Adding exterior lights can dramatically transform your home’s appearance. Properly placed lighting can also help reduce tripping hazards, enhance security, and add value.
Before you begin, turn off the power to the circuit breaker at the workbox. Use a stud finder to ensure there’s no wall support or stud in the area where you plan to install your new light. For your safety, click here at https://vantaoutdoors.com/outdoor-lighting/ to talk to an expert. Read on for some ideas on how to do it.
Install The Fixture
Whether you’re adding a single sconce to the side of your house or upgrading the front entry light, choose fixtures made from quality materials. You want them to look good, of course, but you also need them to withstand the elements. Look for fixtures with metals that won’t rust, such as aluminum. You’ll also want to find fixtures with a dark sky rating or energy-efficient label since more states and municipalities are adopting regulations that mandate efficient lighting.
If you’re installing a new fixture, first figure out where the junction box for the switch will be. Then remove the cover to expose the wiring, and figure out which wires go where. Most outdoor lights use the same basic electrical wiring, which consists of white, black, and ground. To connect the wires, take a utility knife to strip back the insulation on each wire. Then, using a pair of wire strippers, cut off 3/4 inch of each wire. Use the tool to make sure there are no sharp points in the ends of the wires. Then, twist the white and black wires together and connect them with a wire nut. Do the same for the green and ground wires.
If it’s an existing fixture you’re replacing, turn off the power at your circuit breaker for safety. Next, disconnect the old light fixture by unscrewing the screw that attaches it to its mounting bracket.
Use a ladder to gain access to the fixture if necessary. Once the old light fixture is removed, take a picture of how the setup looks so you can replicate it when installing the new light fixture.
If you’re installing path lights, use temporary markers to indicate where the fixtures will be placed before drilling and wiring them. For above-ground lights, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for mounting and connecting the wiring. If you’re burying the cable, dig a trench and lay the low-voltage wire in it. Be sure to test the cables before re-connecting them and turning on the power at the breaker. That way, you can be sure your new lights are working properly.
Connect The Wires
Strategically placed exterior lighting will illuminate your home’s landscaping, walkways, or other features while enhancing safety and security. Before you begin working overhead, however, it’s essential to take the time to plan and prepare for a smooth installation. If you’re uncomfortable working with electrical wiring or your project involves complex installation, consult a professional to ensure safety and compliance with local regulations.
If you’re installing a new light fixture, first figure out which junction box will house it. Remove the junction box cover and find the electrical wire extending from your wall. Figure out which is the ground wire (it’s usually cased in green or bare copper), and which one is the “hot” black wire by using a non-contact voltage tester. Turn off the power at the breaker before you start working, and keep it off until you finish your work.
Use wire strippers to cut off about 3/4 inch of the cable’s sheathing, exposing the three individual wires. Using the color coding on your fixture, connect corresponding wires by twisting them together. If necessary, wrap a pair of wire connectors around the twisted wires to ensure a good connection. Cap the capped wires with a wire cap, and top the connectors in electrical tape.
When the wires are connected, it’s time to connect the lighting fixture. Depending on your chosen fixture, you may need to attach the mounting bracket to the ceiling work box with screws or threaded pipe. If so, it’s a good idea to do this on the ground, rather than from a ladder. Then, you can test the lights while the fixture is still in place.
If you’re installing a light with an existing junction box, mark the location of the back of the workbox on the wall using a pencil or marker. Ensure that no wall supports or studs are in the way by using a stud finder before you drill. Before you move on, make sure that the power is turned off at the breaker and that the non-contact voltage tester reads “Off.” Use a stud finder to check that there are no wall supports in the area where you plan to install your lightbox.
Bury The Cable
One of the most important steps of a proper outdoor lighting installation is the actual burying of the cable. Unfortunately, this is a step that often falls through the cracks. When a new service is being installed, or when a line needs to be moved, technicians sometimes forget to bury the cable.
If you’re planning on installing landscape lighting, make sure to call before starting any digging projects. The utility company will flag your property with different colored landscaping paint and mark all the underground lines and cables. They’ll even leave a rough sketch for you to reference.
It’s also important to use only cables rated for direct burial. A UL rating of “direct buried” means that the cable has passed additional testing and requirements that are beyond what you would expect from a typical conduit. This type of cable is usually made with a thicker jacket that can stand up to being stepped on, crushed by a shovel, or even in contact with water for long periods.
A good way to check if your cable is rated for direct burial is to take the two connector halves hanging off of your light fixture and pinch them together until you hear a snapping sound. The prongs inside the connector will pierce through the cable and touch the wires underneath.
Then, dig a trench that runs from where the cable is connected to your house to the location where you want your lights to be. Once the trench is finished, pour some concrete into it to hold the cable in place.
At the end of the trench, dig a 2-foot-deep posthole to accommodate your light pole. Pack dirt over the cable and test your lights to make sure they work.
Test The Lights
A well-designed landscape lighting system adds beauty and safety to your home. It can illuminate walkways and steps or create a dramatic effect with water features. It can also be a powerful marketing tool for your property. However, like any electrical project, it is important to be careful during your outdoor lighting installation. Incorrect or sloppy work could result in faulty wiring, code violations, and costly repair bills down the road.
When buried wires run between lights, it is essential to check the electrical connections before turning on the system. This is done with a multimeter or voltmeter. First, locate the power cables that run from the transformer to the fixture. These are usually black and red. Attach one lead of the device to each cable and the other end to a known ground source, such as a metal water pipe or a grounded outlet box. If the device indicates continuity between the power cables, the circuit is complete and the lighting system will work properly.
Some landscape lighting issues are less obvious than a burned-out bulb. A spliced wire or improper connection can cause a short that will affect multiple fixtures. These issues are easier to fix when they are discovered early in the project.
To prevent a short, always verify that the voltage is correct at the light fixture with a voltmeter or a multimeter. It is important to know what voltage the light fixture is getting from the transformer, as it will determine how bright the lighting will be. Oftentimes, this information is provided by the manufacturer.
The final step in checking the lighting before burying is to test each fixture individually. This is done by connecting the wires from the transformer to the light with a weatherproof connector. Then, the light is plugged in and tested. If any of the fixtures don’t turn on, a simple inspection will determine what the issue is. If all the fixtures are off, then it is probably a burned-out bulb, but if the lights are intermittent or don’t turn on at all, there is likely an electrical problem with a connection or splice.