All posts by Abulous

How to calculate the cost of landscape lighting

Our customers frequently ask us how much their power bill will increase after their new system is installed. Nowadays we’re only installing LED systems so our response is, “You will not even notice it.”

However, back when we installed incandescent systems the power requirements were much greater. While the number was relatively low compared to air conditioning units and the like, we would always provide cost estimates.

This article will show you how to calculate the cost of power for landscape lighting. If you don’t want to do the math we’ve included a handy calculator so you can quickly determine the cost for your system (or any other electrical component for that matter).

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Choosing beam angle

When you set out to purchase fixtures you may be presented with options for bulbs or fixtures with various beam angles. To  choose the correct beam angle you must consider the distance between your fixture and your subject. You must also consider the size of your subject area.

Professionals also consider the power of the lamp (lumens) as well as foot-candle. We will not go into professional level detail here, but we will give you the information to make an informed buying decision. We will also provide handy calculators to help you determine the optimum bulb for your specific environment.

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How to Install Down Lighting

Do-it-yourself Down Light Installation

It is fairly easy to install lights on the ground around your house but placing moonlighting 30′ up a tree is a different story.  In this article we show the homeowner how to professionally install down lighting (moon lighting) using the correct components and techniques.

First of all we assume you have the skills and equipment you need to position yourself in a tree.  Installing down lights in trees is risky. If you do not have the skills and equipment to ensure your safety you need to hire a professional installer. 

Determine the location of the fixture

You’ll want to be at least 25′ in order to achieve the appropriate effect. Make sure the fixture will be located where glare will not spill over into the neighbor’s yard and cause light trespass.  The ‘beam spread’ of your fixture/bulb as well as the height of the fixture will determine the area that will be lit. If you need help with height and spread use our handy beam spread/angle calculator.

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How to Plan Landscape Lighting

 It’s All About the Plan

Most homeowners have what it takes to install basic landscape lighting. The job is simple enough; place some fixtures, run some wires, hang a transformer and connect everything. But you can’t just start placing components without a plan. We’ll review how to plan landscape lighting.  Once you have the diagram (with accompanying documents) you will have a much better chance of winding up with the system you envisioned.

We are going to assume that you will be installing a simple LED system. This means you will not have to worry about voltage loss and all of the things you’ll need to do to avoid it. If you insist on installing an incandescent system this process will work, but you’ll need to brush up on some of our other articles before you begin.

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What is an LED bulb?

What is a LED bulb?

LED stands for Light-Emitting Diode.   It is assembled into a lamp (sometimes called a light bulb) for use in lighting fixtures.

So What Then is an LED?

PairofLEDBulbs
Two close-up views of a 3-watt LED Lamp

Technically speaking an LED is a two-lead semiconductor light source that is a p-n-junction diode. When voltage is applied to the leads, electrons are able to recombine with electron holes releasing energy in the form of photons thus emitting light. The color of the light is determined by the band gap of the semiconductor.

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Why do the pros use multi tap transformers?

To address the question right off the bat, the answer is voltage loss.  There are a number of causes of voltage loss but no matter what the cause it has to be mitigated. If voltage loss is not compensated for you will experience shorter life on fixtures and poor performance overall. We’ll discuss the main causes of voltage loss and how to deal with the problem with a multi-tap transformer.

What is a Multi Tap Transformer?

Multi Tap Transformers guard against voltage loss.
This 300 watt transformer has output taps ranging from 12 volts all the way up to 22 volts.

Technically speaking a multi tap transformer is a step up (or down) transformer that has multiple taps on either the primary winding or the secondary winding. A multi tap transformer provides flexibility in your input and output voltage requirements.

In the landscape lighting world, a multi tap transformer provides multiple terminals with outputs ranging from 12 volts up to 15 or more volts.  The installer has the choice of employing as many of the taps as necessary to ensure even voltage to all fixtures.

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The Best Argument for Outdoor Lighting

Lighting Beautifies the Home

By far the number one reason we’re asked to install outdoor lighting is to enhance the beauty of property at night. Every system we’ve installed has enhanced the beauty of the home and every single customer has been pleased. But it’s a no-brainer really, outdoor lighting really makes a home shine at night.

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What is voltage loss and how to avoid it

Low voltage outdoor lighting troubleshooting

When you are low voltage outdoor lighting troubleshooting, voltage drop is a key element to check. Of course there are obvious items to check such as bad connections. But when it comes to ensuring your system will last a lifetime, managing voltage loss is key.

Voltage loss is phenomenon that occurs when electricity loses voltage as it travels down a wire. Your voltage drop will depend on how long your wire is, the thickness of the wire and the number of fixtures on the circuit.

Create an efficient layout

The first thing to check when low voltage outdoor lighting troubleshooting is your layout. Daisy chain layouts are more susceptible to low voltage power loss.
Hub vs Daisy Chain Layout

 

Your fixture should be wired in ‘zones’. This allows you to keep all fixtures in an area the same relative distance from the transformer.  Group the fixtures close to the transformer (30′ or less) together, then group the ones that are slightly farther away (30′ to 60′) and finally group the ones the farthest distance  (60′ to 100′).

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Why outdoor lighting maintenance is important

Outdoor lighting maintenance

Well maintained outdoor lighting systems last much longer than those that are not maintained.  Outdoor lighting maintenance should be performed on a regular basis.  Set a calendar and check the system on the first day of each season for example.  Or check it the first day of every third month. No matter when you check your system you should check your system regularly to make sure the components are in good working order and not subject to premature failure.

We’ve seen some really poorly maintained systems in our day. Don’t find yourself having to deal with problems resulting from neglecting your lighting system. This video below show a fixture that was neglected.  Over time ivy had grown over the fixture and the spike was bent over and the fixture was touching the ground. Then ants built mounds of soil around the fixture. Then the seals failed and the bugs got inside. Finally these bugs (maggots?) got inside and ate everything up. It was so bad the fixture could not be rebuilt. We just had to replace it. If the owner had just checked it every so often and kept it upright this never would have happened.

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Nine landscape lighting tips and steps to install like the pros

Landscape Lighting Tips

Bury wire at least 6" deep
One landscape lighting tip is to bury your wire at least 6″.

Anyone can purchase a landscape lighting system from a big box store and install it in a weekend. But for the system to look its best and last the longest you’ll need to install it like a pro.

We’ve listed our top landscape lighting tips. Follow these easy steps to make your project successful.

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