I'm about two weeks away from the completion of my pool. The list of things that weren't included in my pool build contract is pretty long, so I figured it was a pretty good time to start knocking those off. So, the first thing I'm tackling is the LED landscape lighting.
Let me start by saying, I have a few reasons why I'm going with LED's over halogens and incandescent bulbs.
1. LED's obviously save power. I'm planning on 16 light fixtures for my first phase of lighting. I figure about 6 hours of on time per day at an average cost of $0.12 per KW. My system using its provided (6) MR16 20 watt halogen bulbs and (10) T3/G4 base 11 watt incandescent bulbs, comes out to a rounded 250 watts. At that wattage, I would spend approximately $65.00 per year in pool area landscape lighting. Switching to LED light bulbs, I average about 4 watts per LED bulb. So adding up my total, I come up with 65 watts. At 6 hours per day, I bring my yearly usage to about $17.00. That's about enough buy a few cases of beer.
2. LED's can take a beating. How many times have you dropped a flashlight or hit an incandescent bulb by accident, causing it to prematurely fail. LED's do not have filaments, so they offer a good amount of shock resistance.
3. Bulb life. While reading over the various specs of the light fixtures I considered purchasing, I noticed a recurring theme. Halogen 20watt MR16's have an average lifespan of 2000-10000 hours. Since I'm buying lower end priced fixtures, I can figure that 2000 hours would be about right. Having my lights on 6 hours a day, would mean that I would only get about year out of my bulbs before they need to be replaced. That's of course assuming that they don't get kicked or don't burn out prematurely. LED's on the other hand, last about 20,000 hours. So I could assume that I would get at least 10 years out of my bulbs. Money saved on buying these expensive bulbs, is worth it alone. The incandescent T3 Bulbs only last about 500-1000 hours, which means I would be replacing those every six months.
4. Transformers. Cutting your power usage by 1/4, means you only need to buy 1/4 the size of transformers. That's a huge cost saver!!!
Okay... one last disclaimer. Codes!!! It is common knowledge that you aren't supposed to run any low voltage light fixtures within 10ft of water.. ie. pool. You can read about this yourself, but in short, it has to do with the low voltage side of transformer not being able to trip the GFCI on the high voltage side. My setup "mostly" complies with the 10 ft rule, but unfortunately, I will be at about 6 ft on two of the 16 fixtures. These two will be in raised flower beds, on the backside of the pool. I by no means consider this safe for anyone else and do not condone deliberately violating code.
Whew.. On to the setup!!!
- Transformer: I sized my transformer based on my accumulated requirement of 250 watts, using halogen and incandescent bulbs. Basically a plan B, if the LED bulbs don't work out. Through reading online reviews, I found a link to a Brass Works brand (#347208) 300 watt multi-tap transformer from Destination Lighting. It has a steel case and seems to be a little more of a professional grade than the Malibu brand or similar units you find at the Big Box stores. I paid $85 (10% code) + free shipping and no tax. Considering how much it weighs, free shipping is important.
- Walkway lights: (10) Paradise Lighting Palm Island #GL22785BK $18.75 each from Amazon. I did plenty of research and found out that you can't beat the quality of the aluminum Paradise light fixtures for the price. They use T3 / G4 base lamps.
- Flood lamps: (6) Paradise Lighting Comet #GL22724BK $12.75 each from Amazon. Same as above, they receive a good amount of good reviews and are often compared to lights costing 3 - 4 times as much. They use MR16 20watt halogen bulbs.
- Bulbs: I used Torchstar MR16 base LED lights that I found on Amazon. They are 3200K in temp color, so they should not have any of the green or blue hues that you associate with LED's. Most reviews say they are very comparable to the halogen bulbs. They were $4.99 each. For the T3 / G4 based bulbs, I went to EBAY. I found a bulb in the 3000-3500K color temp . They use 4 watts of power and have a total of 68 SMD. They are $2.79 each, but I'm not sure if they will fit in the fixture. I'll have to update on those.
- Wire: I have about 100 ft of total run, not including the loops to connect each light fixture. I bought Coleman brand 12-2 direct burial landscape lighting cable from Amazon. I bought (1) 100ft roll for $42 and (1) 50 ft roll for $26
- Connections: Reading reviews, I saw that most of the issues with fixtures not working were caused by crappy or improperly installed connectors that are provided by the fixture manufactures. After watching a couple of videos on youtube, I noticed that a lot of professionals ditch the provided connectors and just use Silicone filled type wire nuts to give a weather proof connection. So, that is what I'm planning on using. I purchased King Safety Products #62225 from Amazon for $11.50 a bag of 20 from Amazon. I was thinking of using a balloon with a zip tie over each connection for added water resistance.
That's it for now, since I have to wait until all the items arrive!!!