Q -- want to add some landscape and security lighting in my yard. I
prefer lighting kits that I can install myself, to save money, and ones that are
efficient. What types of general-purpose lighting kits do you recommend?-Jan T.
A --The newest fiber-optic
or low-voltage landscape and security light kits would be the best choice for
all of your outdoor needs. These kits are very easy to install yourself and
they are energy efficient. Purchasing a complete kit (transformer/timer, fixtures,
wiring, etc.) is the simplest method, or you can buy all the components separately.
Since you can install these kits yourself, you will
not have to be concerned about limiting the number of lights to minimize the
electrician's fees. This allows you to locate the lights to target the lighting
to specific areas instead of just flooding a larger area with light.
By targeting smaller selected areas with more but
lower-brightness fixtures, you will cut your electric bills. This also reduces
the stray light that causes problems for birds and some nocturnal animals.
Over the past several years, there have been many
ornate and contemporary models introduced. Some of the most ornate redwood,
cedar, and die-cast metal models can cost from $50 to over $100 for each light
fixture. For those on a tight budget, the complete lower-cost durable plastic
kits are still available. You can mix and match various fixtures and add just
a couple of the expensive ornate ones in high-visibility locations.
Hi-tech fiber-optic lighting kits are the safest
to install and use because the individual light fixtures have no electricity
connected to them. A single projector box, which houses only one light bulb,
is plugged into a standard electrical outlet. You can locate the projector wherever
you wish. You may want to attach it to a motion-sensor switch for times when
you are not using the outdoor area. This can frighten away an intruder.
Once you install the projector, locate the individual
light fixtures wherever you need them. Some kits allow you to install up to
24 bollard-style lights to a single projector unit. Run the thin fiber-optic
cables from the projector to the individual light fixtures through your gardens
and along walkways. You will be surprised how durable the fiber-optic cable
is. Each fiber-optic fixture has the equivalent light output of a 10-15-watt
Futuristic-looking fiber-optic lighting fixtures
are also available, but you can use only a maximum of 16 fixtures per projector.
An optional slowly spinning color wheel inside the projector can change the
colors of the lights. For swimming pools, decks, and patios, contour lighting
using a side glow fiber-optic cable is attractive. The entire cable glows to
mark an edge or a walking path.
The variety of designs and applications of safe low-voltage
(12-volt) lighting kits is constantly expanding. For example, built-in deck
and stair lights are available. New "let's edge it" kits are ideal
for lining walkways and driveways. These use realistic-looking durable plastic
bricks that weather like real brick. With built-in wiring connectors, they just
Another key area of improvement has been in the wiring
connector design. If you have ever tried to attach old fixtures and ended up
with sore fingers and lights that flicker, you will appreciate this. These new
connector designs are much easier to snap on to the heavy 12-volt wire. Some
are now also sealed to minimize corrosion for true maintenance-free operation.