08 Dec Is your Landscape Lighting cable exposed and susceptible to damage ?
By Mike Gambino
I recently read a blog post from what is purported to be one of the leading landscape lighting companies in the country entitled- Locating landscape Lighting Wire before fall planting and projects. In the body of the article it is stressed that it takes 3 times as long to repair cut wire than it does to locate it with marking flags before construction begins to presumably act as a deterrent to damaging the cable. The company is offering a service to come out and place marking flags where they buried their wire. They say using their wire locating service will save them time, money and headaches. I argue that originally installing their wire inside of rigid conduit would have saved them time, money and headaches in the first place.
I find this astounding that a company whose reputation in the industry is for first class everything yet they are not protecting their cable by installing it inside of rigid electrical conduit in the first place during their installations. What is even more surprising is that they are asking to be paid as “a value added service” for something they should have planned for while installing the system. What should be a standard practice for any landscape lighting company whose reputation is that it is an industry leader.
It is said that you are only as strong as your weakest link. And low voltage lighting cable direct buried in the ground is certainly any landscape lighting companies weakest link with a close second being poor non weatherproof wire connections.
Marking cable runs with flags is not a good solution. I can tell you from my own almost 30 years of installing landscape lighting systems while other contractors are at the same time doing a different phase of construction that placing a marking flag gets little to no respect. Most of them disappear (usually dumped in the trash during demolition) and or are ignored as crews go about their work. Flags are not an effective method to deter damage to direct buried cable an do not provide a physical shield , rigid conduit does.
In addition to projects that require digging in the garden, besides that, there are various other ways unprotected cable can become damaged at any time when direct buried in the earth outside of rigid electrical conduit pipe. Tunneling rodents like moles and gophers are like below ground rats that will gnaw and easily chew through jackets and copper strands of electrical wire exposed in the soil. Growth of tree and shrub roots, both small and large also stretch and damage low voltage lighting wires. In cold weather climates where soil freezes and thaws, this process can cause exposure of the cable above the ground leaving it even more susceptible to damage let alone being unsightly in the garden. Soil erosion can also leave wire exposed above ground when outside of conduit.
Complete severing of cable is far preferred over partial damage which is far more likely to happen. At least with complete severing it is evident because there will be light/s that do not work and troubleshooting and repair is easier. A service is typically ordered right away. In contrast damage that occurs to the cable jacket that exposes copper wire to moisture and contaminants. Typical 12 gauge low voltage lighting cable has 64 individual copper strands. Severing some or many but not all of them will also have a detrimental effect on the system one that is not so easy to detect or repair because all lights will probably still work. The damage is more long term and as moisture travels up through the cable jacket spoiling large sections of wire, request for service almost always comes too late before cable and wire connections need to be entirely replaced.
My purpose is not to call this company out with construction techniques that I don’t agree with or believe in but it is intended as another warning for buyers to make sure they get all of the details straight before hiring any installer despite their stellar reputation. In this case , if not having to worry about the future cost, lost time and headaches of damaged landscape lighting wires in the garden is important, then insisting conduit is used should become one of your hiring requirements.
This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 27 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.Gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
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