Read the fine print

Manufacturers write specifications for the protection of their contractors and customers.
quality work fine print

We all pride ourselves in providing high-quality installation work for our customers. One of the ways to do this is to sell products at a higher price and still win the business. Many contractors have done a great job of doing this by distinguishing themselves as a quality company with a quality brand. These contractors have put much time and effort in working with the high-end customer. These customers demand the best, so in many cases price is no object. Creating a quality company can lead to more prosperous job opportunities. Do I really need to take the time and read the fine print? Were these specifications written by engineers who have never worked in the field and installed such products?

In the lighting industry, many manufacturers’ products are designed and developed by contractors or people with contracting experience. So, stop and read all the installation instructions, especially if this is the first time you have used a certain product. If your job deadline is looming, trust me, taking the time to read and understand the manufacturer specifications will help you meet your deadlines in the long run. Below are some examples of manufacturer specifications that often get overlooked.

Gel-filled wire nuts – These wire nuts can work well when installed properly. Often, contractors insert too many cables into a gel-filled wire nut. This creates a potential fire hazard. This also can cause the gel cavity to expel the waterproofing material from within the cavity, causing a potential short, corrosion and wicking.

Low-voltage rope and strip lighting – Both rope and strip lighting can enhance your hardscape jobs. Most manufacturers have specifications for maximum run lengths and field cut marks. If you do not adhere to maximum run lengths, you could get dimming at the end of the run and lighting inconsistencies. When field cutting, be sure to cut right on the line. Failure to do so could break the circuit. LED drivers can also be required for DC-only products. This will convert the AC power from the landscape transformer to DC at the connection point. Failure to use it could make the rope or strip pulsate. Most of these products will also require some type of sealant and heat shrink tube for all connection points and fittings. Failure to seal the fittings properly could result in water intrusion.

Transformers – In the field, I have seen wall-mounted transformers lying on the ground. Most manufacturers require a low-voltage landscape transformer to be installed a minimum of 12 inches above grade to avoid water intrusion. This is measured from finished grade to the bottom of the transformer. When wall-mounting a transformer, it should be installed within 3 feet of a ground-fault circuit interrupter-protected receptacle. An outdoor weatherproof bubble cover and a drip loop should be installed to protect the receptacle from water intrusion as well.

Well lights – One of the most-ignored manufacturer specifications pertains to the installation of well lights. Manufacturers suggest that all subsurface fixtures be installed in a way that allows moisture to drain away from the fixture. Most recommend that a hole is dug twice as deep as the overall height of the fixture. The width of the hole should be the same as the height of the fixture. Pea gravel or sand can be poured into the lower portion of the hole. After the fixture is installed, the pea gravel or sand can be used to fill the cavity around the fixture. This will provide proper drainage.

Manufacturers write these specifications for the protection of their contractors and customers. Following the specifications will keep your factory warranty valid. Manufacturers are quite good at identifying when their products have been installed incorrectly; this will void the warranty every time. Better to be safe than sorry!

This column originally appeared in Irrigation & Green Industry magazine.
Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at

In This Category

art lighting effects demonstration
Teach yourself how to do lighting demonstrations through practice.
low voltage power cable
Use wiring correctly to build a quality landscape lighting design.
good contractor follow rules
Protect your team with these installation tips.