"Understanding Your Home" by Building Inspector Mark Visser
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100 lbs. Cast Iron fixture at
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Three lantern post light

Driveway Lighting

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Driveway lights are one way to enhance the style and appearance of your home. If placed properly, driveway lights also provide a level of security. It is not necessary to light up the entire driveway but you want enough lights to show the way. Curved driveways usually require more lights than straight ones as the lights are placed closer together. If possible, use several types of lights and placements to avoid a runway effect. Be creative and use your imagination to create a natural look that blends in with the home's architecture.
Driveway lights should be the correct size for the distance that is desired to be lighted. Large lights may seem imposing and light up more than just the outline of the driveway. Undersized lights may leave too many dark spots.
Choice of lights and systems
There are many different types of driveway lights and driveway lighting systems available. Your choice will depend on:
- the length of your driveway
- whether you want low to the ground lighting or post lights
- if there are trees lining the driveway
- if there are driveway entry piers
- the type of lighting system you prefer, low voltage, solar power or regular 120 volt
Low Voltage Lighting
Low voltage lighting systems are very popular with homeowners who want to spruce up the driveway. The system is energy efficient and relatively easy to install. The lights are connected by wiring and connected to a transformer. The lights may be turned on and off by a motion detector or timer.

Vintage five globe post light at driveway entrance

Solar lights
If you want to stay away from wiring and transformers, solar powered driveway lighting may be your best option. That is, if there is enough sun to charge the units throughout the day. A good charge will light the driveway for eight to ten hours. Solar lighting systems are very economical to operate as they do not require electricity but they do need new batteries every few years. Another thing that I like about solar powered driveway lights is that they are "portable". It is very easy to arrange or rearrange the location of the lights till it is perfect to your liking.
There are solar lights that have been built into bricks so they can be embedded into brick pathways and driveways.
Battery life can be greatly extended by cleaning the solar panel often, especially after a heavy downpour. Splashed on dirt and dust form a film that block sunlight preventing the unit from being fully charged.

120-Volt circuit wiring

Flood lights, post lights and driveway entry pier lights require regular 120-volt wiring with power supplied directly from the hydro panel. For long driveways a heavier wire is required to compensate for "cable loss" which is the amount of electricity lost between one end of the wire and the other end. Undersized wires will result in dim or dimmer lights located at the end of the driveway compared to those placed closer to the house.
Using regular sized wires for long runs may be cheaper at the time of installation but it will cost you more in the long run because you will pay for the lost electricity. To make it easier to understand, think of your garden hose. Leaks will limit the outflow at the end of the hose but you will still be paying for the total amount, used and lost, as shown by the water meter.
On and off functions can be controlled by an inside switch, timer or photoelectric sensor attached to the light fixture.
WARNING All 120-Volt buried wires wires MUST run inside a conduit.

Low driveway edge lights

Many homeowners opt for the ever popular solar lights to outline the driveway mainly because they are easy to install and can be moved around. They look best if placed in flower beds or low scrubs along the driveway.
Outdoor or driveway post lights
For a more permanent way of illuminating your driveway you can use post lights. They are approximately 2.44 m. (8 feet) tall and come with two or three lantern type light fixtures. Driveway post lights are stylish and provide efficient light when properly spaced. It mat be a good idea to use lower wattage light bulbs so the lights are not too bright and bother your visitors. They not only look great at night but during the day as well.
Spot lights in trees
These lights, as the name already suggest, produce a narrow cone shaped beam of light. They are ideal for tree lined driveways. Spot lights can be placed at the base of the trees to light up the trunk and some of the lower branches (up lighting). Another, and maybe more effective way, is to place the spot lights in the tree, lighting up the area around the base of the tree and driveway (down lighting).
Lights on driveway entrance piers
These lights should be bright enough to light up the entire driveway entrance. The lights are controlled by a switch inside the home, timer or photoelectric sensor.

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