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Low Voltage Lighting Layout

Posted by pmsmith2032 5b Suburbs of Chicag (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 5, 13 at 13:16

I am looking for suggestions on how to design/layout a low voltage system for our backyard. This design will incorporate uplights, downlights and path/area lights. All lights will be LED. I am planning on using Volt and Paradise lights and have already purchased a 200 watt transformer. Below are some pictures of our landscape design and its current state:

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This plan as been modified slightly. The pool deck has been moved from the right side of the pool in this picture to below it (see pictures below-between house and pool). Some of the plants in the top right hand corner have changed, but as of now, I don't plan on lighting this area anyway.

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View from back deck attached to house toward pool.

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Another shot from back deck.

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Facing back of house.

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Another shot facing back of house.

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Facing across yard (from left to right in picture of layout above). An inground firepit is planned next year where the old firepit sits now.

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Area in bottom right corner of layout above. I will be adding a gate in the fence and a path will be made in the mulch through the trees.

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Area in bottom left corner of layout above

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Area along left side of layout above facing from bottom to top.

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Area along right side of layout above facing from bottom to top.

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Facing stairs leading up to pool deck.

I am just beginning to learn about lighting and my plan is in the infancy stage, so any and all suggestions are welcome!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

The bible of lighting design is The Landscape Lighting Book (go figure) by Janet Lennox Moyer. Unique Lighting used to sell a tech manual that covers installation basics.


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

Thanks! I checked online and Amazon wants $100 for the book and our library does not have it. Unique Lighting no longer offeres the tech manual from what I can tell.


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

Well, her widely acclaimed in-person lighting workshop is $3k. So a Ben Franklin for her book isn't bad.

hm. Next time someone tells me I cost too much, maybe I'll share what it costs to educate a designer.

Any tome on landscape lighting is going to give you the basics - path, area, accent, up, down, silhouette/shadow lighting, etc. A $10 Ortho DIY book on outdoor lighting will point you in the right direction. If you want something awesome where beam spread and effects are worked out for you, a lighting designer's your best bet. The middle ground is to educate yourself with the better resources out there. Not sure how else to help you.


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

You don't have any significant trees or shrubs to light so the only concern at this point in your landscape's young life is safety lighting on the stairs and rails and a some ambience down lights focused on the deck.

How did you calculate that you needed a 200 watt transformer ?

Normally we spec the lighting fixture first, plug in its wattage and calculate the voltage drop for the run. That informs us of the size wire to use , if any hubs are required and the size of the transformer and its best location.

The Ortho book on lighting is a good start. It's probably around the 10 range.

Moyers book is geared more towards the landscape architect and is considered the holy grail. I also like Michael Whiteheads books, they're not as detailed in the mechanics though.

I've attended both Moyers and Whiteheads seminars and each bring an interesting perspective . Whitehead has quite the sense of humor


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

Thanks both for the responses. I purchased the 200 watt transformer (Intermatic ML200RT from Menards) based on using LED bulbs. I figured that 200 watts would be more than enough to light now and add on later as trees and shrubs grow. Maybe this isn't the best transformer, but I can always return it (it hasn't been used yet) if need be. Is there something better in the $50-$60 price range?

I'm going to order the Ortho book today.


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

.......$ 50 - 60 ? Not that I know of.


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

What is a reasonable price for a good transformer? Also, I just contacted Intermatic to make sure the transformer was magnetic and that it has an AC output (which it does) However, I was told that many manufacturers require a Class 2 type of transformer ratin for LED lights and the Intermatic transformer is not. The rep said class 2 means it meet the UL, National Electrical Code & ANSI/NFPA 70 approval. I'm not sure what all this means, how important it is, and if this rules out the transformer I bought for LED lights. Thanks in advance for any help!


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

I can't help with your lighting, but I have a question for you.

What is this on the back of your house?

I really like your landscape plan, btw. Any reason for moving the deck? Seems it would block your view of the kids in the pool while you're in the house.


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

Thanks for the compliment. The pipes coming out of the house are for the furnace vent. Ths silver area you also have circled is the window well.

We moved the deck because if we built it on the side, we would have been building it over the utility easement (electric). My daughter is older so we don't worry too much with her in the pool. My son is younger and one of us is always on the deck when he is swimming.


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

Ah. I thought it might have been a cistern. We had the same kind of pool and put the deck in front - between the pool and house. We really didn't give much thought to the placement but I have wished we did it differently from time to time now that the pool is gone.


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

If you really want to be able to read The Landscape Lighting Book ask your library to do an inter-library loan. My library system charges $2 for this. Last one I got, here in Georgia, came from somewhere in Kansas I'd never heard of.

Scratch the above idea. I decided to do a search beyond Amazon - always do. Just ordered a copy for myself for $2.95 + $3.95 shipping, $6.90 total. There were others available.


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

What is a reasonable price for a good transformer? Also, I just contacted Intermatic to make sure the transformer was magnetic and that it has an AC output (which it does) However, I was told that many manufacturers require a Class 2 type of transformer ratin for LED lights and the Intermatic transformer is not. The rep said class 2 means it meet the UL, National Electrical Code & ANSI/NFPA 70 approval. I'm not sure what all this means, how important it is, and if this rules out the transformer I bought for LED lights. Thanks in advance for any help!


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

Did you buy from an online source or a local lighting supply house? Because the counter staff at a local shop could easily answer those questions about the products you bought from them


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

I purchased it from Menards.


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

So... the goal is a professional result with box store equipment? Yikes. Ok, let's hop in the DeLorean, here's what I would tell you if I could snag you when the goal of lighting hit you.

If you want a professional result, hire a professional. It's not cheap, though. If budget or a proclivity for DIY projects is your thing, at the very least consider working through your local lighting supply house. Unless you're a contractor you'll pay retail, but you can often get a lot of technical advice and even layouts and schematic drawings from a local IF you're serious about buying from them (don't be That Guy who pumps them for hours of info and then buys the lights online).

There's a lot of thought that goes into lighting design, from effect to placement to beam spread and intensity and angle to baffles and shrouds and filters, calculating voltage drop... I doubt you're going to find anyone to design a system for you without making money off it somewhere (either via design fees or material markup), because it's not the usual "should I plant a forsythia here?" question this forum gets.

Besides, if you're buying lights from a box store, it's low risk. If you don't like a fixture what are you out, twenty bucks?


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RE: Low Voltage Lighting Layout

Thanks for the advice. I'm actually buying the lights themselves from Volt lighting. They get very good results online and have been very prompt and helpful when I contact them. I bought the transformer at Menards because it was half the price of what I could get online, we are on a budget (we have a huge landscaping implememtation ongoing) and I figure I can always upgrade the transformer in the future. This year I am only installing two downlights on the side of our deck so that we can use them as spotlights to play cornhole at night. I figure this way I'll get a feel for how the lighting works. Next year we will add more lights as needed.


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