June / 2001
Cut Your Utility Bills

Remodeling your bathroom
by: James Dulley

Q -- want to add some landscape and security lighting in my yard. I prefer lighting kits that I can install myself, to save money, and ones that are efficient. What types of general-purpose lighting kits do you recommend?-Jan T.

A --The newest fiber-optic or low-voltage landscape and security light kits would be the best choice for all of your outdoor needs. These kits are very easy to install yourself and they are energy efficient. Purchasing a complete kit (transformer/timer, fixtures, wiring, etc.) is the simplest method, or you can buy all the components separately.
Since you can install these kits yourself, you will not have to be concerned about limiting the number of lights to minimize the electrician's fees. This allows you to locate the lights to target the lighting to specific areas instead of just flooding a larger area with light.
By targeting smaller selected areas with more but lower-brightness fixtures, you will cut your electric bills. This also reduces the stray light that causes problems for birds and some nocturnal animals.
Over the past several years, there have been many ornate and contemporary models introduced. Some of the most ornate redwood, cedar, and die-cast metal models can cost from $50 to over $100 for each light fixture. For those on a tight budget, the complete lower-cost durable plastic kits are still available. You can mix and match various fixtures and add just a couple of the expensive ornate ones in high-visibility locations.
Hi-tech fiber-optic lighting kits are the safest to install and use because the individual light fixtures have no electricity connected to them. A single projector box, which houses only one light bulb, is plugged into a standard electrical outlet. You can locate the projector wherever you wish. You may want to attach it to a motion-sensor switch for times when you are not using the outdoor area. This can frighten away an intruder.
Once you install the projector, locate the individual light fixtures wherever you need them. Some kits allow you to install up to 24 bollard-style lights to a single projector unit. Run the thin fiber-optic cables from the projector to the individual light fixtures through your gardens and along walkways. You will be surprised how durable the fiber-optic cable is. Each fiber-optic fixture has the equivalent light output of a 10-15-watt low-voltage light.
Futuristic-looking fiber-optic lighting fixtures are also available, but you can use only a maximum of 16 fixtures per projector. An optional slowly spinning color wheel inside the projector can change the colors of the lights. For swimming pools, decks, and patios, contour lighting using a side glow fiber-optic cable is attractive. The entire cable glows to mark an edge or a walking path.
The variety of designs and applications of safe low-voltage (12-volt) lighting kits is constantly expanding. For example, built-in deck and stair lights are available. New "let's edge it" kits are ideal for lining walkways and driveways. These use realistic-looking durable plastic bricks that weather like real brick. With built-in wiring connectors, they just snap together.
Another key area of improvement has been in the wiring connector design. If you have ever tried to attach old fixtures and ended up with sore fingers and lights that flicker, you will appreciate this. These new connector designs are much easier to snap on to the heavy 12-volt wire. Some are now also sealed to minimize corrosion for true maintenance-free operation.

Write for Utility Bills Update No. 983 for a buyer's guide to outdoor lighting. Include $3.00, a business-size SASE, and Update number. Mail requests and questions to James Dulley, Kentucky Living, P. O. Box 54987, Cincinnati, OH 45254. Go to www.dulley.com to instantly download.