My Landscaper Did My Landscape Lighting But It’s Never Worked Right

Inferior Quality Low Voltage Bulb

I certainly do not want to pick on landscapers, but one of the most frequently heard comments at the recent Colorado Garden and Home Show was – my landscaper did my lighting but it’s never worked right.

During the last two weeks, I evaluated two lighting systems that coincidentally had exactly the same fixtures.  The low voltage path lights were manufactured by a well-known national lighting manufacturer that had rolled out a lower-priced line of fixtures for landscapers to use. The path lights use the incandescent T5 wedge-base bulbs that have an average life of only 500 to 1,000 hours. In addition, the manufacturer states that these fixtures are rated for damp locations (somewhat sheltered from the weather) instead of wet locations (snow, rain, sleet, etc.). The fixtures have no lenses to protect either the bulb or the socket from moisture, moths, and spider webs – and that degrades the bulb life even further.

Making the situation in both installations even worse is the fact that the installers used the daisy chain method of installation – that’s when numerous fixtures are connected in series one after the other on the same circuit. Invariably with that wiring technique, the installer typically sets the voltage higher than it should be to ensure that the light at the very end of the circuit receives enough voltage to light up. What that also means is that the first light in the series is receiving 14, 15, or 18 volts – and since the bulbs are only rated at 12V – the first bulb starts burning out very quickly causing a domino effect down the line.

In one of the locations, the landscaper installed over a dozen step lights in poured concrete steps and patios – and it appears that no sleeves had been installed so that the system could be rewired if necessary. More problematic is the fact that as the concrete continues to cure over time, it will react with and break down the protective insulation and eventually corrode the wiring.

Outdoor lighting systems can last a lifetime if high quality products are used and professionally installed – and it’s very disconcerting to see a beautifully landscaped yard with an inferior lighting system. Sometimes we can come up with a cost-effective solution for the homeowner to remedy the lighting system – but sometimes we almost have to start from the beginning.

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