The goals of outdoor and landscape lighting are to make a property look amazing at night. This is the artistic side of the profession. On the technical side, the proper choices in hardware and configuration must support the designer’s art. This is where hardware priorities come in. Since the components all depend on each other, the order in which they’re selected and set up is critical. It’s like planning a meal. It wouldn’t make sense to first pick the forks, then try to design a menu compatible with those forks. There’s an optimum order in which to make outdoor lighting hardware choices. The correct sequence is outdoor wiring, LED bulbs, fixtures, and then the transformer.
OUTDOOR WIRING FIRST
This Houston outdoor lighting contractor has learned from long experience that wiring comes first. Once the locations of the fixtures and transformer have been laid out, the next step is a wiring plan. The two golden rules for circuits are 1) Never daisy chain, and 2) Never have more than 3-4 lights per circuit.
SAY NO TO DAISY CHAINS
This type of wiring is the simplest and uses less wire than other types. That’s why it tempts contractors. However, there are two problems which should quash that temptation. First, the problem of voltage drop. As current passes through each bulb, it loses voltage. While LED bulbs will operate over a wide voltage range, they can start to flicker, lose brightness, and change color at lower voltages. This effect can ruin the designer’s artistic intent. Second, when a wire is cut in a series circuit, the whole circuit goes down. Since the break can be anywhere in the circuit, the task of finding it can be a long one.
SAY YES TO HUB
The alternatives to daisy chain circuits need more wire and are more complex. Hub designs give each fixture power independent of the other fixtures. Every bulb gets the same voltage. Moreover, maintenance and repair are simplified. If a light loses power, the problem is far easier to locate than in a daisy chain design. This is also a good reason to limit the number of fixtures per circuit.
Next comes calculating the gauge (thickness) of the wires needed to build it. The more current the circuits require, the thicker the wire needs to be. Purpose-built outdoor wiring comes in several gauges. The thicker the wire, the less resistance it has to electric current. The total current demanded by a circuit increases with the length of the wiring and with the number and output of the fixtures on it.
NEXT DESIGN STEPS
When the wiring diagram and wire gauge decisions are wrapped, a planner can make informed choices of LED bulbs, fixtures, and the transformer, in that order. Each of these choices leans heavily on those made before it. Thus, experience and discipline are the names of the game.