Southern Landscape Lighting Systems of Marietta, GA, designs, installs, and services residential and commercial LED landscape lighting systems in the Metro Atlanta area. One component of the installation process is connecting the fixtures to the power source with special wiring. This wiring is manufactured with a thick, durable, waterproof coating to protect against the elements and minor skirmishes with falling limbs, light shovel impacts, and infrequent traffic from light equipment and service vehicles. Some municipal building codes and manufacturers’ recommendations stipulate the cable be buried at least six inches under the soil or mulch to further protect the wiring from damage. Once in the ground and adequately buried, the wiring is impossible to locate without assistance.
Tips on how to locate buried landscape lighting wire
When moving into a home with an existing landscape lighting system, it is important to prioritize the task of accurately finding and marking the wiring layout throughout the yard, including mulch beds and planting beds. Alternatively, if the homeowner was present when the system was installed, the network of wires is easily forgotten. The typical trench for landscape lighting wiring is very narrow and almost invisible once filled in or covered by grass, mulch, pine straw, or leaves.
At some point, it will become necessary to locate the hidden wiring. “Safe rather than sorry” is a good rule to follow. The consequences could be frustrating, inconvenient, and expensive. Be sure to locate the wiring when engaging in the activities listed below.
1. Laying out and preparing new planting beds
The layout and installation of a new planting bed can make shredded spaghetti out of sections of landscape lighting wiring. The damage to the wiring can be so extensive that the entire zone may need to be re-wired and buried.
2. Installing a walkway, path, or patio
Avoid installing a path, walkway, or patio over any utilities, including landscape lighting wiring. Instead, unearth and reroute the wiring to accommodate the landscape addition. Admittedly, the shallow trenching increases the vulnerability of the wiring, but it also makes repairs and relocation much easier and less expensive.
3. Having tree work done
Tree work can be hazardous not only for landscape lighting wiring but also for a lawn irrigation system. Tubing and wiring are both relatively shallow when compared to the burial depth of a water line (24”) or a power line (36”). A large falling limb can sever either the wiring or the irrigation pipe unless the ground is very dry and hard. Tree work often involves heavy equipment such as a skid steer, boom truck, or chipper. If the soil is moist, the weight of the equipment can damage or sever the wiring. If vehicle traffic in the yard is heavy, the most efficient solution may be to re-wire the entire landscape lighting system. By identifying the network of wires in the yard, the tree service can lay down a protective barrier or work around the wiring. The irrigation tubing may need significant repairs, as well.
Bonus tip: Before boring, blasting, drilling, digging, or excavating, notify Georgia 811 to have utilities located. The hole needed for a large shrub or tree with a 36-inch root ball will be deep enough to damage or sever buried electrical, gas, and water lines. Fines for failure to notify Georgia 811 and repairs for damages could be financially catastrophic for a business or homeowner. Make the call. Wait to dig until the lines are marked, then dig, excavate, or bore cautiously. A ruptured gas line can have fatal consequences.
4. Troubleshooting an electrical problem in the landscape lighting system
Intermittent outages, flickering bulbs, or a dark zone indicate an issue. To discover the cause of the problems and make repairs, the homeowner may need to trace some or all of the wiring through the yard.
How to locate and trace the landscape lighting wiring
With the proper tools and problem-solving strategies, the wiring can be found, traced, and marked with flags or water-based marking paint.
Option #1: Purchase a wire detector. An underground wire locator can be purchased online; prices range from $50 to $250. However, the economy version is adequate for the homeowner.
Option #2: After disconnecting the power, probe in likely areas with a small hand shovel. Dig at a 45-degree angle to reduce the risk of damaging the wire. This alternative is risky and should be avoided if possible. This trial-and-error approach could have shocking results if the power to the system has not been shut off.
Option #3: Use a metal detector. A typical metal detector will work if it reaches a depth of six or more inches. The broad foot of the device is not precise, but it is typically accurate to within a few inches. Purchase a wire detector if a metal detector is not available.
Option #4: Use a professional underground wire locator. This delicate device is precise and expensive. It can detect underground wire at a depth of three feet. Landscape lighting wire is usually buried at a depth of six inches, though some installers go deeper.
Option #5: Contact the original installer if they are still in business, or reach out to the established and experienced team of lighting professionals at Southern Landscape Lighting Systems of Marietta, GA. Not only can they locate and mark the landscape lighting wiring, but they can also identify and resolve any problems with the system, whether they installed it or not.