How to maintain outdoor lighting systems

July 29, 2015

Outdoor lighting can change the space and the mood quite substantially — and it doesn't take much to maintain your equipment. Here are some things to consider.

How to maintain outdoor lighting systems

Buying low-voltage lighting

  • Low-voltage (12-volt) outdoor lighting is a great improvement to almost any yard. It can set the mood when entertaining, improve safety and security and showcase your home, garden and pool at night.
  • The low-cost outdoor lighting kits found at most home centres, however, have a limited life span. And they don't allow for much flexibility in designing your landscape lighting.
  • Powder-coated aluminum fixtures are more durable and look a lot better.
  • For a system that will really last, however, choose fixtures made of solid copper, brass, bronze or stainless steel, and opt for stainless steel fasteners.
  • Buy lenses that are made with tempered glass and have gaskets that are rated to withstand high temperatures.
  • Look for fixtures that are rated water-resistant and UL approved for outdoor use. When choosing a transformer, buy one big enough to handle any lights you might add in the future.

Flag the plowman

  • Outdoor lighting is vulnerable to errant snowplows.
  • Protect it with reflector-topped metal stakes, so that you and your plow operator know where they are when the next snowstorm hits.

Choose long-life bulbs

  • Tired of climbing up a ladder to change outdoor floodlights? The next time you make the climb, bring along long-life bulbs.
  • They last ten times as long as conventional floodlights — up to 20,000 hours, so you shouldn't have to change the bulb again for many years. Long-lasting — and energy-saving — fluorescent floodlights are also now available.
  • They're approved for outdoor use, provided you have a weather-protected fixture.

Maintain outdoor lights

  • Unplug or switch off the breaker to outdoor lights at least once a year, and clean any corrosion from the inside of the bulb socket with a ball of very fine (0000) steel wool.
  • This will help prevent bulbs from jamming in sockets and make removal easy. Avoid touching the bulb with your hands.
  • The oils from your skin can create stress points on the bulb glass and cause premature bulb failure.
  • This is especially true for halogen bulbs, but the oils can shorten the life of incandescent bulbs as well.

Remove a broken bulb

  • Outdoors lightbulbs sometime burst because of moisture or sudden large swings in temperature.
  • If this happens, turn off power, cut off the end of a potato, and press it into the bulb base.
  • Twist to unscrew the old base.
  • Once the base is removed, clean the socket thoroughly with steel wool and a cotton rag.
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