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Thread: LED landscape lighting project!

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    Killer95Stang's Avatar
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    LED landscape lighting project!

    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!!!

    Stay Tuned...
    Pool done!! (backyard = work in progress) 32' x 19' inground freeform with 7' spa, baja step w/ (2) bubblers, stonescapes mini pebble finish, rock waterfall feature, 12" raised bond beam, Intelliflo VS, Whisperflo feature pump, (3) 5G Color LED's, FNS + DE 60, 400K Master Temp, Easytouch 8 w/ remote, Intellichlor IC40, Vision Classic Ceramic Kamado smoker, Margaritaville DM1000!!! Party Coming Soon!!
    TF-100 Test Kit w/ Speedstir

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    Mod Squad Bama Rambler's Avatar
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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    Looks like an interesting project. I've used a lot of those filled wire-nuts on marine applications and they work better than anything I've tried. Be very careful about stripping the wire. Most people strip too much insulation back when installing wire-nuts. I don't tape, or balloon, etc. wire-nuts and I've never had any problems that tape or balloons would have prevented.
    Dave J. TFP Moderator
    24' x 52" Round AGP. 2hp/¼hp SPL Power-Flo 2-speed pump. 200sqft Waterway Cartridge Filter. 45MHP2(3GPD) Stenner Peristaltic Pump
    Pool School ----- Pool Math ----- TF-Test Kit

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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    Now you have given me my first spring project. I'll be updating my pool and landscape lighting using all LED. Thanks for your research, it gives me a gret starting point. Let us know how it comes out, (with pictures, please).
    chiefwej
    Tucson, AZ
    16x36 rectangular (19k) Pebble Tec play pool/spa, Pentair Intelliflo VS 011018, Super II 2hp (spa), Aqua Rite T-15 SWG, Pro Grid 60 DE, Hayward H400 & Heliocol Solar heating, A&A infloor system, fill water w/high CH and TA, 50 ppm borates,TF-100 test kit

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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    That looks like a great plan. Post pictures when you are finished! This might get me motivated to do my own. Thanks for the research.
    Gunite/Plaster pool at 13k gallons. All Jandy with CL340 series cartridge filter, 1.5 HP Jandy Stealth pump. Jandy 1400 SWCG and PDA4 controller. Dual waterfalls. Polaris 280. Pool installed August 2012. Southern Louisiana. And lets not forget my trusty TF100 test kit!

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    Killer95Stang's Avatar
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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    Quote Originally Posted by ComputerGuyInNOLA
    That looks like a great plan. Post pictures when you are finished! This might get me motivated to do my own. Thanks for the research.
    Will do... Pool should be done next week, so then I can start with the landscaping. Already received the transformer and Torch star LED light bulbs. I'm very impressed with quality of the transformer. A lot better build quality than the Malibu or similar brands from Lowes or HD. The bulbs look pretty nice as well.
    Pool done!! (backyard = work in progress) 32' x 19' inground freeform with 7' spa, baja step w/ (2) bubblers, stonescapes mini pebble finish, rock waterfall feature, 12" raised bond beam, Intelliflo VS, Whisperflo feature pump, (3) 5G Color LED's, FNS + DE 60, 400K Master Temp, Easytouch 8 w/ remote, Intellichlor IC40, Vision Classic Ceramic Kamado smoker, Margaritaville DM1000!!! Party Coming Soon!!
    TF-100 Test Kit w/ Speedstir

