Outdoor Lighting Electricians Minnesota

4 Questions to Ask When Choosing Outdoor Light Fixtures

How to Choose the Right Outdoor Light Fixtures

With so many varieties of outdoor light fixtures available today, it’s not always easy to choose the right one for your home. However, a few practical rules can help you narrow down your options quickly so that you can move on to the fun part – picking out your lights!

When you’re selecting an outdoor light fixture, Lights Online recommends keeping these four questions in mind:

  1. What style do I want?Is your home’s architecture stately and elegant? Angular and contemporary? Craftsman? Spanish? If you’re not sure what style your home is or what style you like, that’s OK. Pick out some lights you like, take a look at them side-by-side and see if there’s a common thread between them that you like. This can help you discover your personal style. (You can also take a look at Lighting Styles 101 for more!)
  2. Are there any state or local ordinances I should be aware of? Some states, like California, require outdoor light fixtures to be energy efficient or Dark Sky certified to reduce light pollution. Be aware of these requirements in your area before you buy.
  3. How much light am I looking for? The single most important factor when choosing an outdoor light fixture is its lighted appearance and effect at night. In general, you want to use multiple outdoor light fixtures together to avoid too much brightness in a single fixture.
  4. Is this light durable enough?Consider the climate of your home. Most outdoor light fixtures are now treated with special coatings to weather the elements. If you’re using an outdoor wall light or post light, make sure it’s wet area rated for direct exposure to rain. If you’re using a hanging lantern under a covered area, it can be damp area rated, which means it should not be directly exposed to rain. For areas like beach and lake homes, you may want to consider an outdoor light fixture made of sturdy materials, such as a marine-grade resin.

Ready to install some outdoor lighting? Now is the time! Call us at 612-331-8658 to schedule an appointment.

For help with any electrical needs, contact Affordable Electric today. Our electricians in Minneapolis are fully equipped to perform any job. If you need an emergency electrician, we’re here 24/7. When you want reliable service with quality products, you want Affordable Electric!

Landscape Lighting 101

Landscape Lighting 101

Lighting your yard is an overwhelming task. Too little light and you can’t enjoy your yard to its fullest, too much light and it creates an unsafe atmosphere. If you’re struggling to find the balance, don’t lose hope. Better Homes and Gardens offers some basic tips for landscape lighting:

The Basics

How light is seen during the day is different from how it is seen at night, a particularly important distinction when it comes to lighting pathways and other outdoor spaces. However, certain principles about lighting remain true.

For starters, light has intensity, or quantity emitted, and color. The color of a particular lightbulb can be found on the packaging; it is a number that ranges from 1800 kelvins (K), which is very red in tone, to 7500 K, which is a bluish white.

Whether indoors or outdoors, lighting is generally divided into three layers based on function.

  • Overall: Overall light provides illumination for a whole room or space.
  • Task: Task lighting is used for a specific purpose, such as to light a path.
  • Accent: Accent lighting draws attention to an object or area. This is usually accomplished with spotlights or floodlights.

A variety of bulbs are suitable for outdoor fixtures. Incandescent bulbs emit pleasing light but have a short life and consume more electricity. Halogen bulbs are more efficient versions of incandescents, typically with a longer life and less energy consumption. Fluorescents are now available in a more pleasing color range, last much longer, and consume less energy. While LED bulbs are more expensive, their costs — which continue to decline — are balanced by their extraordinarily long life and extremely low energy consumption.

Landscape lights that are located near a building with electricity can easily be integrated into your home’s wiring system. Solar landscape lighting options exist, too, to power your landscape lights.

Outdoor Lighting Issues

Outdoor lighting issues differ from those of indoor light. For example, reflection is less an issue outdoors because most surfaces are dark and do not reflect light well. However, position and shielding are more important in outdoor landscape lighting in order to prevent glare.

Glare happens when a light source is too big or too bright; it can be blinding because it reflects directly in people’s eyes. Exterior landscape lighting also needs to be particularly sensitive to direct versus indirect light. Direct outdoor landscape light, such as a downlight outside a side entry door, will brighten mostly the object it is directed at and little of the surroundings. Indirect light reflects on the surrounding surfaces to create a soft wash.

Lighting Placement

While lighting can be placed virtually anywhere, some spots make it an absolute must. Those include:

Paths: A well-lit path is both welcoming and required, providing illumination that extends hospitality to visitors and makes walking more secure. High illumination isn’t necessary, and downlights will prevent glare. Individually lit pavers can also be used to light a pathway.

Entries: Place lights either to each side of a door or overhead at front, back, and side entry doors.

Driveway: Low-voltage landscape lighting is a good option along a driveway.

Steps: Steps should be lighted for safety; either the risers or the treads can be lit.

Decks or Patios: Lighting can be used to illuminate specific task areas on a deck or patio, such as a kitchen or cooking spot, as well as railings and seating areas. Uplighting, which is harder to accomplish outside, can be used on a deck or patio to send light upward on an umbrella or deck “ceiling” for an indirect effect.

Gazebos, Pergolas, or Trellises: Lighting is a good way to highlight an interesting built element in the outdoor landscape.

Architectural Features: Outdoor landscape lighting can be used to highlight a wall, for example, by washing it or grazing it. When a wide beam of light is aimed at a wall from a few feet away, it creates a wall wash. A light used to graze a wall creates interesting highlights and shadows. Both will provide a little accent to nearby plants.

In addition, a range of fixtures is available for nearly every spot, including wall fixtures, sconces, portable lamps, chandeliers, and ceiling fans. However, any fixture used outdoors should be rated for “UL wet location” use.

