Looking for Ideas For Lighting at base of 300' long driveway

dixiemanOctober 22, 2012

Sorry for the "picture through the screen" quality, but this seemed the best photo I have that captures the challenge I'm looking to solve. Our driveway is about 300 ft. long and is flanked by stone pillars at the entrance and a stone wall runs along the property line about 6 ft. from the road.

Currently there isn't any electric run to the end of the driveway, although we did have a switched outlet added to the exterior of the house to allow for future lighting.

When we purchased this house, we initially used solar lights across the front of the stone wall, but couldn't really find anything bright enough to provide much light at the columns. It's now 2 years later and the solar lights have gradually diminished to no light - might need new chargeable batteries, but we're not really satisfied with the solar option and would like to pursue something along the lines of LED lighting.

Our house sits pretty much on a limestone and/or granite base, so trenching was quite challenging when we ran electric to our barn in the back, so we were hoping to be able to use low voltage lighting in order to reduce the depth required for buried lines.

After some initial research, I'm concerned that the distance is too great to run low voltage 300 feet to get to the bottom of the driveway, and still provide lighting for the 2 columns and additionally some accent lighting across the front of the stone wall (total of 155 feet - split into 50 feet on one side, 100 feet on the other side) From September 28, 2012

Our headlights do a fine job of illuminating the driveway for the purpose of driving up/down the driveway at night, so alternating side lighting, while it might be a nice touch, isn't necessary.

The primary goal is to light the columns (either using lanterns on top of the columns or spotlights shining on the columns) in order to be able to find the driveway at night.

I always appreciate the comments and suggestions offered on GW and thank you in advance.

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Ron Natalie

As you realize, the voltage drop on low voltage is going to kill you (too low voltage, too high amperage). The other option is to direct bury a 120V (appropriately rated) cable to get power down there. It's still a long run, but you're most likely only going to use an couple of hundred watts max down their right? You can still run a couple of strings of LV lights if you want one starting at the house and one starting from the pillars.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 6:43AM
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    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 1:53PM
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Here's an off-the-wall thought: reflector "art". Think of what you could do with red and white reflectors, or even broken scraps of car lenses, etc.

Ok, let me have it. :)

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 4:45PM
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Actually 300 feet (plus your accent lighting) should not be a problem if done correctly. Using LED low-voltage lights and limiting yourself to 60 watts, you could use two LED post lights around 10 watts each and still have 40 watts left over for LED accent lights usually in the 1-4 watt range.

The run if using 12/2 landscape wiring at 60 watts/5 amps would have a voltage drop of 4.9 volts from 12 volts to about 7 volts at your lights and that would NOT be good!

So that's why professional landscape lighting transformers have multiple voltage taps - usually 12-17 volts. In this case if you tapped the 16 volt tap, the 4.9 drop would give you 11.1 volts at the lights - well within the recommended 10% used for incandescent low-voltage lights - and since LEDs are much more forgiving, the accents will probably be OK.

While occasionally box stores may have multi-tap transformers, you most likely need to go to a landscape supply store or better nursery. They usually are not that much more expensive than fixed 12 volt models. A 100 watt xfmr would more than meet your requirements.

Also, unless there is some local code requirement, the wire does not to be buried at all - just do whatever satisfies your needs for protection.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 6:39PM
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yosemite - your answer is exactly what I was hoping to hear...I've spend the evening looking at the various options and am having a little trouble finding low voltage led post lights. If I don't find something suitable, I may just put uplighting spots on the columns and more accent type lights along the walls.

I'll have to bury the wire at least far enough to avoid the aerator (pulled behind a tractor) or perhaps we can use landscape pins to keep it along the side of the driveway.

I'm going to do a little more researching/shopping/designing and then I'll post what I come up with.

Thanks to everyone for the help!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 11:27PM
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OK..I need a little more help here...I've been looking for LED low voltage post lights and can't seem to find anything except the kind that go on top of a 4x4" post. What I'd like is one of those fixtures that would be large enough to go on top of this column (large one on the left):
From September 28, 2012

We have 2 of these that we were going to use, before realizing how difficult ($$$) it would be to run 120v to the posts:
From September 28, 2012

Is it possible to somehow convert these to low voltage, 10W lights? Would something like this bulb in the fixture if we were to connect the fixture to the 12-2 wire running from the transformer?
From September 28, 2012

There's more info in the link below.

If that bulb won't work in the fixtures, or we can't wire the fixtures to the LV wire, does anyone have any suggestions for lights that would work for the posts.

It's always an option just to use uplighting at the curve of the wall between the 2 columns, but we wanted to at least consider all of our options.

Thanks so much for your advice!

Here is a link that might be useful: Edison Sidekick 3W

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 11:38PM
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Use a ditch witch to run in conduit.

Rigid and intermediate only need a minimum of 6 inches of cover (though you are welcome to go deeper or use other grades of conduit).

You can pull in your choice of conductors, and have the ability to change or ad to them later.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 11:16AM
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I agree that 120VAC provides for more options, and even an outlet down there, but I know what you mean about the trenching - our "dirt" is quartz, granite, and shale with a little dirt dust tossed in for laughs.

I looked at the link you provided but those lights do not appear available - google something like "12 volt A-type LED light bulbs" to see what else you might find. I'd personally stay within 2700-3000K (maybe 3200K) color temperature to keep a warmer look - but that's me.

I didn't mean to imply 10 watts was necessary, I'm using 7 watt LED bulbs (A/C) in our post lights on our driveway gate an they could easily be dimmer - but we're in the middle of nowhere.

You could also buy some inexpensive L/V LED fixtures and maybe swap the insides around.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 7:54PM
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With all that open space you could put a small solar panel and battery near the location. This can provide much more power than lights that are powered from the dinky cells that are on solar powered lighta. Modern panels are 15W/sqft so you can power an 8W led light (60W incandescent equivalent) for 12 hrs or so from 1 sq ft of panel.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 8:07PM
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Hey joe_white - if you see this can you recommend a solar panel or site to learn more about them and describe what type of enclosure, if any, we'd need to build to support it. We' didn't make a decision last fall, so are re-evaluating our options again this spring.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 12:11AM
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If you are handy you could build a battery enclosure or use your imagination and buy something and make it work. Rubbermaid has quite a few small storage solutions that would be fairly weather tight also. I am sure there are products specifically manufactured for this for a price. I would think a run of the mill marine battery box and a lawn mower battery would work and mount the solar panel on something nearby.

One other option is a small wind turbine so you could get charge 24/7 also and also have something to look at.

The tried and true trenching 120v in conduit would be the least amount of maintenance after it is installed.

Use your imagination.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 11:46PM
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Borja de Maqua

Hello dixieman

I have actually the same problem you have a couple of years ago, I was just wondering if you end up with a solution?

I will appreciate some feedback if you did!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2015 at 2:45AM
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Note that this a stale thread so the OP may not be following any longer.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2015 at 7:44AM
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