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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    I've recently redone all of our existing halogen MR16 fixtures with LED bulbs purchased from Amazon. They are 3000K and are much brighter than the existing 20W bulbs they replace (using only 3W).They really look quite nice. A couple of things... first off, my experience with halogen bulbs is that they last much less that 2000 hours. Probably more like about 800-1000h before they burn out. I use metal fixtures from Lowes similar to the ones you pictured, and they apparently still get quite hot, which seems to limit the bulb life. If you have concern about routing these near the pool, maybe you should consider a low voltage transformer rated for pool usage. They are designed to prevent transfer of 120V line voltage to the low voltage side under catastrophic failure (by the inclusion of a grounded metal plate that separates the low and high voltage terminals). I believe the Intermatic version is called the PX100 or PX300 for 100 or 300W, respectively. This doesn't address the NEC code issue, but certainly makes the installation much safer. With such a setup, a GFCI is imperative, not because it will detect ground faults on the low voltage side, but because it will protect the circuit in the event of high voltage leakage to ground (which could be deadly). Also, you can go with 14 gauge wire if you are using LEDs, because the amperage draw will be much lower with LED fixtures. 14 gauge is much cheaper that 12 gauge.
    38K in ground pool with attached spa. Current equipment: Easytouch 8 (521150) with IC-60 SWCG with web control by Autelis, 1x Pentair IntelliFlo 011018 pump (for filter), 1x Pentair 2HP WhisperFlo pump (for waterfall), 2X Pentair IntelliBrite 5G 12V lights, Pentair MiniMax400 NG Heater, Pentair SMBW2060 DE filter. Zodiac Barracuda MX8 cleaner on dedicated cleaner line. Lighting/home automation controlled by Insteon/ISY-99i.

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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    The balloons and zip ties could create a channel or crease and allow water to intrude into the connector. If you want added protection you could use vulcanizing tape followed by electrical tape and then liquid tape. Anytime I make a connection outside and worry about possible water intrusion I will use this method. This is what we use on electronics on boats in the coast guard. The silicon nuts should protect just fine.


    Pool Size: 20 x 40 Free Form Inground Plaster Pool w/ a shallow cove.
    Gallons : ~23K Jandy CL580 Cartridge Filter, Jandy e-pump 1.5HP
    Polaris 280 w/ Booster Pump, AqualinkRS PDA4 Remote, Aqua-Pure SWG
    Jandy LED Pool Lights (2), Heliocol 500 Sq. Ft solar rack system

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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    Nice post. Very timely for me.

    My house interior is about half LEDs, mostly Cree LEDs. The nice thing is that even my CFLs died once in a while. These Crees have been going for a couple of years now with no issues.

    I have about 15 outdoor fixtures, one on about every third fence post around the pool. Mostly just for subtle ambient lighting. They each have two 10w incandescent bulbs. Not huge energy hogs, but when the LEDs for those come down in price, I'll replace those.

    I do have a couple of LEDs recessed in the ceiling of my front porch. Very good lighting. Two years now with no issues. This spring I do have some front yard walkway lighting to do, as well as a little bit of landscape lighting around the front of the house and that'll all be LED.

    So I'm happy to read your post. Good info from all.
    20' x 40' plaster pool with 6'D 4-jet spa. Estimate 23K Gallons
    Raypak ASME 400k propane heater, Pentair Intelliflo pump, Pentair Quad DE 100 filter
    Liquid Cl via Stenner 45MPHP10 pump and Intermatic HB880R timer
    Loop-loc cover, Letro Legend II sidewall cleaner, soon to be replaced
    Live in CT, use pool from mid-APR to mid-NOV

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    Killer95Stang's Avatar
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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    I should be updating the post in the next few days. I plan on bench testing the LED's in the fixtures, before I ever go to install them. So far the MR16's fit in my Paradise flood lamp housings. They are longer than a standard bulb, but I have about 1/4" before the bulb housing contacts the glass. The pathway lights on the other hand. The bulbs for those are going to be a tight fit. If I could do it again, I would probably get the short bulbs, that have less LED's on them. They were only $27 for the ten of them, so if it doesn't work, I'll reorder the smaller bulbs.

    Stay Tuned!!
    Pool done!! (backyard = work in progress) 32' x 19' inground freeform with 7' spa, baja step w/ (2) bubblers, stonescapes mini pebble finish, rock waterfall feature, 12" raised bond beam, Intelliflo VS, Whisperflo feature pump, (3) 5G Color LED's, FNS + DE 60, 400K Master Temp, Easytouch 8 w/ remote, Intellichlor IC40, Vision Classic Ceramic Kamado smoker, Margaritaville DM1000!!! Party Coming Soon!!
    TF-100 Test Kit w/ Speedstir

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    Killer95Stang's Avatar
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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    Did a little testing tonight...

