Using a voltage that’s at or lower than 50 V (volts) is known as low-voltage supply. Automobile batteries, door opener controls, sensors and control systems for alarms, ground lighting for outdoors, thermostats for cooling and heating systems, and doorbells all utilize low-voltage to function.
The most common low voltages are 12, 24 and 48 volts respectively. These voltages are commonly supplied by batteries or special transformers that convert regular voltages (120 V) to low voltages.
In this article, we are going to discuss the basics of low voltage wiring so that you can have a better idea of what it is. We will be using a landscape lighting system as an example to elaborate better how low voltage wiring is done.
Basics of Low-Voltage Wiring
Four main components are needed for low-voltage wiring to work effectively:
Low Voltage Transformer
This is what provides electrical supply to the system. It’s recommended that you mount a low-voltage transformer near a house, on a stand or install it directly on the ground. Just make sure that the transformer is at least 12” above ground level. You can also install it inside your house; however, that requires a professional electrician since special codes apply. This is the sole reason why we prefer an outdoor installation.
Landscape Lighting Fixtures
Lighting fixtures contain a LED or replaceable lamp bulb that acts as the main light source.
One of the most significant factors to consider when installing a proper lighting system is to ensure the wire length. These wires are responsible for powering up fixtures through the transformer. Having a clear idea of what wire length should be used for your conductor is highly critical.
These act as connection points that link up transformer wires with lighting fixtures. There are a variety of connectors available and many ways to connect both wires and fixtures. Since we now know the basic components, let’s discuss the how-to of low-voltage wiring:
How Professionals Do Low Voltage Wiring
You need a professional like Columbia Basin Satellite & Electric to do the job for you. Here’s how our experts take care of things:
Sketching the Property Structure
To avoid mistakes, you need to be as accurate as you possibly can to ensure correct wire distance estimations. You can use any kind of paper, though graph paper is highly recommended. Attach it to a clipboard and start sketching the structure of your house.
Determining the Transformer Placement
You’ll need to mark the location of the transformer on your sketch. You should ensure that the transformer is as close as possible to lighting fixture locations. If your property is large and requires a lot of fixture placement, we recommend using more transformers, preferably two to four.
Setting up Fixture Locations
Again, mark the location of the fixtures on your sketch and measure the distance between both the fixtures as well as the transformer. In addition, you’ll also need to measure the distance between the fixtures themselves.
Determining Wire Runs
This is one of the most critical parts of low-voltage wiring. You need to know how to run a wire to and from transformers as well as fixtures. Here are commonly used methods:
This method creates a flower-like chain between the fixtures ― hence the name. However, the problem with this method of low-voltage wiring is that the current’s strength decreases with distance. For example, if your first fixture is getting 12V, the last fixture may get 9V of power. Depending on the bulb you use, this can be either good (Volt LED can function between 8 – 15 volts) or bad (halogen lights run only between 10 – 12 volts).
The T-Method is primarily taken into consideration to save up on wire length where possible. The transformer is placed between the fixtures and is a lot similar to the daisy chain method. However, in this case, you’ll also face loss in low-voltage strength as the distance increases from the transformer.
This method is recommended by many professionals since it allows the current to flow equally to all the fixtures, no matter how far they are from the source. It uses a Hub Junction where every wire originates. Although this method uses more wires than other methods, the benefits are dramatic. For instance, it allows uniform current flow and reduces the number of splices too.
To conserve wire, make installations easier as well as faster, and reduce splices, this is the most preferred method. It’s actually a simple approach but is only recommended to be used with LED systems.
There you go! These are the four basics methods of low-voltage wiring. If you have any inquiries on the subject matter, feel free to contact us.