Cables Used in Low-Voltage Landscape Lighting

Written by frank gates
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Cables Used in Low-Voltage Landscape Lighting
Adding lights to your landscaping can make all the difference. (Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Adding landscape lighting to your property is one of those low-investment projects that pays big cosmetic returns. The system starts with a power transformer that converts your home's 110 volts to the desired 12 volts termed low voltage, which is the typical operating power for landscape lighting systems. Low-voltage cable carries low-voltage power from the transformer to the landscape lights, which are low-voltage fixtures that also operate on 12 volts. A standard type of low-voltage landscape lighting cable is commonly used.

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Cable Description

Low-voltage landscape lighting cable is SPT (service parallel thermoplastic) cable. This is a two-conductor, Siamese, insulated cable. Each conductor consists of tightly bound strands of copper wires. By using strands of wires instead of a solid copper conductor, the cable offers greater flexibility. SPT is a robust cable designed to be weather-resistant and suitable for direct burial.

Gauge Sizes

The cable is available in five gauge sizes--from 16- to 8-gauge with 12-gauge the most common. Gauge sizes are defined by the American Wire Gauge (AWG) standards. The larger the gauge size, the smaller the diameter. Smaller sizes than 12-gauge are used for longer distances. As the smaller gauge size has a larger diameter, it is capable of carrying greater electrical loads.

Direct Burial

The cable must be rated as suitable for direct burial (DBR). Typically this cable is placed at the bottom of a 3-inch-deep trench running from the transformer and from light fixture to light fixture. The specifications listed for the wire you choose needs to have a direct burial rating or DBR. Non-DBR cables are susceptible to water migration damage and offer little or no weather protection.

Industry Approvals

The standard cable approved by the landscape lighting cable industry will be listed under a UL (Underwriters Laboratory) Miscellaneous Wire file. It is UL listed for outdoor applications and for direct burial applications. In Canada, this wire is certified approved by CSA (Canadian Standards Association).

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