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Outdoor Lighting: Safe Installation Tips

Outdoor lighting can enhance your home and make the most of the features in your garden or yard. Anything can become a feature with the right outdoor lighting--a tree, a path, a stone wall, whatever you decide to accent with light, shade, and color. Beautiful outdoor lighting also needs to be safe. Follow these tips when wiring outdoor lighting to ensure that your exterior lighting statement doesn't go up with a bang:

  • Turn off electrical current at the mains before you begin any electrical work and always follow the National Electric Code.
  • Check and comply with local codes regarding outdoor lighting.
  • Consider the kind of circuit you want to use. A parallel circuit is usually better than a series because the latter makes it difficult to identify the location of a problem--think Christmas lights and the hunt for the bulb that has blown.
  • Dig a trench of the appropriate depth, in keeping with your local community electrical codes, and run the wiring to each light or section of lighting along the trench. Underground cable has to be buried at least 18 inches deep.
  • Use UF cable for underground wiring--there must be a fuse or breaker inside the house at the starting point of the underground wiring installation.
  • Use grounded outdoor electrical fixtures--fit a grounding conductor for all underground installations.
  • Protect an outdoor lighting circuit with Ground Fault Interrupters (GFIs)--one in a circuit breaker box and another in an outlet box. These are highly sensitive devices that are required and can detect even very small inequalities in the current and cut the electricity to prevent electrocution. This device could save your life.
  • Always use weatherproof equipment for outdoor lighting fixtures and wiring. Use connectors, switches, and light fixtures that are designed for outdoor use.
  • Connect the appropriate wires--black to black, white to white, and green to green--using waterproof connectors. Then twist all of the black wires together with the black wire from your house so that you can turn all of them on using the same switch.

Safety should always be your first consideration when installing outdoor lighting. Then you can enjoy your outdoor lighting without concern for your safety or that of your friends, family, or neighbors.