View Full Version : Hope you can help - general questions
05-16-2007, 11:04 AM
I read the sticky posting at the top so I am not sure if anyone will be willing to help me but I sure hope so. Here goes!
I am a total novice doing landscape lighting on my house for the first time. I have no preference in lighting brand but don't want to break the bank unless it is justified. I plan to use low voltage throughout. I have selected some lights from Malibu's web site and want to make sure that what I am doing is going to make sense. My questions are:
#1 - I have two two story brick columns on either side of my front door which will have lights installed in a walkway below each to illuminate them. I am proposing these:
2 Lights set into the walkway to light the front columns - 2 X 35W
Are these a proper choice? Since I dont know anything about this stuff I am not sure what wattage or type of lights to use for each situation. I assume I should use a flood for this location?
#2 - I have a short (36") urn fountain, medium size tree (12 ft tall and wispy) and a new tree going in (6 feet and wispy). I plan on this:
5 Spot Lights (copper finish) - 5 x 35w
1 - Water Feature
1 - New Tree on side of house
3 - Existing tree in yard
It seems that 3 lights on the larger tree is overkill, I was going to surround it from all sides? Are these ok lights for the use I want to have? Can I adjust the brightness of the light on the urn since it will be close and shorter? Should I?
In addition to the lights listed above I also plan to put in three path lights which I don't really have any questions about. They are 3 x 60w.
#3 - How do I determine the size of the transformer? Is it that you should not present more that a 80% load or that you should not present less?
Thanks so much for any information that you can provide.
05-16-2007, 12:01 PM
If you could post some pictures of what you're lighting up it might help. Also, unless I misunderstood, you mentioned the pathlights at 3x60w? I'm hoping that it's a total of 60 watts between the three?
05-16-2007, 12:08 PM
Yeah you are correct. Here is the link:
I will try to upload a picture of the front of our house tonight. We are having landscaping put in soon so it wont show the new tree or the fountain but it will give you an idea of the existing tree and the brick columns.
Thanks for you help
05-16-2007, 12:22 PM
I found a bad camera phone pic but should give you an idea of the columns next to the front door and the tree in front, which is slightly larger now.
05-16-2007, 01:34 PM
Wow, first of all, you don't want to put a metallic fixture in the ground. It will rust out in no time. Second of all, the path light that you have chosen quite frankly sucks. I say that because I pull them out of properties on a weekly basis. It uses an MR11 lamp which also has a shorter lamp life than most other lamps. Third of all, why would you own a home as nice as this and them use garbage fixtures to "enhance" it? I would think that you would want to invest a little to make it beautiful. I don't know your budget for this project but I would think that about $2500-$3000 would make this home a masterpiece at night. When I see people use Malibu or heaven forbid, solar lights on a beautiful home it just makes me crazy. You see those fixtures in trailer parks. You don't want your home to look like it belongs in a trailer park, do you?
Anyway, sorry to get on a rant. I don't suggest using the fixtures that you have chosen. Remember the most important rule in lighting design, see the effect and not the source and start your design again.
05-16-2007, 03:35 PM
Thanks for your response. I don't have that kinda budget this year and would like to get something done.
I am a computer consultant and often deal with people wanting to get it all on a very small budget so I understand the whole "you get what you pay for" adage but can you be specific about what will be the major difference in paying 1K or 2-3K as you suggest? Is it for the expertise of the designer, the equipment durability or maybe installation ease?
Any additional information will be greatly appreciated.
05-16-2007, 03:45 PM
If you go the cheep do-it-yourself route with home center products, your going to end up with something that more than likely looks like something that "you did yourself". You will spend maybe 1/3 of the cost now, but because of the products you intend to use you will probably spend that again every 18-24 months to replace the failed system components.
The aggravation this is going to cause you?..........immeasurable.
05-16-2007, 03:53 PM
Thanks also, point taken.
Lets try this another way. If I have a budget of 1K this year to spend on landscape lighting how should I best maximize that budget? Can anything worth doing be done for that budget?
We are having the walkway ripped out and replaced and the plan it to have the uplights for the column built into the paver walkway which will flare out to the width of the entry columns. Since that is being done now I imagine that at a minimum I need to determine the lights to go there since they will be embedded in the walkway aiming up at the columns?
05-16-2007, 04:13 PM
If your budget is 1k then go with a quality trans that will power the entire planned project. Add a few uplights or paths to start with then add on as time and money permit.
If you have the money to put in malibu then replace it within a year or 2 then you have the money to do it right the first time. I would get a Kichler trans at john deere landscapes or similar and maybe some paths and a couple uplights and the needed photocell and timer.