    ****First a disclaimer.. I'm an idiot when it comes to cameras... not to mention, we own a D60, but I used a Panasonic Point & Shoot with the flash forced off. My pictures are horrible and fuzzy... but these were aimed more at showing that setup works, over the actual quality of the shots.****

    With that said, I wired up two lights using 50ft of 12ga wire between the transformer and the two lights. They both had the LED's installed.

    - The MR16 flood lights. I really like the amount of light given off by these TorchStar bulbs. Not to mention, they are only warm to touch after a few hours of use. The halogen equivalent would probably cook a turkey. I took a few shots from 25ft away, but zoomed in to hide my cluttered patio (thanks to the pool build).

    - T3/T4 based bulbs were a little longer than I hoped, but still managed to fit. I can make them work for me, but the glass light diffuser that mounts over the bulb doesn't seat all the way. To be honest, I'm not even sure I need to use it, since the bulb runs so cool. One more thing.. not sure if this is common, but I do detect a slight amount of flicker with these bulbs. Can't see it from 5-10ft away, but up close you can see a micro flicker. I haven't tried another fixture to see if it was just this light.









    Once I get everything set up... in a few weeks, I'll try to take some better pictures..
    Pool done!! (backyard = work in progress) 32' x 19' inground freeform with 7' spa, baja step w/ (2) bubblers, stonescapes mini pebble finish, rock waterfall feature, 12" raised bond beam, Intelliflo VS, Whisperflo feature pump, (3) 5G Color LED's, FNS + DE 60, 400K Master Temp, Easytouch 8 w/ remote, Intellichlor IC40, Vision Classic Ceramic Kamado smoker, Margaritaville DM1000!!! Party Coming Soon!!
    TF-100 Test Kit w/ Speedstir

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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    Have you directly compared the light output to the incandescent bulbs they are replacing? I just tried some LEDs in my kitchen under counter lights and was a bit disappointed at both the output and the color temperature of the bulb. I have since found a different source and have ordered others to try.
    chiefwej
    Tucson, AZ
    16x36 rectangular (19k) Pebble Tec play pool/spa, Pentair Intelliflo VS 011018, Super II 2hp (spa), Aqua Rite T-15 SWG, Pro Grid 60 DE, Hayward H400 & Heliocol Solar heating, A&A infloor system, fill water w/high CH and TA, 50 ppm borates,TF-100 test kit

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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    Will be interested to see if the flickering is the fixture or the transformer. Additionally, nice to know if I want to do this the easy way, it's possible and nice to know the issues you have run into.

    For now I have gone the oil fired tiki torches for light in the back yard. At least twice I year I want to put lights in like you have done. Perhaps I will revisit more seriously now that I know what problems you have run into.

    Chiefwej, unless you are willing to spec leds and build your own fixtures, all commercial led lights are built for a price point, not overwhelming light quality. Only recently have some newer LEDs come to market that might make their way into something you can get at Lowes or Home Depot. I have been building/modifying my own LED lights for the house for around 8 years now. It's not that hard other than locating and purchasing the "good" stuff. Looking back, isn't amazing though how much better the LED lights you can get now are than say 4 years ago? Currently I am in love with the new generation of LED lights that work off of line voltage...no more driver issues.

    Bob E.

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    Mod Squad Bama Rambler's Avatar
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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    The flicker in an LED lamp is usually the drive circuit components. Sometimes it gets better as the lamp warms up.
    Dave J. TFP Moderator
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    Killer95Stang's Avatar
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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    Right now I'm about 8" inches of water from my first new pool, so the LED project is getting pushed back a little.

    As far as the flicker issue goes, I'm only seen a slight flicker on the T3/ G4 based bulbs. I imagine their cheap Chinese origins have something to do with the quality of their drivers. I have heard that putting one incandescent bulb type fixture on the same string of LED's will get rid of the flicker. So, I might try this and if it works, I'll put one dummy bulb in the string that isn't visible.

