Advice on my home

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by jkats13, May 26, 2008.

  1. jkats13

    jkats13 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 26

    I recently purchased a new home and I have been on a mission to design and install my own professional quality landscape lighting system. As you can see from the photos of my home below, I have a decent ability to design and install my own high quality landscaping and I would like to take this passion I have with the exterior of my home and develop an artful and well designed landscape lighting design.

    Over the last year or so, I have been lurking on this forum, trying to learn and absorb as much as I can from the professionals here and on other similar forums. I decided to do my own system after struggling to find a lighting contractor in my area that a) was a dedicated lighting installer and, b) could answer my questions regarding fixtures, system design, and other issues in a manner that I felt would be consistent with things I learned on this forum. In addition to trying to learn from the professionals here, I purchased from Unique Nate Mullen’s Landscape Lighting Resource Manual and have used the manual to supplement the discussions I have learned here. As an engineer, I feel I have the technical knowledge to get a basic understand system design. Lastly, since I intend on doing this myself, I believe a positive will be the ability to spend some time with trial and error.

    I have attached my proposed system design along with pictures of my house and landscape. My house has two street fronts (corner lot) and therefore has two view angles. For this reason, I believe it’s important that the house and landscape is lit appropriately from the two view angles. I am looking for some feedback on my design and possible some suggestions for improvement of the design. I have talked with a local irrigation distributor can supply some of the items I need for the installation. He mainly supplies Unique and Kichler, among others.

    I plan on using mainly Kichler fixtures as cast aluminum fixtures are not much of an issue in my area. I plan on using the 15310 as my path/spread fixture and probably the 15384 as my uplight/bullet light. I have a couple of proposed bullets that will be located in the gutter to light upper areas of my house. I also am anticipating a could of larger areas to be light by wall washing using a wall wash fixture. At the brick mailbox (not shown), I intend to use two smaller MR-11 fixtures to cross-light the street number. I currently have a Kichler lighted birdbath that I will be piggybacking onto this system. I have a small pond/waterfall feature that I would like to light with a submersible fixture as well.

    In totaI, have approximately 28 fixtures in my design with 7 proposed hub locations and one T-connection. All in all, I have nearly 600 watts including voltage drop for cable. I am right on the border line of between a 900 watt or 1200 watt transformer but will probably go with a 1200 watt transformer to keep the system expandable to possibly do some lighting in the back yard in the future. For simplicity, I was also considering using Kichler’s Pro Junction System, although I have not heard much feedback on this system. I would be interested to hear and feedback on this junction system.
    I fully understand the “professional nature of this forum”, but I hope that I can demonstrate that I have spent the time design what I hope can be a quality lighting system. I really appreciate any feedback that can be provided.

    Attached Files:

  2. jkats13

    jkats13 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 26

    Here are the photos of the home and landscape.






  3. Chris J

    Chris J LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,843

    It looks like you have a good handle on what you are doing, and your presentation is actually more detailed than what I have seen from a lot of professional lighting contractors. There is no "wrong" way to illuminate with the exception of controlling glare from the viewing perspective. Asking this forum for design suggestions is opening a big can of worms as you will get as many different opinions as there are contractors participating here. Ultimately it is your opinion that counts most, and the only way to know is to install what you have and take it from there. My suggestion is to continue forward with your current plan, then decide for yourself if you like the results. You can always move, add or remove fixtures as you see fit as you have already demonstrated you are capable of this. I have never used the junction simply because I feel it is something that is not necessary and is cost prohibitive. I'm not stating that it is not reliable; I just don't trust it and I've not heard of any feedback from anyone that has tried it over a long period of time. A simple buchannan crimp and DBR will do the job nicely.
    You have a nice home, so good luck with your project. If you have any specific questions about anything, feel free to ask. To answer your overall question about design, I would say it looks as good as any as a starting point. Just don't max out your home runs so you have room to add without running new feeders. Your idea of using a larger transformer is spot on as well.
  4. jkats13

    jkats13 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 26


    Thanks for you feedback and advice. I plan on installing the system, playing around a bit with what looks good, and then I will possibly posting the results here for some feedback.

