that many people overlook. Any lights that are in a water feature must have a transformer that is rated for this kind of use.
Planning is the key to making the most out of your landscape low voltage lights. By using the steps outlined here you will get the most enjoyment out of your lighting design.
If you are not sure about the local rules for outdoor lighting, please check with the officials that govern what you can place outside. Some areas will not allow too many lights after dark, others do not have any rules. When working with electricity, even low voltage, be careful and turn the electric off before running any wires.
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