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Gutters for running wire?

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by GreenLight, Dec 10, 2008.

  1. GreenLight

    GreenLight LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 521

    I recently was asked to install lights on a large residential property that was about 4 years old. In the back of the home it had a hardscape patio that was approximately 75 length X 125 feet width, in this hardscape patio a pool had been put in place as well as 5 inlaid planting beds with various trees and plants. I was asked to run lights to these 5 inlaid planting beds which obviously was a challenge. I was fortunate to find that they had run 2 inch pvc as a sleeve for the 3/4 in pvc irrigation pipe that ran to each bed (was done originally with the home. This was great, I had the ability to run wire from each inlaid bed, back to it's start point of conduit using a fishtape....Unfortunately the start point was a small bed cut in the patio butted right into the back of the home. The problem was the small bed sat right against the home but had no exits underground, so in order to get my wire to the transformer (on the side of the home) wire would be exposed crossing the patio about 40 feet. The only solution I had was a downspout that came from the gutters of the home, fortunately it ran right into the bed so I ended up running wire up the downspout and fishing it all the way to the otherside and then emptying back out into the yard near my transformer. Yes, I know this isn't ideal, but I didn't really have any other solution except to cut the concrete and that was simply not going to happen. Any thoughts?
  2. JoeyD

    JoeyD LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,933

    This is no problem. Running wires in rain gutters is a technique used all the time for powering up fixtrues in eaves, roof lines, or dormers on multi level homes.

    Welcome to the site!!
  3. GreenLight

    GreenLight LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 521

    Thanks for the response Joseph, I have been in landscaping and irrigation for just over 3 years. The past year I have suddenly come upon a handful of lighting jobs and I really have a passion for it. I am in the process of starting an independent wing of my company strictly for lighting called "GreenLight". (Yes, I know I couldn't have chosen a worse time to try this)...Anyway, I know I am nowhere near as skilled as many on here, but I am pretty proud of the work I have done so far and think that ultimately I would enjoy this the most. I will probably ask many dumb questions, but I thank you for any professional responses and opinions or thoughts.
  4. JoeyD

    JoeyD LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,933

    No problem. And although a lot of people will agree that this isnt the best economy to be starting any new buisness others are finding this is a great time with the slow down to diversify and branch into areas that maybe before were to busy to even consider. Feel free to contact me at any time if you have any questions regarding lighting design, technical, installation, or product specification. I would be more than happy to help you out.
  5. moreilly

    moreilly LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3

    I hate for this to be my first post and to sound like an ass, but what you just said is wrong on so many levels I don't know where to begin.

    I am an electrician and know where in our code book is it allowed to do what you said is "no problem". You really should be careful of what you suggest as being "no problem".

    Rain gutters are not grounded to the home, and should there be a short in the wire the gutters are now live and are conducting electricity. Guess what happens when you grab hold of the gutter? If this is low voltage, your getting off lucky. But if the lights are not low voltage, expect a call from the homeowners lawyer.

    BUT! Let's take into consideration a lightning storm. If it strikes the transformer located outside, or one of the landscape lights, lightning takes the path of least resistance (ie: a phone line). Those wires are the prime candidate for least resistance that you ran into the downspout, and will now make that downspout the primary starting spot for a house fire. Low voltage lighting or not, your in for a huge problem.

    Joey D, tell me what rainwater and electrical wires in the same "raceway" sounds like "no problem" to you? For those who don't know what a raceway is, conduit (pvc,emt,rigid pipes) are raceways. Made only for electical wire period! You have now made a downspout on a gutter a raceway. Illegal, and against every electrical code in the U.S.A

    Greenlight, tell me more about the house and if it has a crawlspace or not. Either way there is a much safer option that what you did.
  6. JoeyD

    JoeyD LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,933

    Let me re phrase.........

    I have never heard of there being a problem with running LOW VOLTAGE DIRECT BURIAL CABLE in a rain gutter. I will tell you in all my years of experince I have never once heard of a problem in doing this. I know of lots of contractors that use this technique on a regular basis and have never had an issue just as they have never had an issue with running lights within 5 ft of a body of water which also according to the NEC is unsafe. But code is code and therefor you may want to check with your local inspector to verify if this is a safe way for you to run your cable.

