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.
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.
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.
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.
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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