Electrical upgrades are necessary for homes and buildings. Electrical safety is a concern for many people and businesses. But safety isn’t the only reason you should consider upgrading electrical systems.
This article will discuss low voltage wirings—landscape wiring and how to use them.
Low voltage wires
The majority of wall outlets in our houses feature either 120V or 240V. These high voltage outlets are used for lamps and other appliances that require standard voltage to run consistently and reliably. Anything with 50volts or less is considered low voltage, which typically means that the wiring is designed to carry less than 50volts. The home’s network and communication wiring is low voltage most of the time.
Common usages of low-voltage wiring
- Category 5 (Cat 5) and Category 6 (Cat 6) are used for high-speed computer networks.
- One of the most common types of signals used to transmit data is light that is transmitted through clear fibers. These can send large amounts of data across long distances, making them perfect for high-speed, complex communications networks.
- Structured cabling connects devices to a central hub. There’s dedicated bandwidth and minimal interference.
- Telephones, internet and Wi-Fi, audio-visual wirings, alarms, and security systems
Using Low Voltage Wiring for Home Construction
In 2004, nearly 70% of new homes were built with low voltage, structured cabling infrastructure.
Low voltage wiring and structured cabling don’t run with standard voltage wiring. Low-voltage cables can be installed as close as 18 inches from standard electrical cables.
The distribution panel is a point where all the cables enter the house. Utility cables from the street come in, along with any others you may have installed yourself. They then branch out to rooms throughout your property. With each bundle, you can customize where the cable goes in your house.
If low-voltage wiring is buried, it should be in conduit for protection. Otherwise, such wire can be strung through attics, walls, and cellars.
Lower voltages (I am not sure of the exact voltage) are CLASS 2 and need not be in conduit. Doorbells, thermostats, Ethernet (internet) cables, speaker cables, etc., can just be routed as convenient.
Low voltage wires can also be exposed. If it is not installed in conduit or armored cable, it is considered exposed. Low voltage wires can be exposed for many reasons, including installing cables, repairing cables, and connecting new equipment.
What are landscape wires?
Low voltage landscape lighting wire is, also known as landscape lighting cable, is made of multi-strands of copper wire. Landscape wires are one of the most overlooked aspects of landscaping. These wires are used to support plants, flowers, and trees. They are not there to tug on delicate plants but rather keep them in windy conditions.
Landscape wire is a wide black wire used to secure and stabilize landscape fabric and mulch.
The wire comes in different sizes, such as 8, 10 12, 14, 16, and 18. Wire gauge refers to the thickness of the bundle of wires and helps you pick the appropriate size for your needs.
When buying landscape wiring, make sure that it is a direct burial landscape lighting wire. The larger sizes of wire are used to reduce voltage drop.
Also, remember when figuring wattage consumed on the run, always calculate each fixture’s highest wattage lamp.
For more, check out Landscape-Wires.com, a leading online retailer of garden & outdoor living materials specializing in landscape wire, landscape edging, vineyard wires, etc.
Most common wires used in landscape lighting
Landscape lighting wire is often called 12/2 or 10/2. The first number you see is the gauge, and the “2” you see is the conductor wires.
In the US, the most common types of low-voltage wiring are analog and digital. There’s a variety of wire sizes available though sizes typically range from 22AWG to 14AWG, with a typical size being 18 AWG.
The most common landscape lighting wire that you will use in your landscape lighting is #12/2. For longer wiring runs, you can use a #10 or even.
Although the 8 and 10 gauge wires are rated at 360 and 480, you need to remember that the landscape lighting transformer allows only 300 watts.
Remember, you never want to exceed over 80% of your landscape wire.
Low voltage wiring is treated a little differently than 120v wiring. You do not need to put the wire in conduit under your deck. It should be fastened so that it’s not hanging down.
12-2 low voltage wiring is nice to work with but has gotten expensive to use. I still use 12-2 UF for a lot of low-voltage lighting.
Do wires need to be in conduit?
According to National Electric Code in the United States, all current-carrying conductors to a load must be in the same conduit.
This is because anytime current is flowing in a wire, it creates a magnetic field. When the wires are grouped together, the current going in opposite directions nearly cancels.
When you separate a phase or the neutral, the current inside a single conduit no longer sums up to zero. Please don’t do it.
Conduit is required in some applications. The most common requirement for the conduit is for damp and/or wet locations. Conduit is not always needed in commercial and industrial applications. You can use MC, armored cable, and other approved electrical wiring in the commercial. In residential, you are usually not required to use conduit unless you install it outside.
Low-voltage wiring shall not be strapped to the conduit. Low-voltage wiring shall not be attached to the sprinkler piping. When you run line-and low-voltage wires in the same hole, you risk crossing the line voltage into the low voltage.
Other types of protections
Outdoor electrical wiring needs to be protected. Many plastics are not suitable for exposure to sunlight ultraviolet radiation. Most of the time, it depends on the situation.
There are three different types of protection.
- Armored cable
- Physical isolation of rated cable
The risk of electric shock or fire hazards is much lower with Class 2 power supplies. This is a major reason for relaxed requirements for such systems.
For most Class 2 circuits, the type of physical protection is left to the designer or AHJ. Specific applications or even other codes may have more protection requirements.
Line-voltage wiring provides both powers to lighting fixtures and a means of grouping them by circuit/switch-leg within “control zones.”
Power-line carrier communication is fairly common and has advantages like high-security encryption, wide-area coverage, capability to serve high-bandwidth transmission. It also makes use of existing power lines that are almost everywhere. It can serve as a reliable path for simple on/off signals and, depending on the environment, raise/lower dimming signals.
Things to keep in mind
- Never use the same electrical boxes, holes, raceways for high and low-voltage wires. Use a separate mud ring or compartment. NEC specifies that when wires of different voltages are run together, the insulation of all wires will meet the rating of the highest voltage present. Low voltage wire is usually tested/rated for at least 100 volts.
- Always keep high voltage and low voltage separated by 6 inches to a foot or more.
- Your biggest performance exposure will be the Sub RG6 sub-signal. (RG6 is often described as “copper clad” or “CCS.”)Get a well shielded, solid copper core wire to minimize picking up interference.
- It’s OK to open a stud cavity and install open low voltage boxes only if a Romex is in the wall. The sensitive areas are only in regards to where the Romex terminates.
- Always check that your wire and connectors are listed for direct burial.
Don’t forget to consult an electrician.
As always, your local electrical codes may vary; consult a competent electrician in your region.
The IEC definition of “Low Voltage” is 50-1000V. Most jurisdictions with reasonable wiring regs will need to be run in conduit.
If you’re referring to the everyday “low voltage,” which an electrician would refer to as “extra-low voltage” or ELV, it doesn’t necessarily need to be run in containment. ELV includes both low-voltage DC power as well as various signal cables.
Local regulations will specify what protections you need to use to prevent one of your ELV conductors from coming into contact with a mains voltage. You may see terms such as SELV (separated/safety ELV).