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View Full Version : LV Lighting Design/Product Help :)


ErikU19
03-24-2010, 02:53 AM
Hey Guys,

Looking to do a low voltage lighting installation on my house. I've seen the home depot kits and they are *JUNK*. I'm looking for some recommendations on what products to use (brand, angle, wattage, etc) so I get a quality job.

Both of my neighbors use line voltage for their lighting, which i was told could be duplicated without the expense/hassle because of the advancements in low voltage lighting, true? The neighbor across the street uses a low voltage system, and it is dim compared to these line voltage systems (why i'm coming to you guys, the experts).

So here is the layout. The blue stars represent architectural lights (shinning from the ground up onto the house) (7), the orange stars represent tree lights (trees vary in height, 15'-50') (8). The yellow lighting bolts represent power availability (2). The diagram is to scale, small sq=2ft, larger ones =20.

I'm looking for a breakdown on what to use and where to get it...do it once, do it right!

I have included a picture of my neighbors house which i would like to use as a reference...

Thanks for any advice, I GREATLY appreciate it!

emby
03-25-2010, 12:26 AM
A day time photo of your house would be great? Is your neighbor's house identical to yours?

Ken

David Gretzmier
03-25-2010, 10:13 AM
1st off you need to resize the drawing- the moderators on this site don't allow that large of a file- it resizes the resolution on many auto browsers and then makes everything hard to read. I think the max width on uploaded files is 800 wide.

as far as design, I cannot really tell you if what you have placed will look good on your home without a photo of your home. where your windows are located make a huge difference on where to exactly place lighting on buildings.

I would agree most LV items at Lowes and Home depot are not long lasting or very sturdy. however, purchasing quality wire, fixtures and transformers are only 25% of a good lighting sytem. Everyone here uses different items based on preferance and experience with certain products, and even that is evolving as new items come along. I have installed most brands, and while I have have had good luck with some, others here will praise thier items. and my word is no better than thiers. I will tell you that there are a few sponsors on here that make very good products, with Joey and Alan being two that come to mind. Alan has went so far to do a couple of threads on here to improve his products based on the suggestions of folks here that install for a living. Joey does Unique as a manufacturer representative, Those products are sold through distributors, and he can direct you on how to purchase unique, and Alan has landscapelightingworld.com, more of a direct to buyer internet site.

by far the most important part is the effect that those quality items produce. and to get great effects, most lighting pro's need to be there and do it. photo's would help all of us make suggestions on lighting your home and trees, but really accurate placement, aiming, and the ability to get the perfect bulb is just about impossible unless the pro is there.

The other tough thing to give you advice and reproduce online is wiring your system. every fixture needs to have a loaded voltage of 10.8-11.5 volts, and every zone from your trans needs to be loaded properly from trans to each fixture to achieve that. I keep waiting to find any sytem I am called in on in my area, installed by a landscaper, "pro" or homeowner that when testing fixtures falls within this range. I have not.

connections are one more thing. even folks on here disagree on the perfect connection, but we all agree on bad ones. and while stripping and connecting seems easy, to do it in a waterproof and permanantly safe buried fashion seems to elude 95% of the systems that our competition installs. It is easily the number one failure of all systems I replace.

There are books that others can reccomend on how to wire and connect, aim and place, but I would advise you to read a ton of the threads to get a feel for what we all do and how we do it.

ErikU19
03-25-2010, 02:51 PM
I will get a daytime photo of my house up tonight.

I'm fluent in connections and wiring, that wont be an issue really. It's the type of products and where to put them that i really need the help with. it seems having good equipment (transformer, lights, bulbs, etc) makes or breaks these lv jobs.

Thanks for the reponses guys

Lite4
03-25-2010, 03:58 PM
I will get a daytime photo of my house up tonight.

I'm fluent in connections and wiring, that wont be an issue really. It's the type of products and where to put them that i really need the help with. it seems having good equipment (transformer, lights, bulbs, etc) makes or breaks these lv jobs.

Thanks for the reponses guys

Using the proper connectors, loading and balancing transformers properly, managing voltage drop and distributing equal voltage to all the fixtures as well as using quality lamps. These things are far more important to the success of a lighting job than which path light or bullet you choose. I can make malibu lights look good if I use the right transformer, lamps, connectors and wiring techniques.

David Gretzmier
03-25-2010, 09:20 PM
ok, no offense, but I, along with plenty of others on here have replaced plenty of systems put in by electricians that were fluent in wiring and connections. I would do some research on LV wiring and waterproof connections.

Lite4
03-26-2010, 08:32 AM
ok, no offense, but I, along with plenty of others on here have replaced plenty of systems put in by electricians that were fluent in wiring and connections. I would do some research on LV wiring and waterproof connections.

