Light Up Your Yard
It doesn’t take much more than some dramatic lighting to create the right atmosphere for an outdoor party. And it doesn’t take much to maintain your equipment either.
Maintaining Your Lamp Posts
An outdoor lamppost or porch light is often the first thing guests see as they arrive at your front door, so don’t neglect it. If yours is rusted, you can extend its life in an hour or two. Turn off the power to the light at the service panel by flipping off the circuit breaker or removing the fuse. Remove the rust with steel wool or a wire brush. Then apply a rust inhibitor to any bare metal surfaces. Finally, brush on two coats of a rust-resisting enamel paint. Replace any broken glass panels to prevent further damage.
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 centers, 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.
Protect Outdoor Receptacles
Check to be sure the hinge and gaskets that protect outdoor receptacles are functioning properly. If not, cover with a sturdy plastic food bag and secure with twine or a hefty rubber band until you can repair or replace the cover. You can also use a plastic bag to protect the plug and receptacle when leaving ornamental lights plugged in for a while, especially in snowy climes. Run the cord through the bag opening, and secure the bag over the plug and receptacle with twine.
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.
Preserve 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.