Exterior Light Installation Explained

exterior light
What You'll Need
Tiling spade
Concrete mix
Side-Cutter Pliers
Electrical tape
Temporary guy wire
Conduit couplings and connectors
Hacksaw blades
Conduit adapters
Weatherproof elbows
Weatherproof switches
Timer switch
Ground fault interrupter
Conduit bender
Weatherproof receptacles
Underground feed cable

Read these tips and instructions on how to save both time and effort while generating superior results for your outdoor light installation project.

Basics of Outdoor Lighting Installations

Check your local zoning requirements for outdoor lighting and follow them carefully. For underground wiring, always use type UF cable. There must always be a breaker box inside the from which the underground wiring begins.

When selecting the rest of the materials for your project, always select products which carry the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) seal of approval. In order to meet UL requirements, the the cable must be equipped with a grounding conductor, and all of the fixtures must be grounded.

You must apply a conduit in areas where cables rises above ground, as well as in areas where it bends. Some municipalities mandate that the entire cable be covered by the conduit.

Ground Fault Interrupters (GFI) are another important component. Local zoning offices are beginning to require them. GFI are available in 2 broad categories. The first are GFI that fit directly into the circuit box, the second are those that fit into outlet boxes.

The cable must be laid at least 18-inches beneath the surface; however, the best practice is to lay the cable 24-inches deep. The deeper the cable, the less likely you will be to strike it while doing yard work in the future.

Most importantly, do not perform any electrical work without first shutting off the main power supply.

Weatherproof Switches and Outlets

It almost goes without saying, but the equipment you use should be weatherproof. The cable, the boxes and the receptacles must be able to withstand the elements.

Weatherproof switches and outlet boxes are available in both flush-mount or surface-mount styles. When installed correctly, these fixtures are weather resistant.

Underground Installation From the House

Shut off the main power supply, then mount the breaker box. From the breaker box and through the wall, run a conduit to the area where the weatherproof elbow will be mounted on the outside wall.

Run the conduit to the weatherproof elbow, which will be either 18 or 24-inches below the ground. Use conduit connectors to attach the conduit to the building foundation. The conduit protects the cable from damage caused by yard tools. Slide the cable into the elbow and through the conduit.Pull the cable tightly through the weatherproof elbow and reattach the cover.

Attaching Lighting Fixtures and Outlets to Buried Cable

Plan your yard lighting carefully before starting the job. Before you begin, you must know where to install the weatherproof outlet boxes. These boxes are handy around patios and other recreational areas in your yard because they provide readily accessible receptacles for appliances, stereos, Christmas lights, and anything other outdoor item that requires power. Install protective conduit above ground where any weatherproof outlet box or elbow is installed.

Installing Post Lantern Yard Lights

Dig a 2-inch hole with an ordinary post hole digger or tiling spade. Run cable through the lamppost and fill the hole with 12-inches of concrete. Insert the lamppost into the concrete mix in an upright and level position. Use a long level or plumb bob to ensure that it has been positioned correctly. It cannot be straightened once the concrete settles.

Protect the cable below the post with a piece of bent conduit. Another good idea is to support the post while the concrete dries using either stakes or guy wires. Once the concrete has dried, fill in the hole with dirt and seed around the post for a neat appearance.

Properly Grounding Outdoor Fixtures

If the conduit does not connect to a grounded box, then cable with a grounding conductor must be used. Every exposed part of an outdoor lamp must be grounded, along with all weatherproof outlet boxes. GFI are required in most areas for outdoor circuits. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to install them.

Installing Timer Switches in Outdoor Lighting

New outdoor lights are equipped with motion sensors that turn the lights on when motion is detected. If your light does not have this type of control, you may wish to add a timer, photoelectric eye, or a motion detector to allow for automatic operation and greater security.

Permanent timer switches are also available. They can be preset for any on/off times. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully when installing a permanent timer switch. You may also use portable timer switches with plug-in equipment for outdoor lighting. Use this type of timer switch as you would any other appliance.