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Tips for Safe Outdoor Lighting Installation

As much as outdoor lighting enhances your home, it must also be safe.

Using electricity in any outdoor area is always going to be dangerous, whether the wires are exposed, or buried underground.  The best way to remain safe, and avoid accidents or fatality, is to consult with an electrician and comply with local codes on electrical work.

Here are some helpful tips for installing outdoor lighting:

  • First, check and comply with all local codes for any intensive electrical installations of outdoor lighting.
  • Turn off electrical current before you even begin. Usually located at the main.
  • Dial Before You Dig. There are strict community electrical codes to be aware of. Underground cable usually has to be dug out and buried at least at 18 inches deep. So you don’t want to dig through pre-existing cables.  After checking the codes out, run your cable to each light section following along the trench.
  • Know the kind of circuit you need. You don’t want to over-watt your fixtures. Research or get professional help on circuits and requirements.
  • Watch out for flammable materials. Keep your lights, or any items such as power packs that generate heat, well clear of any materials that could smoulder, ignite, or burn.
  • Consider your conditions. There are safety risks present outdoors that are not typical to indoor electrical utilities. Always be aware of potential hazards, such as hail storms, torrential rain, pets, wildlife and garden maintenance.

Tools of the trade

  • Use grounded and outdoor-specific electrical fixtures. Always check for outdoor-rated designs; this includes extension cords, switches, fixtures and connectors.
  • Be sure your outside electrical receptacles are ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected. Prevent an electrical shock; GFCI are required highly sensitive devices which can detect even the smallest of inequalities in the current, and cut the electricity to prevent electrocution. This device may save your life.
  • Install weather-resistant receptacles. Don’t run a cord through a window or door from inside your house. For safety, temporary outdoor electrical loads should be plugged into outdoor receptacles. Remember that they must be rated for weather resistance. Also, be certain to install the appropriate covers for these receptacles.
  • Be on top of equipment safety. Make sure tools are made for outdoor use, and if it’s new be sure your read the operating manual and become familiar before you take it near electrical cables. Keep the area around your meter and any other electrical equipment clear. Extension cords are not designed for long term use, so check for damage before using them. Also check your ladders for stability, and try to use wooden instead of metal when you’re working with electricity.

Temporary Lighting

Outdoor electrical safety is the number one priority when considering any electrical installation. Many people think a temporary setup of outdoor lighting can be done without regard to safety because the lighting isn’t permanent. This is false. Temporary power connections or lighting can become as dangerous. There are special requirements for temporary installations which apply in addition to the regular guidelines. If in doubt, please contact a professional electrician – your life, and your family’s safety may depend upon it.

There are safety risks present outdoors that are not typical to indoor electrical utilities. Always be aware of potential hazards. Outdoor lighting is a beautiful addition to any home, any season, and on holidays. It is a rewarding project all on its own. If you stick to the guidelines, the results will be worth all the precautions!