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As a nation, we’re spending more time and money on our gardens than ever before. Research by Zoopla and the Society of Garden Designers concluded that a well-designed garden is as important as a designer kitchen or bathroom. The study also found that 74% of homeowners have or would consider spending money on their gardens to increase value. It’s not surprising when we’re prepared to spend an extra £15,000 for a garden when buying a property.

There are many ways you can enhance your garden with great lighting, and here at Hampshire Light, we want to ensure you’ve got all the knowledge to light your outdoor spaces safely. Whether it’s garden fence lighting for aesthetic appeal or ambient lighting in your entertaining areas, safety is always the priority.

As lighting designers, you might not be surprised to hear that we think garden design is not complete without thoughtful landscape lighting. Whilst we’d love to be involved in your garden lighting project, we’d much rather everyone stays safe.

With that said, here are our top five tips for safe garden lighting.

1. Use GFCI outlets

Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are required by code under the garden lighting regulations in the UK. Make sure to use them. GFCI outlets are used throughout your home where electricity comes close to water. They are needed in your bathrooms, kitchen, garage, and outdoors. In any area where the lights could reasonably be exposed to water, you should use GFCI outlets for safety reasons.

The outdoors is certainly considered a ‘wet area’ of the home due to the possibility of rain. We’ll touch on IP ratings a little later, but when using any electrical items in wet areas, you need GFCI outlets and IP-rated products.

What are GFCI outlets?

A GFCI is a device designed to protect you and your family against severe electric shocks/burns caused by the electrical system in your home. By monitoring the flow of current, a GFCI outlet will cut power immediately when a fault is detected, preventing harm to anyone in physical contact with the electrical system.

Imagine a scenario where you continually add lights to one or two garden light circuits. It starts with some garden path lighting, then you decide to add some landscape garden lights. You didn’t really think about how to install garden lights correctly, so now your circuits are overloaded because you’ve also decided to run an outdoor stereo system.

Ultimately, overloading your circuits is likely to lead to faults somewhere, and rather than compromise the rest of your home’s electrical circuits, the power gets shut off immediately. Although this is much safer, read on for more safety tips on how to prevent electric garden path lights and other outdoor lighting from causing a problem.

It’s best to speak with a qualified electrician if you’re planning to install exterior lighting for your outside space yourself. This ensures all appropriate precautions are taken when wiring garden lights.

2. Choose appropriate lightbulbs

This tip is simple yet very important. You only need to follow two basic rules to confirm the safety of your garden lighting when choosing your lightbulbs.

Rule 1: Check to confirm outdoor-rated bulbs

We recommend using bulbs with an IP rating of 4 or above to ensure protection against water damage for your garden lighting. An IP rating is given to all enclosed electrical equipment based on how waterproof they are and how resistant they are to dust and particle ingress. But what do IP ratings mean?

Let’s use an IP rating of IP65 as an example. The first digit, in this case, 6, shows the level of protection against solids, such as dust and dirt. The second digit, in this case, 5, is the protection level against liquids.

So, for protection against rain, sprinklers or similar amounts of water that can be splashed on a light, a rating of 4 is fine. For protection against low-pressure water jets like a hose, you would need a rating of 5 or above. An IP rating of 6 keeps your garden lights waterproof.

Rule 2: Never insert bulbs that exceed your fixture’s maximum wattage

Attempting to insert bulbs exceeding your fixture’s maximum wattage can cause overheated wiring and damage to the insulation. As you know, light bulbs come in different wattage levels, which can vary considerably between light types such as LED and others.

For example, if your garden lighting for fences is only rated for 60-watt bulbs, it can be dangerous to use higher wattage bulbs. Not only can it be dangerous in terms of creating an electrical short-circuit, but it’s also uneconomical because you’ll be forever replacing burned-out light bulbs.

Along with these tips for appropriate garden electric lighting, always try to use energy-efficient bulbs where possible. They use less power and last longer than standard globes. You can still achieve a whole range of modern outdoor garden lighting effects with energy-saving bulbs.

3. Switch off lighting when not in use

Another straightforward but essential tip is to switch off your lights when either going inside or leaving the house completely. This isn’t just a safety precaution; switching off your garden lights will prevent overheating, reduce your energy usage and save you money. Win, win!

