N.E.C. (National Electric Code) - As It Relates to Low Voltage Lighting

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by JimLewis, Mar 1, 2013.

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  1. The Lighting Geek

    The Lighting Geek LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 875

    I also remember hearing that the smaller fixture wire has to be trimmed to 12" of the connection of 12 gauge, in situations where there is no hub. That along with the talk done by Naomi was awesome and enlightening. Sure glad I was there.
     
  2. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,645

    good info.

    The 12g wire is news to me. we use it for main runs, use fixtures with 25 foot 16g leads, but we still use quite a bit of halogen too and need the 12g. I thought one of the money saving issues with LED was being able to use the lighter guage wire. If this is the case, perhaps trans will be coming along with smaller zones or commons and have smaller amp breakers to allow the use of 16. but I am pretty sure you can trip a 25a breaker on 16g. wire. easy to test. I will try that tomorrow.

    I rarely find systems installed to 6", the only times is usually the lighting was wired the same time as irrigation installed and a trencher was used. we do 4-6"

    sadly, the telephone, invisible dog fence and cable companies rarely bury their wires much more than 1-2". I know. I hit them all the time.
     
  3. The real Mike Gambino

    The real Mike Gambino LawnSite Member
    Posts: 140

    Unfortunate but true is that there is little to no code enforcement of low voltage landscape lighting systems nation wide. No permits, special licensing or site safety inspections. There are also no repercussions for violating these codes or minimum standards.
    Some practices that I have seen over the years are down right dangerous.

    Some states have required special licensing but I've been told there are easy ways around those restrictions without much risk of getting snagged.

    Product manufacturers and industry associations have for years fought vigorously against any kind of national industry regulation because they do not want to reduce the wide market (everyone) for the sale of their products.
     
  4. steveparrott

    steveparrott Sponsor
    Posts: 1,174

    I did a research project on low voltage lighting installation laws a few years ago. I actually called every state's relevant officials, documented all the requirements, and gathered first-person accounts of experiences.

    About half of the states (25) require some type of licensing or certification. About half of these (11) have a specialty license for low voltage (these specialty licenses are not easy to get but are doable for non-electricians). The other half (14) require an electrical contractor, journeyman, or master electrician's license.

    The trend is actually for more stringent regulations - not less. In some states the penalties for doing the work without the proper licenses can be severe ($20,000 per violation in NJ). In many regions, every landscape lighting installation needs a permit and inspection.

    In these strict regions, landscape lighting pros do what they need to to do to make a living. Many work add an electrician to the team or go for the licensing themselves.
     
  5. The real Mike Gambino

    The real Mike Gambino LawnSite Member
    Posts: 140

    That was many years ago and I also remember the company you worked for vigorously fighting against regulation. How many 20,000 dollar fines have ever been levied and paid? The low voltage licensing in California is not for landscape lighting it is for structured wiring inside homes such as hvac, audio, video, security etc. I'd like to know where the greater regulation of the trade is? I don't see it. Certainly hasn't reduced the number of unqualified installers and poor lighting designs in fact with the advent of LED it is only worse.
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  6. TigerElectrical

    TigerElectrical LawnSite Member
    Posts: 48

    I just skimmed the replies in case someone else answered this:

    Manufacturers work under different rules and their wire size relates to the load of the fixture, not the circuit. Almost all fixtures at any voltage have much smaller wires.

    Derating circuits to 80% applies where loads are over 3 hours, which applies to landscape lighting...so you load a 20-amp circuit to 16 amps, or a 15-amp circuit to 12 amps.

    There is often confusion regarding circuits and load. The current on a circuit relates to the load on the circuit. With a 10 amp lighting load, the circuit carries 10 amps, regardless if it is a 15 or 20 amp circuit, and regardless if the wire gauge is 12, 10 or 8.
     
  7. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,544

    Tiger, I know you don't do a lot of landscape lighting but it's sure good to have your general electrical knowledge on here.
     
  8. BigDavve

    BigDavve LawnSite Member
    Posts: 1

    I've heard of ONE lonely suburb that did ONE enforcement action here in the Milwaukee area and that was only after some goof started his own "landscaping" biz that was really just a lawn cutting biz (probably using stolen mowers, etc no liability ins, no workmens comp policy covering the guy he hired so he could play phone games in his truck while the kid did the mowing, etc) but one way or another someone he was cutting grass for paid him to install some new LED Malibu type gear he picked up at the orange colored store and as sometimes happens when no one else on the block has ANY outdoor lighting other than the single bulb fixture next to the front door, this guy's yard suddenly looked like paradise to the rest of his block and lawn goof was thrust into the landscape lighting biz! (this was in a middle to lower middle class area, up here in the higher priced areas you'll see a lot of professionally done lighting, but in the low priced areas you'll see nothing other than maybe that one house where they put 64 of the plastic tier lights along their 20 foot long sidewalk!)

    I don't know the exact details as to what went terribly wrong soon after lawn goof completed several more installs, but was apparently told NOT to install any more and I have no clue what law, code, etc was used to justify that but lawn goof decided to stick to cutting lawns!

    The thing is though that here in WI, a homeowner USED to be able to pull their own electrical permits for interior wiring projects and of course you'll receive a LOT more attention from the inspector as far as making sure you're doing it up to code compared to an electrician.

    Well, the IBEW (electrical union) and plumbers union had enough of that and all of the non-existent fires, deaths and carnage from some homeowner daring to attempt the rocket science of residential wiring and by hook or by crook, got the state to make it so now ONLY a licensed master electrician or [plumber can pull ANY permit and they want permits for everything, next it will probably be making the installation of a "designer" switch plate need a permit!

    Here's the good ol UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCE of it all, from what I hear the market for "underground electricians and plumbers" has exploded since then, so we now have all sorts of electrical and plumbing work being done that's NEVER inspected, heck the municipality has no clue its even happening!
     
  9. The real Mike Gambino

    The real Mike Gambino LawnSite Member
    Posts: 140

    I don't have the answer in regards to regulation but something needs to be done. First for safety and also for aesthetics. I made a repair on a system yesterday that was so poorly conceived and downright dangerous that it is not even funny. They had garden lights bolted to boulders submerged in their pool water connected to a lighting transformer. They were connected with regular LV cable and wire nuts outside the pool and buried in the ground. Power cable coming from transformer not in conduit. The fixtures were not pool rated and neither was the transformer pool and spa rated. . Fixtures were not grounded. I disconnected them.

    Maybe we can start with the sale of product to specialty low voltage landscape lighting license holders only who have passed a test and maintain special licensing? Product sellers would fight this with a vengeance. I'm sure non specialized dabblers who make up for probably 80% of low voltage garden lighting product purchases wouldn't be too happy either however too bad-get licensed and get certified. maybe special bonding and insurance requirements?
    Then who administers the test and to what standards?

    How is the sale of product policed?

    The AOLP who is controlled by the product sellers would be the worst choice to administer or get involved in such a countrywide program . That would be like the fox in charge of the hen house.

    Anyone with a pulse would be able to get said license and the whole program would be a failure.

    Just thinking out loud. But this industry will never grow to its potential with status quo.
     
  10. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,544

    I don't see licensing solving the safety problem. I find a lot of poorly installed and unsafe low-voltage installations and half of these projects have been done by LICENSED electricians.
     
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