Ditto, I must have pulled out 15 systems last year that were installed by either an electrician or some trunk slamming lighting guy. All had wire that was oxidized heavily due to poor connections. A lot of the equipment was even of pretty good quality. the guts of the system though, (wiring) were shot due to poor connections and wiring techniques.

David Gretzmier
03-27-2010, 03:11 AM
what I also see with poor connections is the corrosion goes upstream of the fixture and ruins the socket. which then requires time to rebuild.

I have a sytem I am looking at now that had 2 overloaded nightscaping trans, a ton of nightscaping pathlighters and footliters, and pars. all the pars had no heatshrink on the spade connectors, so corrosion is everywhere. The trans no longer put out more than 12 volts on high unloaded, so those are worthless, most of the connections on the wire were poor, black corrosion is everwhere, so all the wire needs to be replaced, along with several of the sockets, it all adds up to a system that has total meltdown and is 4 years old. and although I am no longer "nightscaping" guy, several on here swear by them, and when installed improperly, the whole thing can go to pot.

ErikU19
04-09-2010, 12:50 AM
Sorry it took so long.

http://solutionsforhouston.com/public/house1.jpg
http://solutionsforhouston.com/public/house2.jpg
http://solutionsforhouston.com/public/house3.jpg




A day time photo of your house would be great? Is your neighbor's house identical to yours?

Ken

ErikU19
04-09-2010, 12:52 AM
None taken. :)


ok, no offense, but I, along with plenty of others on here have replaced plenty of systems put in by electricians that were fluent in wiring and connections. I would do some research on LV wiring and waterproof connections.

ErikU19
04-09-2010, 12:57 AM
Right on. By placement i was referring to the transformers, the available power source, and the lights that they will feed.:drinkup:

Using the proper connectors, loading and balancing transformers properly, managing voltage drop and distributing equal voltage to all the fixtures as well as using quality lamps. These things are far more important to the success of a lighting job than which path light or bullet you choose. I can make malibu lights look good if I use the right transformer, lamps, connectors and wiring techniques.

emby
04-09-2010, 10:09 AM
Sorry it took so long.

http://solutionsforhouston.com/public/house1.jpg
http://solutionsforhouston.com/public/house2.jpg
http://solutionsforhouston.com/public/house3.jpg

Products...

http://www.coppermoon.com/index.html
http://www.cast-lighting.com/homeowners/
http://www.uniquelighting.com/index.htm
and the others that were mentioned in above responses.

After reviewing your photos I would concentrate on the house first. Photo one: Place well lights or bullet lights about a foot away from the foundation firing straight up and graze the house. Make it look symmetrical. Add two bullet lights on each side of your front entrance and use a MR16 type bullet with a 24 to 36 degree spread. Increase the bulb wattage on these two to 35 watts to really enhance the entrance. The remaining lights grazing the house should only be 20 watts with a wide spread. You want to glow the house very softly and highlight the entrance.
You could also add some path lights along your walkway but a couple of things to think about. In order to do this you will be installing them into the turf which can be a pain in the rear for cutting and trimming as you will always be bumping them. If you want to add them cut out the turf area around the path lights and add some sort of ground cover like mulch etc. Stagger the path-lights from side to side 8 to 10 feet apart. Do not line them up like a runway!

Install two to three well lights under the two trees in your front lawn. Do not light the tree by the sidewalk. It will take away from the overall scene. Research your well lights to ensure that they have a grate and some sort of glass lens to protect from leaves and grass clippings. The other option is to create a round mulch bed around the trees out to its drip line and then you can use bullet lights. This is what I would do. Remember just a soft glow for these they should not over power the house.
Picture 3 is challenging. I would not illuminate the house on this side. I do see that there is a large tree over there on the left side of your driveway. I would definitely add two tree lights as high as you can get them (should be at least 25feet up). Look at Cast Tree lights they are the best out there. 20 Watt 36 degrees or 60 degree spread to cast moonlight and shadows along that side. You could add a couple more to illuminate the upper portion of this tree as it would raise the height of your scene dramatically. You will have to experiment with that to get the right affect but it would look good.
Now I am sure that others will add to this but remember one thing. Spend some time reading on this site about wiring. If your an electrician ensure that the ampacity does not exceed the wire's rating. Use a multi tap transformer again Cast Journeyman series are great. Watch out for voltage drop and ensure that every fixture has 10.8 - 11.5 volts. Your connections have to be water proof that will last a long term. Read about that as this is very important. I will leave the rest of this for you to read and learn. Have fun with your project as it is very addictive.