    Again, what MO stated above is correct and taken in worst case scenario context there could be a million things that could go wrong such as lightning striking the transformer, jumping the nomex faraday shield, bridging the 120v to the secondary side of the core, all the while it fry's the GFCI still producing current to the secondary homeruns one of which is in the gutter and happens to be sliced and the gutter is filled with water or dry leaves producing a fire or electical shock hazard.....I guess you have to look to worse case scenario. But again I was simply stating that I have never heard of a single issue when doing this, but Mo is correct in stating that it could be a very bad idea.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2008
  7. worx

    worx LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 252

    Can you ground the gutter system?
  8. GreenLight

    GreenLight LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 521

    First and foremost, Mo and Joseph I certainly appreciate both sides of the topic.. Mo what you say makes tremendous sense and obviously I would never run a 120 watt live line through a rain gutter...This is definitely low voltage and I can see your point about this being a problem even as low voltage...Joseph, most of the contacts I had (contractors and even my wholesalers) had the basic same response you had, that it's fairly common practice amongst low voltage lighting guys in the business, so you are certainly not the lone wolf in having that opinion. Mo, I will be honest, this is a large property that has 4 outdoor receptacles in the back that I could run my transformer to. The crawlspace aspect I had never investigated...The biggest problem is everything runs right up to the house and is surrounded on all sides by this concrete patio and in this mess there was never an electrical outlet placed in any of the inlaid beds....The conduit basically runs right up to the center of house and is surrounded on all sides by this large concrete patio. That being said, could I have possibly found a way to run electricity from inside the house to the exterior patio area? Yes, probably....Honestly I didn't want to invade that aspect of their privacy for low voltage lighting....Anyway, I am definitely taking what you said into account and appreciate your help as well.
  9. moreilly

    moreilly LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3

    Like I said, sorry if I came off sounding like an ass, but I wanted to stress how bad of an idea it is to run ANY wires in a gutter system.

    I have seen first hand and have had several service calls where lightning has struck low voltage lighting systems. It literally blew the transformer completely off the house and started the vinyl siding on fire. Not to mention it blew the tops off the lights out in the yard. Now just imaging if the wires were ran through the gutters? And I am not talking about them being full of leaves, I am talking about the wires catching that 1/8 inch thick aluminum on fire (the gutter). I honestly can't believe this is common practice when running low voltage wires.

    Aluminum romex has been banned from being used in residential and commercial applications for a reason. It gets extremely (dangerously) hot under load. This is why I think a permit needs to be pulled and an Electrical inspector needs to look at it. They would not only fail the job, but would revoke your electrical license from ever doing electrical work again. If you have one.

    In North Carolina, where I live now, they don't play around and let things slide like they used to. I will admit that some of the NEC is getting way too strict and borderline nonsense, but I do think they have this way of thinking to prevent such disasters like I have seen in my years of doing electrical work. Accidents do happen.


    I guess I am used to going in crawlspaces and into attics to run wires in a house that is already complete. I never thought of it as "invading" their privacy, I look at it as this is the clean and professional way of running new wires to whatever appliance, light etc.. that I am now wiring for. I wouldn't worry about that aspect of it :)

    Without looking at the house and where the wire you ran comes out at the house, I can only tell you how I wire low voltage lights.

    Step 1: If there is a crawlspace, I would take a hammerdrill, with a drillbit big enough that the low voltage wire can fit through the hole (or in my case Romex), and drill through the brick, or concrete so I now have a hole into the crawlspace.

    Step 2: Now, for me personally, I would find a j-box (junction box) that is under the house in the crawlspace where I can get 120v.( In my case this would be Step 1 so I can verify I can do this fairly easily or if I have to get directly to the electrical panel) Then run the wire (14-2 romex) from my j-box through the hole I drilled to the outside.

    Step 3: Now I can mount a weatherproof box and a GFCI directly in front of the hole I just drilled.

    Step 4: I can now move and mount the transformer from all the way across the house to where my low voltage wires are at :)

    [Tools and supplies needed]
    1. Hammerdrill with a hammerdrill bit.
    2. Anchor kit (blue anchors and 5/16 hexhead screws is best)
    3. Insulated Romex staples (staple the wire as you go under the crawlspace.)
    4. Weatherproof box
    5. Weatherproof cover
    6. GFCI
    7. 14-2 Romex. (At Home Depot or Lowes it comes in 25',50',100' or a full roll at 250')

    If moving the transformer is not an option, and it must stay where it is at, skip steps 2,3 and 4. I would also drill the hole so it is under the ground and won't be seen. You can fill the hole with caulk to prevent moisture.

    Now run the wire under the crawlspace all the way to the transformer. You may need to drill another hole at the other end so you can push the wire outside underneath the transformer. This hole does not have to be underground, just underneath the transformer so you can then slide it through the brick or concrete, and into your transformer. I say "you may have to" because sometimes there is a crawlspace vent near buy that you can slide the wires through too :) Remember to bring the insulated staples under the house with you so you can staple back to where you started :)
  10. Chris J

    Chris J LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,843

    When you say concrete, are you saying it is a concrete slab or is it pavers?.. Stupid response here, but if it's pavers you can remove a row to bury your wire. I just wanted to cover all the bases here and not assume I knew what you were talking about.
    By the way, I kind of like this new guy, Mo. Hope you post more cause I, for one, know all about sounding like an ass when there is something important to be said. :drinkup:

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