Remember, many of your electric outdoor garden lights are exposed to the elements. When using electricity in the garden, there is an inherent risk of damage. From garden patio lighting to garden spotlights that are mains powered, you need to limit the risk wherever possible. Even with GFCI outlets, if a fault is caused by leaving the lights on for too long, it can affect the flow of electricity to the rest of the home.

4. Do not overload the circuit

You need to be aware of everything you’re powering outside. Sound systems, exterior fans, grills, lights, and outdoor kitchen appliances cannot draw more power than the circuit can handle. This may trip the circuit breaker, resulting in underlying damage. For maximum safety, distribute the electrical load to a separate circuit or several if necessary.

You can find outdoor plug-in garden lights that can operate independently of your garden mains lighting. This is a good way to spread the electrical load around, provided you have outlets installed properly. Careful planning with an electrician or expert lighting designer can make it much easier when installing garden lights.

5. General precautions

If you’re installing garden lighting by yourself, follow this list of important safety steps.

Switch off the mains power

Before working on any electrical wiring, the mains power should always be shut off to prevent accidents.

Use a socket tester

Socket testers help you confirm circuits are safe to work on. Safety should be your number one priority when dealing with any type of garden wiring. In fact, when working with any electrical parts of the home, you should always take a cautious approach.

Without getting into the technical specifics, socket testers can let you know whether there are any faults in the outlet that should be addressed before use.

Run all cables underground

All outdoor electric garden lights should have at least 450mm deep-running cables when under patio or path and 750mm for lawns and flowerbeds. Many people even use a low-voltage garden lighting cable as an added safety precaution. This makes sense because the lights furthest from the house don’t need to be exceptionally bright. We’re talking about garden fence lights or garden path lighting, so a low voltage cable is more than suitable.

Protect circuits with a residual current device (RCD)

As we mentioned before, GFCI outlets are required for outdoor lighting. These outlets are a type of RCD, and you should consider them for all outdoor lighting applications. Speak to your electrician if you are unsure.

Double-check finished works with a socket tester

We mentioned the importance of using a socket tester when working with electrical outlets. Once your garden lighting installation is complete, we recommend testing all relevant sockets again to be safe. That way, when you turn on your beautiful outdoor lights, you won’t get any nasty shocks or electrical surges.

Consult a professional electrician

Ultimately, unless you have experience, you shouldn’t be undertaking complex electrical work without the assistance of a qualified professional. A licensed electrician should do all wiring to ensure maximum safety for you and your family.

Contact garden lighting experts

Hampshire Light has developed a reputation for excellence in lighting design for luxury homes. If you need outdoor lighting for the garden, we are happy to help via a comprehensive planning, design and installation service.

As experienced professionals, we can show you how to transform your outdoor space into a sanctuary with the right lighting design. All of your electric garden lighting needs taken care of by one team of specialists.

Arrange a zero-obligation, free consultation with our landscape lighting experts today.

Are we the right choice for your new build or extensive refurb project?

We believe we are because we have been lighting prime properties for over 25 years and have earned many accolades. 

Houzz Rating: 4.9 stars

Best of Houzz Design Awards: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 

More importantly, people choose us for three reasons:

  1. End-to-End Service
  2. Peace of Mind
  3. Design Within Your Budget

End-to-End Service

We provide end-to-end service. It means we take complete responsibility right from the design to the fitting of your lighting. We also offer interior design services and blinds. Our All-in-one service makes your task simple and saves you time. You just have to deal with one company (not 3-4 companies) for your all lighting and decor needs.

Peace of Mind

You get a 100% Design Guarantee - a full refund on your design fee if you’re not satisfied with the design once the design process is complete. (In our industry, no one has this strong a guarantee.)

Design Within Your Budget

Part of your design process ensures that the total project ends up within an affordable budget without sacrificing quality. We have a history with a wide range of suppliers worldwide, which means we can provide options on the lower level, mid-line and premium fittings for you to make educated financial decisions for your project.

Kindly download our brochure. Read what some of our clients are saying about our work.

Want to learn more about lighting design?

Download our lighting design brochure


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