Ken
:canadaflag:

emby
04-09-2010, 10:28 AM
Products...

http://www.coppermoon.com/index.html
http://www.cast-lighting.com/homeowners/
http://www.uniquelighting.com/index.htm
and the others that were mentioned in above responses.

After reviewing your photos I would concentrate on the house first. Photo one: Place well lights or bullet lights about a foot away from the foundation firing straight up and graze the house. Make it look symmetrical. Add two bullet lights on each side of your front entrance and use a MR16 type bullet with a 24 to 36 degree spread. Increase the bulb wattage on these two to 35 watts to really enhance the entrance. The remaining lights grazing the house should only be 20 watts with a wide spread. You want to glow the house very softly and highlight the entrance.
You could also add some path lights along your walkway but a couple of things to think about. In order to do this you will be installing them into the turf which can be a pain in the rear for cutting and trimming as you will always be bumping them. If you want to add them cut out the turf area around the path lights and add some sort of ground cover like mulch etc. Stagger the path-lights from side to side 8 to 10 feet apart. Do not line them up like a runway!

Install two to three well lights under the two trees in your front lawn. Do not light the tree by the sidewalk. It will take away from the overall scene. Research your well lights to ensure that they have a grate and some sort of glass lens to protect from leaves and grass clippings. The other option is to create a round mulch bed around the trees out to its drip line and then you can use bullet lights. This is what I would do. Remember just a soft glow for these they should not over power the house.
Picture 3 is challenging. I would not illuminate the house on this side. I do see that there is a large tree over there on the left side of your driveway. I would definitely add two tree lights as high as you can get them (should be at least 25feet up). Look at Cast Tree lights they are the best out there. 20 Watt 36 degrees or 60 degree spread to cast moonlight and shadows along that side. You could add a couple more to illuminate the upper portion of this tree as it would raise the height of your scene dramatically. You will have to experiment with that to get the right affect but it would look good.
Now I am sure that others will add to this but remember one thing. Spend some time reading on this site about wiring. If your an electrician ensure that the ampacity does not exceed the wire's rating. Use a multi tap transformer again Cast Journeyman series are great. Watch out for voltage drop and ensure that every fixture has 10.8 - 11.5 volts. Your connections have to be water proof that will last a long term. Read about that as this is very important. I will leave the rest of this for you to read and learn. Have fun with your project as it is very addictive.

Ken
:canadaflag:

One more thing to think about.I am guessing this is going to take you at least three to four days to install. If you want to do it right the first time look for certified contractors on the manufacturers links I provided. They do this stuff everyday and are really good at what they do.
Good for you if you want to tackle this yourself but remember, you can purchase the best products available but because of poor installation methods it can render it useless and look terrible to boot. You might find out at the end of the day that the cost might be the same as hiring a professional.

Ken

David Gretzmier
04-09-2010, 10:32 PM
you know, those canadiens know thier stuff. I would advise almost the same exact thing. good advice. :usflag:

ErikU19
04-12-2010, 12:54 AM
Greatly appreciate the help Ken:canadaflag:

What wattage transformer would you recommend from cast joruneymen?
http://www.cast-lighting.com/products/transformers/journeyman-series/27/

Assuming i place the lights on the tree as you describe, and perhaps ad some to the back of the house after the pool is installed (just think room to grow).

I'm looking forward to working on this, hopefully within the next couple weeks after the sprinkler system is done (ditch witches rock!).

I'll be sure to post some pictures.

Thanks again :drinkup:

Products...

http://www.coppermoon.com/index.html
http://www.cast-lighting.com/homeowners/
http://www.uniquelighting.com/index.htm
and the others that were mentioned in above responses.

After reviewing your photos I would concentrate on the house first. Photo one: Place well lights or bullet lights about a foot away from the foundation firing straight up and graze the house. Make it look symmetrical. Add two bullet lights on each side of your front entrance and use a MR16 type bullet with a 24 to 36 degree spread. Increase the bulb wattage on these two to 35 watts to really enhance the entrance. The remaining lights grazing the house should only be 20 watts with a wide spread. You want to glow the house very softly and highlight the entrance.
You could also add some path lights along your walkway but a couple of things to think about. In order to do this you will be installing them into the turf which can be a pain in the rear for cutting and trimming as you will always be bumping them. If you want to add them cut out the turf area around the path lights and add some sort of ground cover like mulch etc. Stagger the path-lights from side to side 8 to 10 feet apart. Do not line them up like a runway!