    Otherwise, they look good to me...
    Pool done!! (backyard = work in progress) 32' x 19' inground freeform with 7' spa, baja step w/ (2) bubblers, stonescapes mini pebble finish, rock waterfall feature, 12" raised bond beam, Intelliflo VS, Whisperflo feature pump, (3) 5G Color LED's, FNS + DE 60, 400K Master Temp, Easytouch 8 w/ remote, Intellichlor IC40, Vision Classic Ceramic Kamado smoker, Margaritaville DM1000!!! Party Coming Soon!!
    TF-100 Test Kit w/ Speedstir

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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    Great to see this post here - I will be watching it closely. I spent an hour with a really helpful sales guy at Lowes today trying to figure out how to get some additional lighting into my dark back yard. Low voltage is going to play a major role for me, and I will be watching to see how your project (especially replacing the bulbs with LED) plays out. Thanks for sharing!
    ~18,000 gallon
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    25 year old pool w a facelift in 2014

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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    Quote Originally Posted by Killer95Stang
    Right now I'm about 8" inches of water from my first new pool, so the LED project is getting pushed back a little.

    As far as the flicker issue goes, I'm only seen a slight flicker on the T3/ G4 based bulbs. I imagine their cheap Chinese origins have something to do with the quality of their drivers. I have heard that putting one incandescent bulb type fixture on the same string of LED's will get rid of the flicker. So, I might try this and if it works, I'll put one dummy bulb in the string that isn't visible.

    Otherwise, they look good to me...
    Yes, Sometimes if there is not enough load on the LED line you could get flicker. As most landscape lighting is LOVO 12 VAC, you could put a volt meter on the fixture to see what it reads. If it's under 12 VAC you could get flicker. THe better Landscape retrofits will run 8-18 VAC but come at a premium. Also IMHO 2700K will give you a nice warm light output. PM me if you need more help.
    Steve-Liteguy

    13K Pebble-tech Pool, ECO pump, IntelliChlor SWG, DE

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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    I'm definitely interested in your project and will be checking on updates. Doing LV lighting around my landscape is pretty much my only outdoor project scheduled (so far) this year.
    ~25k gallon, IG,Vinyl, Sta-Rite System3 Cartridge Filter, Installed June 2010

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    Killer95Stang's Avatar
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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    Finished installing my drip irrigation system today and at the same time I installed most of the LED landscape lighting. Didn't really have time to take any good shots with a decent camera, but I did just get my Galaxy S4, so I took a couple quick pics. So far, I'm very happy with the LED project I put together. I can still detect a little bit of micro flicker from the G4 sized bulbs, but that is only from a 12 inches away. My wife doesn't notice it at all.

    Also, pool had the solar cover on and I didn't feel like taking it off.



    Pool done!! (backyard = work in progress) 32' x 19' inground freeform with 7' spa, baja step w/ (2) bubblers, stonescapes mini pebble finish, rock waterfall feature, 12" raised bond beam, Intelliflo VS, Whisperflo feature pump, (3) 5G Color LED's, FNS + DE 60, 400K Master Temp, Easytouch 8 w/ remote, Intellichlor IC40, Vision Classic Ceramic Kamado smoker, Margaritaville DM1000!!! Party Coming Soon!!
    TF-100 Test Kit w/ Speedstir

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    Liteguy's Avatar
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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    Looks like fun!
    Steve-Liteguy

    13K Pebble-tech Pool, ECO pump, IntelliChlor SWG, DE

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    Re: LED landscape lighting project!

    Look awesome man.


    Pool Size: 20 x 40 Free Form Inground Plaster Pool w/ a shallow cove.
    Gallons : ~23K Jandy CL580 Cartridge Filter, Jandy e-pump 1.5HP
    Polaris 280 w/ Booster Pump, AqualinkRS PDA4 Remote, Aqua-Pure SWG
    Jandy LED Pool Lights (2), Heliocol 500 Sq. Ft solar rack system

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