Tips for safe landscape lighting installation

Protect your team with these installation tips.
good contractor follow rules

Good contractors always have their customer’s best interest in mind and follow all the rules according to their state or province and local code requirements. When a contractor keeps the installation safe, they protect their customers and themselves. Here are a few tips to help protect your team.

Call before you dig. Before you commence any excavation on a property, you should have service lines marked by utility companies. In the United States, call 811 to request that utility lines be marked in advance of digging. You can also visit to contact 811 in your respective state. In Canada, visit

Place this call several business days in advance, so you can work around the marked service lines. This rule applies for all excavations no matter the size of the job.

Why is this important? Many utilities are buried just a few inches from the ground. They can be struck by a shovel very easily. If you strike a utility line and have not called 811 in advance, the liability falls on you. This could result in fines and repair costs.

Transformer safety. For landscape lighting, use a transformer with UL 1838 certification or with an ETL listing that conforms to UL 1838 standards. Landscape lighting power units covered by this standard have a maximum output circuit voltage of 15 volts.

Landscape lighting transformer output circuits are rated at a maximum of 25 amps and 300 volt-ampere. A circuit breaker or fuse must be on the secondary side in case of a short circuit or an overload.

Be sure to follow all manufacturer specifications and instructions and follow the safety precautions listed below:

  • Low voltage transformers that supply power to any underwater fixture (either in a water feature for nonhuman use or other nonpool application) must be rated specifically for use with a submersible fixture.
  • Transformers should be mounted within 2 feet of a standard electrical 110-volt or 120-volt receptacle and at least 12 inches above the ground.
  • The receptacle should be protected by a groundfault circuit interrupter or be a GFCI receptacle.
  • Use a waterproof cover to prevent short circuits and electrical shock.
  • The power cord coming from the transformer should be grounded. Make a drip loop with the excess cord to block water from traveling along the cable path and entering the receptacle.
  • Never cut the power cord from a transformer. Garden lighting transformers are meant to be used as an appliance, not a hard-wired item. When a transformer’s cord is cut, it voids the UL or ETL rating, making it an unapproved device.
  • Never alter a transformer in any way. Use only approved control methods that conform to the receptacles in the transformer. Do not attach any other electrical devices to control receptacles.

Always use personal protective equipment. Wear that hard hat! Your most important asset is your brain. When you are hit in the head, even a small piece of debris can cause a serious brain injury.

Like protecting your head, protecting your eyes is just as essential. When cutting and stripping landscape lighting cable, the strands can be as sharp as needles. Safety glasses or goggles protect your eyes from flying debris.

Steel toe boots and work shoes help protect your feet and ankles. A reel of 12-2 cable can weigh 30 pounds or more. If you trip and it falls on your foot, you will be thankful to have made an investment in protective footwear.

In some areas, it might be required to use high visibility clothing, especially if you are working on a commercial job or by a roadway.

Remember, you are very important to your family and your community. The great work that you do makes the world a better place, so take these precautions to keep everyone safe.

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

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