    My main issue with the hub system is that I don't want to have irrigation or hub boxes everywhere in my landscape - I just think that will end up being an eye sore. That is one reason I was considering the Kichler LV Junction System. Is it acceptable to bury the hub boxes below the mulch?

    I think the biggest issue that I don't have a handle on is bulb size and bulb spread. I think my brick is light enough (brown) that 20w bulbs should suffice for the one story locations, possibly requiring a 35w for the two story applications. However, I quite frankly don't have a good understanding of the appropriate beam spreads to use in each application. I probably plan on using the BAB bulb in most locations. I will also play around with some lenses to see what different effects they create. I don't think glare will be a problem based on where I have located fixtures, but that is something you don't know for sure until you install the fixtures.
  5. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,187

    Looks like you are moving in the right direction. The only thing I would add is to seperate your hubs by bulb type. The T-3s or wedge type bulbs going in your path lights prefer a little lower voltage than your MR 16s. I will usually try to group fixtures on my hubs by bulb type or use a smaller gauge wire for those lights from the hubs and calculater the VD to be in your target range (usually around 10.8-11.3) at the fixture. I like to run the 16s around 11.5-11.7.

    I have used those Kichler hubs for my demo kit in the past. They did not last beyond my 6th demonstration before they started falling apart (badly). I had to toss them in the dumpster, so my .02 would be to stay away from them. I agree too many boxes are unsightly. I use the Nightscaping Ace Connectors for my hubs. They are a brass lug with a adhesive lined heat shrink tube that fully encapsulates your connection. I then just bury it by a fixture and note its location on my as built plan so I can locate it later if necessary.
  6. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    everything looks good, If you have a dmm and can test voltage at each fixture and keep within firefly's reccomendations, you'll be fine. My only suggestion would be two 600 watt trans located at half way points rather than one large 1200. You'll use less wire, have less problems with voltage drop, and have room to add on either trans for the future. If two photo-cells become an issue, ( different start times) use a plug in digital outdoor timer from Lowes to calibrate both. they run about 20 bucks each. not too many folks use big ( over 1000 watts ) trans for a good reason- they pull quite a few amps off the 120 side. If you have any other load running on that circuit, many times a 1200 trans can pop a breaker. Spreading to two 600's, especially if they are on seperate circuits, is less likely to pop a breaker.
  7. jkats13

    jkats13 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 26

    Great suggestion, but unfortunately I just don't have a good location or a way to get another outlet out somewhere on the right side of the house. Last year, I installed a new dedicated outlet and GFI for the future transformer. Its a 20A circuit so hopefully I won't be pulling to many amps through it.

    I plan on using a photocell to turn on the system with a timer to determine shut off time.
  8. jkats13

    jkats13 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 26

    I will follow your recommendation using different size wire. I wasn't sure if the different size bulbs was going to create an issue as well. I struggled to in determining hub locations that keep similar bulb sizes together. Ultimately, I was considering using different size 25' lead wires to help compensate for the difference in bulb sizes to keep the voltage at the fixture similar across all fixtures in that run.

    My issue is that I have conduits that I had my irrigation contractor install under the sidewalk at one location, so even though I thought I was planning ahead, it limits me on keeping fixtures grouped together on one side of the sidewalk or the other side.
  9. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,187

    On your leads from your hubs. Assuming you have 12volts at the hubs and your leads are 25'. If you use 16 gauge for your 20 watt MR 16s you will have a volt drop of approximately .33 volts putting you in at 11.67 volts at the lights. If you use 18 gauge for your 20 watt path lights that are on the mixed hub you will have a VD of .53 at 25' putting your path lights in at around 11.47 volts, which is a little on the higher side. You will just have to calcultate your VD to the hubs for each run to ensure you can target this range.
  10. Chris J

    Chris J LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,843

    I'm going to respectfully disagree with the notion that you should separate your home runs by fixture/lamp type. All low voltage lamps are created equal when it comes to optimum voltage requirements. There is no harm in providing the same voltage to an incandescent and a halogen. Although all lamps have a maximum rated lamp life, and you will gain considerable life by dropping the voltage even .5 volts, all of these lamps should remain constant and within there rated life if you use quality lamps. You should simply target your voltage to all of the luminaries at 10.8-11.5v and you will find excellent results.

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