Outdoor lighting can increase a property’s safety and curb appeal when installed correctly. While the low-voltage systems may be less expensive to install and have less stringent electrical code standards, there are several factors to consider, such as aesthetics, hardware, damage prevention, and waterproofing. By being familiar with the National Electrical Code and the lighting options available, you will better educate your customers and ensure a project’s safety.
Outdoor Lighting Types
Outdoor lighting does more than illuminate, as the different lighting types serve specific purposes:
- Path lighting: Evenly spaced lamps along driveways, walkways, sidewalks and lawns
- Backlighting: Strategically placed lights behind landscape features and plants that create an interesting profile or silhouette
- Uplighting: Ground-level lights that shine upwards at trees, landscape focal points or the home
- Downlighting: Lights aimed downward on a property to simulate moonlight or increase security
- Security lighting: Bright lighting that improves safety and visibility when it’s dark; the lighting may be motion-sensitive or connected to a timer
- Specialty lights: Decorative lights that are functional and accent the property, such as waterfall lighting, deck lighting, patio torches and lampposts
Ground-fault circuit-interrupter, or GFCI, protection is not required of exterior light fixtures. When installing outdoor lighting in an area exposed to the elements, it must be listed for wet locations. The same is true for those in damp locations. Transformers for low-voltage lighting must be easy to access. Surface-mounted electrical boxes must be weatherproof.
Solar and LED Lights
Modern outdoor lighting saves energy and stays cool to the touch. Today’s solar-powered lights are brighter than their predecessors, use LEDs and run on rechargeable batteries.
Hardwired LED lights available on the market are no longer blindingly bright and offer the same warm glow as incandescent bulbs. While both options may cost more initially, clients will lower their energy bills and save on the cost of replacement bulbs when they choose solar fixtures or LED bulbs.
The National Electrical Code requires all outdoor receptacles to have GFCI protection. Homes must have an outdoor receptacle at the front and rear, and it is a good idea to install an additional receptacle on the side of a deck or balcony. Receptacles installed in damp areas, such as the roof over a porch, must be weather-resistant and have a watertight cover. Similarly, receptacles exposed to the elements, like those on outdoor lamp posts, must have weatherproof in-use covers.
Outdoor Wiring Considerations
The most common type of nonmetallic cable for residential outdoor wiring is UF cable, which can be exposed or buried, in accordance with the manufacturer’s listing. You may bury UF cable if it has at least 24 inches of cover. When you bury wiring with an intermediate metal conduit or rigid metal conduit, it requires at least 6 inches of cover. Wires within PVC conduits should have at least 18 inches of cover.
Bury low-voltage wiring with up to 30 volts at least 6 inches deep. The backfill surrounding cables and conduits should be smooth and rock-free. When buried wires transition above ground, they must be within a conduit that begins at the required cover depth or when the cable is 18 inches below ground and runs to the above-ground termination point or at least 8 feet above grade.
As with any outdoor project, it’s wise to call 8-1-1 at least three days in advance to have a utility worker mark the locations of the electrical lines on the property. Dig no closer than 2 feet from either side of a marked line using a hand shovel.
Outdoor lighting projects can be as simple as replacing a front door lamp or as complex as installing multiple lighting fixtures throughout a property’s landscaping. Keep track of your project’s details, monitor the status of permits, save photos of your project, and keep in touch with your clients using 360e. The app seamlessly runs on computers, laptops and mobile devices, so your office travels with you wherever you go. Sign up for a free demonstration and trial today.