Here to help

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by NightScenes, Dec 19, 2005.

  1. NightScenes

    NightScenes LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,209

    I would like to say hello, and I would like to help anyone interested in low voltage landscape lighting. This looks like a great forum of professionals who would like to not only install lighting, but design and install it well.

    Landscape and architectural lighting is all that I do. I have been an electrician for 15 years and I have specialized in low voltage lighting for five years.

    There are many ways to install this lighting wrong and only one way to do it right. I would like to help do it right. I'll try to answer any questions, so go ahead. Make my day.
  2. Venturewest

    Venturewest LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 513

    Hey Paul, I think it is awesome when a veteran in this industry wants to devote time to helping others learn. I will definitely be taking advantage of your experience and knowledge. I am getting ready to do my first low voltage system for a friend of mine. I hope it will generate some more business this winter.

    Also, I am getting ready to general contract a house on a couple of acres... Is there anything I should do during construction that would make low voltage lighting, (either indoor or outdoor, easier or more cost effective)? Or maybe some ideas for low voltage lighting I would not think of? I am only familiar with exterior landscape lighitng.
  3. NY Landscape Lighting

    NY Landscape Lighting LawnSite Member
    Posts: 121

  4. NightScenes

    NightScenes LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,209

    First of all, put as many chases under the driveway and sidewalks as you can get away with. Remember that the NEC requires these chases to be 18" below grade. Next, place an exterior, dedicated GFCI outlet, at a central location that is not in plane site. If you are planning some lighting at the drive entrance, you may want your electrician to go ahead and place an outlet in that area. If this home is on a couple of acres, the driveway may be very long.
  5. NightScenes

    NightScenes LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,209

    NY, most people see the price of that book and freak out. I must say that it is worth double!!!
  6. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,406

    Paul, how do you balance the voltage on your lighting installs, while not using a hub system? I have had excellent success with the cast system and have used many other fixtures and adapted them to the system.

  7. NightScenes

    NightScenes LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,209

    That depends on the fixtures and wattages of the lamps. The best way is either with a "T" or a loop. When using a loop, be sure to maintain polarity!! The loop method is when you feed the line from both ends. Leaving the transformer, going to several fixtures and then back to the transformer. If I am lighting a deck and have many low wattage fixtures on the run, I will use this technique. This gives the same voltage to all of the fixtures and allows you to use a lower tap on the transformer. I also use this when installing several path/spread lights.

    One of the problems I have with the "hub" is that If one fixture is using a 20 watt lamp and another fixture on the hub is using a 50 watt lamp and another fixture requires a 35 watt lamp, how is each fixture recieving the same voltage? There is going to be more voltage drop on the 50 watt lamp than on the 20 watt. If using a "T" in this situation, you would split the line on the 50 watt fixture, and then feed in each direction to the 20 and 35 watt. I would probably use #12 wire to the 20 watt fixture and #10 wire to the 35 watt and #10 for the home run.

    In saying all of this, I rarely use 50 watt lamps. I am just sitting here this morning thinking of possibilities. What I am trying to say is that the hub can work if all of the fixtures on the run are utilizing the same wattage lamps. It is very rare that I have a run where all of the lamps are the same.

    I think it really comes down to what you are familiar and comfortable with. I have never really used the hub myself, for the reason I just stated. The main thing is that as long as the voltage to the fixtures is with limits (10.8 -12), you can service the system well, and you are comfortable with that system of installation, there is no reason to change.
  8. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,406

    Paul, when using the loop or "T", do you check the voltage at each fixture? If all of the fixtures fall between 10.8-12 volts it is OK? Do you not find with that much voltage difference and difference in brightness among fixtures that are lamped the same?

  9. NightScenes

    NightScenes LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,209

    The numbers provided as 10.8 -12 volts are what the lamp manufacturers say are the operating peramiters of the lamps. If you operate the lamps at more than 12 volts, they won't last as long as they should. If you operate the lamps at below 10.8 volts, they won't be as bright as they should and they won't last as long as they should.

    I balance my systems to achieve between 10.8 and 11.5 volts per fixture. I do check voltage at ALL fixtures. This should always be done, not only when the run is complete, but when the entire system is up and running. You will see a big difference in voltage when there are only a couple of runs installed and when the entire system is installed. Remember, every lamp puts a load on the transformer, and that will effect every lamp in the system.

    Your eye will not be able to see any difference of .7 volts between fixtures unless they are right next to each other.
  10. SamIV

    SamIV LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 324

    Paul, just curious what products you are using from what manufacturers. I have my favorite bullets, cable connectors and transformers that I am comfortable with. I buy most of my products through one distributor who has helped me more than anyone else with marketing. He is very knowledgeable about most of his products, and he carries a bunch. Just very comfortable dealing with him. He seems to be able to answer all of my questions or will find out the answer and always has the product needed.

    I like the Cast bullet, BQL and Evening Lights bullets. Ninety eight percent of the time I install brass, copper or bronze. I like the Cast transformer and cable. I have used in the past a bunch of FX Luminere (I like their small paths or area lights and transformers) , a little Vista (composite in-grounds), a little SBJ and even some copper and brass Focus fixtures. Have also used a few inexpensive brass imports just to try and they have actually held up pretty well. The dinky sockets are the real issue with these. Really have never had a problem with anything I've installed except for lamps bad right out of the box. Had a couple of socket issues with the Vista but nothing else to think of.

    Trying to come up with a less expensive install, maybe some aluminum fixtures and using 12 gauge instead of only using 10 gauge wire. Just afraid of installing aluminum fixtures so close to the coast here and all the rain we receive. The FX aluminum fixtures are nice but I can purchase brass and copper fixtures for a few dollars more. And the people at my Ewing branch don't know much about lighting.I have a Better and Best system but have not figured a Good system yet. Most of the aluminum products in the price range I'm looking in seem to fade almost immidiately after installation. Have you had any success with aluminum fixtures.

    Sam IV
    Accent Outdoor Lighting

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