Adding exterior lights to your home is an easy way to transform any outdoor space. Strategically placed exterior lighting can greatly enhance the aesthetics of your home and increase its curb appeal, and outdoor lighting can also help with home security. If you’re looking to upgrade your home with exterior lighting, here is an overview of all of the steps that are usually involved.
Get an Electrical Permit and Have a Utility Locate Performed
Before getting started on installing and wiring the lights, you’ll first need to have an electrician apply for an electrical permit. Most electrical work like installing permanent wiring or new outlets or switches requires an electrical permit and will also need to be inspected by the municipal electrical inspection once the job is complete. The permit can typically only be applied for by a licensed master electrician, which is one of the many reasons why you should always hire a professional when installing new outdoor lighting.
Since the wiring will usually be buried underground, they’ll also need to call for a utility locate so that they know the exact location of any underground power and gas lines. If any underground utilities are in the way of where the underground wires are supposed to go, the electrician will need to come up with an alternative solution for running the wiring. In this case, it may be necessary to run a conduit from the outlet or junction box along the exterior of the house to bypass the underground power or gas line or even attach the conduit to your fence.
If you’re planning out and designing your outdoor lighting yourself, you may want to call for a utility locate before you get started. This way, you’ll know if there are any underground utilities in the way so that you can then plan and design your lighting accordingly.
Decide Whether You Want the Lights on a Switch or Timer
The choice of using a switch or a timer is mostly a matter of personal preference, but it can also depend heavily on where the power for the lights is coming from. Depending on how your electrical system is set up and where the lights will be located, it is often much easier to use a timer to control the lights so that they automatically turn on and off at set times. If you’re looking to illuminate a patio or gazebo, it will usually be fairly easy to install an outdoor light switch in that area. In either of these situations, an electrician will usually be able to connect to an outdoor electrical outlet and then run wiring and conduit underground to supply power to the lights and the timer or outdoor switch.
If you want to be able to turn the lights on and off from inside your house, it will often be easier to just install a new circuit that supplies power to the outdoor lighting only. In this case, an electrician will run wires from the electrical panel to wherever you want the light switch.
Tap Into the Electrical System
The next step is for an electrician to tap into the electrical system so that the outdoor wiring can be connected. If the lights will be connected to an existing circuit, all the electrician will need to do is connect the wiring and conduit to a nearby outdoor outlet. If you’re installing a switch inside and running the lights on a new, dedicated circuit, the electrician will need to cut a hole in the exterior wall and then install a junction box on the outside of the house. They will run wires from the switch inside and feed them through the exterior wall and into the box.
Dig and Bury Conduits and Wires
Once the electrician knows where the power will be coming from, the next step is to start digging trenches from the outdoor outlet or junction box to wherever all of the lights are going. The trenches will typically need to be anywhere from 6 to 24 inches deep depending on the type of wire being used and whether the wire is shielded inside a conduit. In most cases, the electrician will use a special UF (Underground Feeder) cable. UF cable doesn’t need to be run inside of a conduit and will be buried either 12 or 24 inches underground depending on whether the cable is GFCI protected.
If you’re looking to install lights on both sides of a sidewalk or pathway, the electrician will either need to bore a hole under the path or drive a conduit under it. This way all of the lights can be wired without needing to cut through the concrete or dig up paving stones.
Once the trenches are dug and everything is ready, the electrician will then run wiring from the outlet or junction box and lay all of the wires and conduit in the trenches. The trenches will eventually be filled back in with dirt. However, the electrician will first connect everything and wire all of the lights and any switches so that everything can be tested before the wires are buried.
Mount and Connect the Light Fixtures
With all of the wiring in place, the next step is to start mounting all of the light fixtures and installing any switches. The exact process for this will depend on the type and location of the lights. Installing pathway lights along the ground is fairly simple as they can be driven or buried into the ground. If you’re installing lights on the side of the house, it will be necessary to cut a hole in the wall for the fixture and run wires inside the wall.
If you have any lights that will be mounted to a new post or pole, it will first be necessary to dig post holes at least two feet deep. The posts or poles will then need to be cemented in place to ensure that they are secure. If you’re using metal light poles, the electrician will first run the wiring through the inside of the pole before setting it in place. If you’re instead using wooden posts, they will set the post first and then run the wiring through a conduit that mounts to the outside of the post.
Once the electrician has mounted all of the light fixtures, they will then wire all of the fixtures and any outdoor light switches. They will then turn the circuit breaker in the electrical panel back on so that they can test to make sure everything works correctly. If an electrical permit was required for the work, the electrician will also need to contact the municipal inspector and schedule the final inspection.
The inspector will then check to make sure that all of the work conforms to all relevant code requirements. This includes making sure that the right type of wiring was used and that all of the wires and conduits are deep enough underground. After the inspector signs off on the work, the last step is to fill in all of the trenches and bury everything.
With nearly 100 years of experience, AJ Danboise Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical is proud to be the most trusted electrical service in Farmington Hills and the Detroit Metro area. Whether you’re looking to install outdoor lighting or need any other electrical installation or repair service, you can count on our team to get the job done right. To schedule a consultation for your exterior lighting installation or if you need any other electrical, plumbing or HVAC service, give us a call today.