Landscape lighting is a great way to make your garden more attractive. You can show off parts of your landscaping, improve your home’s safety with greater visibility, and have evening entertainment with a good lighting scheme around your home. Since they’re powered by electricity, however, you may be wondering if landscape lights can start fires.
Landscape lights can start fires. This can be caused by water ingress, build-up of natural debris around the lights, or poor wiring and connections. Left unchecked, these issues can lead to overheating and short-circuiting, both of which are fire risks.
In this article, I’ll go into the risks of fire from landscape lighting in more detail. Then, I’ll look at some practical ways you can reduce these risks in your garden.
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What Are the Main Causes of Fires in Landscape Lights?
The main causes of fires in landscape lights are:
- Overloaded wiring or poor connections
- Water ingress affecting the wiring
- Overheating caused by conditions on the ground
Below, I’ll go through these issues in more detail and how they cause a fire risk.
Overloaded Wiring or Poor Connections
Landscape lighting is designed to run at a lower voltage than the lighting in your home. The reason is simple: Since it’s an electrical appliance installed outdoors, it’s more prone to weather disturbances that can, in turn, lead to fire risks. Also, issues with poor connections or wiring can cause overheating.
Specifically, the following landscape lighting issues can cause circuits to jump or overheat, increasing the chances of catching fire:
- Weak connections
- Wires being placed underground despite not being rated for underground use
- Wrong wire size
Water Ingress Affecting the Wiring
Another way landscape lights can start fires is by water interfering with the wire, causing a short circuit or overload. Water ingress is always a risk in outdoor lighting, so you need to install some kind of waterproofing for it — if not purchase waterproof lights altogether.
For example, you can invest in Greenclick Landscape Lighting, 3W 12V Extendable Low Voltage 6 in 1 Landscape Lights (link to Amazon). It’s constructed to give it an IP65 waterproof rating.
Water particularly affects wiring and connections under moist conditions. Even with the low voltage used in outdoor lighting, there’s a danger of overload leading to blown bulbs and overheating.
Overheating Caused by Conditions on the Ground
You should also consider the ground conditions around your landscape lighting. If there’s a build-up of leaves, branches, or mulch used in gardening, this can also lead to fires. In this case, the garden debris can surround your landscape lighting, which results in an insulating effect. The trapped heat builds up until the lighting itself overheats.
Alternatively, exposed or faulty wiring can make contact with dried-out mulch, forming sparks and leading to an outdoor fire. In both cases, the landscape around the lighting needs to be kept in good condition.
Practical Steps To Reduce Fire Risk From Landscape Lights
By looking after your lighting and clearing the space around it, you can reduce the chance of fire without too much hassle.
Below are simple steps to help you minimize the fire risk from landscape lighting.
Make Sure Your Lighting Is Clear of Debris
As I said before, the build-up of mulch and debris is a serious fire risk. So, ensure your lighting is kept in a clear location away from mulch. Regularly cleaning leaves or other debris will ensure that they won’t build up and increase the fire risk from your landscape lights.
Keep Water Out of Your Lighting
Make sure you buy high-quality waterproof systems for your lighting and clean them regularly. Even waterproof-rated fixtures can degrade and rust, especially if installed close to sea air, so regular cleaning and inspection are necessary (source).
In addition, make sure the wire connections are tight and concealed from the elements to keep water from affecting the wiring.
Ensure the Correct Wiring Is Used and Connected Tightly
Always check that your wiring is suitable for its intended use. For example, you should check that the wiring is suitable for underground use if it’s buried and that it’s the correct size to handle the voltage being used. Also, all connections should be tightly wound to avoid circuits ‘jumping’ and overheating or sparking.
Use a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter
A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) helps prevent electrical fires caused by circuit issues. Most fire risks from landscape lighting come from faulty wiring, so using a GFCI is a failsafe that’ll automatically shut down your system should anything go wrong.
Once the GFCI stops the circuit, you can check your lighting to see where the problem is before you reset the system. With a GFCI, you don’t have to worry about accidental electrocution while inspecting faulty landscape lights.
I recommend a product like the Faith 15A GFCI Outlet (link to Amazon) for this purpose. It’s easy to install, and you can set it up in moisture-prone places like the bathroom, kitchen, and (of course) the outside of your home. It also comes in a variety of colors that are easy to match with your home’s decor, ensuring that it won’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Use LED Lighting
LEDs run at a lower temperature, therefore making them less prone to overheating compared to other types of lights. Of course, you should still make sure the wiring is installed properly to ensure that fire risks are kept to a minimum. You can also leave LED lights on for long periods outside.
Do keep in mind, however, that LEDs won’t always fit into older lighting systems, so double-check this before you install them.
Because of their lower fire risk, energy efficiency, and a lower likelihood of attracting insects such as mosquitos, LEDs are a good choice if you’re considering a new landscape lighting set-up.
Landscape lighting can start fires, caused mainly by poor wiring and electrical connections. There are also the effects of weather and nature to consider, since landscape lighting is powered by electricity, and (as you know) electricity and water don’t mix.
However, there are steps you can take to have an outdoor lighting scheme that’s as safe as possible, such as:
- Make sure your wiring is safe and waterproof.
- Use LED lighting.
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