If you email me thru my website listed below I can see about selling you a preowned proffesional transformer and some brass paths I removed from a home when we redid the landscape. Nothing wrong with the units and I was going to list them on ebay but it would definatly be better than your malibu stuff. Unfortunatly I cant warranty it tho but it works just fine now.
If your looking to recess lights into your walk I would reccomend the Kim mini vault lights. They are not the cheapest but they are built like a tank and should survive that snow like a champ. Someone else up north may have a better idea. Consider as an alternative doing a planter and hiding a surface mounted spot behind the planter.
Either way you should be able to easily get demensions on the lights and have your contractor pre wire or install conduits for ease of installation later.
I gotta agree with paul tho. The lights you have now chosen suck to put it in a nice way. As for the major difference between the cheap set up and the pro 2-3k set up you would be looking at 12-18mo of lifespan out of the cheapies and several years to a lifetime out of the good stuff. Not to mention a good difference in the quality of apperance and performance.
05-16-2007, 07:46 PM
My recommendation for you would be to research your Better Business Bureau or some local irrigation companies to put you in contact with a quality professional. Tell him what your trying to accomplish, and let him know that you want to do this in a progressive fashion. Tell him to do a complete lighting design as if it were his own home, but also tell him that you are on a tight budget and you are going to do this in stages. I wouldn't recommend trying to be sneaky at this point because this is the kind of thing that will run a professional off quick (especially in your situation). Tell him straight away what your trying to do. If you find the right guy, he will be willing to stay with you and do a little bit at a time for a reasonable cost. This may take a bit of work though, because your job looks really small. Too be honest, there is not too many contractors that will spend a whole lot of time on this unless they think they can get some work out of it down the road.
05-16-2007, 09:43 PM
My advice is put that 1K in a mutual fund or savings account and keep adding to it until you have the total dollars to do it right. It will cost more to have a professional keep coming out a little at a time for onsey, twoseys. You will kick yourself for going cheap. It will be worth the wait to have a professional do it for you. My $.02
05-16-2007, 09:49 PM
Mutual Funds? Now thats the best advice I've heard from you all day
05-17-2007, 12:32 AM
If you're looking to save some money now, here is my suggestion. It looks like your sidewalk is fairly short and close to the house. I know you said you are ripping it out, but if it's going to follow the same pattern as the existing walkway, I'd scrap the pathlights for now.
Spend the money and get a good transformer and some well lights or bullet style fixtures. It won't take too many fixtures to light up the front facade of your home. You might not even want to add any path fixtures after seeing the home lit up...nor need them. That's the beauty of low voltage....you can add on down the road if you so choose. If you do choose to go with a professional, I know of a good lighting company just down the road from you.
05-17-2007, 02:52 AM
for your 1000 bucks-
since someone else already mentioned ebay, I'll add that to the pot- there are sometimes tranformers on there from unique, fx, hadco, etc. you can pick those up for 300 bucks and less. get you a good one, but remember- if you don't have a local dealer, you can't get it fixed unless you send it back to the manufacturer. these things are heavy and not cheap to ship.
there also are some decent fixtures on ebay that are not as good as the best, but way better than cheapies... look for brass and copper, and heavy weight. figure around 25-50 per fixture, depending. good luck, this is kind of a gamble. buy one and check it over and compare it to malibu. if it feels like it could shatter a concrete block and still work, you're on the right track.
bulbs on ebay tend to be the lower end bulbs, they'll burn out at 2000 hours or so if you run them at 12 volts. try to set voltage at each fixtrue no higher than 11.5 volts, and you'll get a year out of most of the bulbs. another option is gettting nicer bulbs from some of the websites, just do a search. bulbs can be anywhere from 2 bucks to 12 bucks each.
get a good voltage tester, digital, 30-60 bucks.
wire is always cheaper locally. get good low voltage spt3 at 12 or 10 guage. it'll be around 40 -60 cents a foot. Lowe's and Home depot carries it.
I think you can do alot for 1000 bucks. It won't be as good as what we'd do, because it is your first time and you get to make all the mistakes. but good luck.
05-17-2007, 08:13 AM
Thanks everyone for you advice I appreciate it.
OK I am thinking I am going to get a good transformer and a couple of lights for the columns then add on piece by piece. Any suggestions for the lights to be set in the walkway (brand/model) and illuminate the columns? How far up the column should the light go? I assume it should be fairly focused in terms of the spread of the beam?
What brands "don't suck" for transformers with photocells? Brands and model recommendations in the 400-600w category?
Extlights I will take the name of your friend if you don't mind. Can you private message me on this board?
05-17-2007, 11:20 AM
Hadco, FX, Nightscaping, Unique. There are others that I have not used. You may have to add the photocell. good luck.
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