Install two to three well lights under the two trees in your front lawn. Do not light the tree by the sidewalk. It will take away from the overall scene. Research your well lights to ensure that they have a grate and some sort of glass lens to protect from leaves and grass clippings. The other option is to create a round mulch bed around the trees out to its drip line and then you can use bullet lights. This is what I would do. Remember just a soft glow for these they should not over power the house.
Picture 3 is challenging. I would not illuminate the house on this side. I do see that there is a large tree over there on the left side of your driveway. I would definitely add two tree lights as high as you can get them (should be at least 25feet up). Look at Cast Tree lights they are the best out there. 20 Watt 36 degrees or 60 degree spread to cast moonlight and shadows along that side. You could add a couple more to illuminate the upper portion of this tree as it would raise the height of your scene dramatically. You will have to experiment with that to get the right affect but it would look good.
Now I am sure that others will add to this but remember one thing. Spend some time reading on this site about wiring. If your an electrician ensure that the ampacity does not exceed the wire's rating. Use a multi tap transformer again Cast Journeyman series are great. Watch out for voltage drop and ensure that every fixture has 10.8 - 11.5 volts. Your connections have to be water proof that will last a long term. Read about that as this is very important. I will leave the rest of this for you to read and learn. Have fun with your project as it is very addictive.

Ken
:canadaflag:

steveparrott
04-12-2010, 09:35 AM
Ken,

To size the transformer, there are two things to consider - total load on the system (lamp watts plus wire resistance) and availability of sufficiently high voltage taps.

As a rough guide, multiple your total lamp wattage (keep in mind future expansion) by 1.5. This represents loading the transformer to about 80% capacity.

For a more accurate guide, use the CAST Lighting System Calculator (http://www.cast-lighting.com/support-installers/system-calculator-installers/).

This guide will also let you know what voltage taps you need. The Journeyman goes from 12 - 15V.

Feel free to contact me should you need more help.

Pro-Scapes
04-12-2010, 02:59 PM
I wasnt aware the Cast products were avalible to homeowners ? I would take a different approach to this project. Most of the advise Ken provides you would work. You will need to use higher wattages with that large street light in front of your home.

From the photos you provides it looks like your landscape is planted very close to the foundation, in many places exactly where I would place fixtures.

To give your lighting a more dramatic look maybe consider planting some trees in the front and bringing the beds out further. Just an idea but deep beds and a balance between lighting the structure and lighting the home can really make your nice looking house take on a new dimension

ErikU19
04-13-2010, 12:38 AM
The landscaping is all being ripped out. I will make the beds a little deeper as you suggested. Thanks :)

steveparrott
04-13-2010, 10:50 AM
I wasnt aware the Cast products were avalible to homeowners?

As you may know, CAST does a lot to steer the market to professional contractors.

- We only sell through authorized distributors - all in the trades.
- We do not allow sales through online retailers.
- We train our distributors to steer homeowner requests to contractors.
- Our website content directs homeowners to hire professionals.

Still, most distributors will sell directly to homeowners - we have no control over that. In fact, there's nothing wrong with determined and competent DIY'ers going for it themselves. They don't want to (or can't afford to) hire contractors, but they want a quality lighting system. Sometimes they call the office asking for support. In such cases, I always try to steer them to hire a contractor, but if they are determined to do it themselves, I answer their questions and give them the same respect I give to everyone who calls.

Pro-Scapes
04-13-2010, 12:28 PM
The landscaping is all being ripped out. I will make the beds a little deeper as you suggested. Thanks :)

Just a idea. I would wait until the landscape plantings or at least a drawing is completed before designing the lighting. I would even place plants in conjunction with deciding the best placement for the lighting and to take it once step further plan on some bedding plants to further conceal your fixtures where needed. The combination of color and lighting will turn your project from a house....into a home. Do not hessitate to cut some semi circle beds along that side walk to place pathlights then fill them with some nice colorful flowers or even something contrasting like Aztec grasses.

If you end up planting some trees then consider smaller plants in front of where your spot lights will be. I often add plant materials with the homeowners permission on my projects to help conceal the fixtures. You would be surprised how much $50 in bedding plants will make someone smile

Pro-Scapes
04-13-2010, 12:30 PM
As you may know, CAST does a lot to steer the market to professional contractors.

- We only sell through authorized distributors - all in the trades.
- We do not allow sales through online retailers.
- We train our distributors to steer homeowner requests to contractors.
- Our website content directs homeowners to hire professionals.

Still, most distributors will sell directly to homeowners - we have no control over that. In fact, there's nothing wrong with determined and competent DIY'ers going for it themselves. They don't want to (or can't afford to) hire contractors, but they want a quality lighting system. Sometimes they call the office asking for support. In such cases, I always try to steer them to hire a contractor, but if they are determined to do it themselves, I answer their questions and give them the same respect I give to everyone who calls.

Steve that is good. I have always respected that about CAST. I sent you an email late last week. If you did not get it please drop me an email so I am sure to have yours correct.

Thanks

B