Outdoor Light Pollution

Too much light, or poorly installed lighting, can create unwanted light pollution that shines into indoor rooms, washes out the view of the stars, creates glare that temporarily blinds people, and wastes energy and money. To avoid light pollution:

  • Aim lights carefully. Position lights at night and check their position frequently.
  • Shield bulbs. Use fixtures that have reflectors and shielding to concentrate light where you want it.
  • Minimize wattage. Higher wattage will create harsher light without improving aesthetics or increasing safety. Low-wattage bulbs are often enough to provide illumination.
  • Control the light. Separately zoned lights with timers, controls, dimmers, or motion sensors will turn on lights only when needed or enable them to be turned down as necessary.

Ready to install some outdoor lighting? Now is the time. We’re offering $25 ANY service now through 6/15/17. Call us at 612-331-8658 for more details!

For help with any electrical needs, contact Affordable Electric today. Our electricians in Minneapolis are fully equipped to perform any job. If you need an emergency electrician, we’re here 24/7. When you want reliable service with quality products, you want Affordable Electric!

11 Tips for Outdoor Lighting Safety

Summer will be here soon, and with it comes more time spent outside. If you’re looking at some outdoor lighting to light your way, you may be wondering what to use. What’s safe for your yard? What will last for years to come? And if you have children, outdoor lighting safety is extremely important.

Bill Lewis of The Spruce outlines the top 11 tips for safe outdoor lighting:

1. Install Outdoor-Rated Fixtures

If you’re installing a lighting fixture outdoors, it must be designed and built to be there. For two quick examples, a light that’s under your porch roof and never gets wet needs to be rated for damp locations, or say “outdoor” on it, because it will still get damp, cold and hot, and it needs to be able to take that.

A wall fixture that goes next to your door but doesn’t have a roof over it needs a higher rating — weatherproof, weather resistant and “suitable for wet locations” are the words you’re looking for.

2. Use Outdoor-Rated Light Bulbs

In an exposed fixture such as an outdoor flood light, most of us think of this. But it’ll pay you in terms of the life of the bulb and the ease of replacing it to do the same with your porch light. If you’re having trouble finding a standard bulb that’s rated for outdoor use, check the fine print on some appliance bulbs. If it can survive in a freezer or an oven, it can probably survive outdoors.

3. Don’t Overlamp a Fixture

Most fixtures, indoor or outdoor, will have a sticker or label that says “Maximum Wattage: 60W”, or 75W or 100W. Whatever it says, respect that. It’s there to keep you from putting in a light bulb that will overheat the wiring in the fixture, which will damage the insulation on the wires. What does matter, BTW, is the actual wattage of the bulb — not the “incandescent equivalent.” If you’re putting a CFL bulb in a fixture with a 60W rating, for example, you can use one that draws any amount of power up to 60W (which would put out more light than a 200W incandescent bulb).

4. Use Outdoor-Rated Extension Cords

The extension cords we use indoors are made for that. They’re usually light and flexible, so they’re easy to keep out of the way. And they’re definitely not made to stand up to getting wet. Buy and use only outdoor-rated extension cords for any temporary lighting you’re connecting outside your house.

5. Use Decorative Lights Made for Outdoor Use

If you want to hang some lighted pumpkins or skulls or candy canes or icicles on your eaves or porch railing, only use ones that are made to go there. The labeling should say “indoor” or “indoor/outdoor” or “outdoor.” Keep the ones that say “indoor” inside. Either of the other two is built to take outside.

6. Watch Out for Flammable Materials

I wasn’t really thinking of the materials the product is made from when I put this in my notes, but that applies too. What I was really thinking of, though, was being careful to keep lighting materials that generate heat, like many light bulbs, away from other materials that can ignite and burn easily.

An accent light under a manger to give it a glow may be just the effect you’re looking for in your nativity scene, for example. But if you’ve also scattered a lot of hay, or straw, around the stable, the effect you get might be a little bit different.

7. Install Weather-Resistant Receptacles

You should always plug temporary outdoor loads into outdoor receptacles, rather than running a cord out through a doorway or window from one of the receptacles inside your house, and those receptacles need to be weather-resistant. Even though they’ll have special outdoor covers over them, the receptacles themselves need to be able to take dampness, freezing and heat without being damaged. They need to be rated as weather-resistant.

8. Install GFCI Protection

GFCI, or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, protection is one of the most important electrical safety improvements of the last forty years. We have it installed in our kitchens, our bathrooms, our garages, even our attics, crawl spaces and unfinished basements. It’s required anywhere we might be plugging something in while we’re grounded. And that certainly includes when we’re standing out in the yard.

If the wiring that feeds your outdoor receptacle has GFCI protection from a circuit breaker or some other GFCI device upstream, you can install a standard weather-resistant receptacle in the outside box. But if it doesn’t, then you need to install a GFCI receptacle there. Weather-resistant, of course.

9. Install a Cover for Damp Locations Under a Roof

If you have an outdoor receptacle that’s on your porch or your screened-in patio or in some other location that’s protected from direct protection, then you can cover it with a “trap door” cover that will close, and keep it protected, when nothing id plugged into it — and it’s OK, then, to plug something into that receptacle and leave it there for a few days. These covers will be marked “Suitable For Damp Locations.”

10. Install a Cover for Wet Locations in the Open

If your outdoor receptacle isn’t under a roof or some other protective cover. it needs to have a special cover, known as as “in -use” cover, over it. As the name implies, these covers will keep the receptacle, and the plug that’s in it, dry — even in the rain.

11. Attach Holiday Lights with Non-Metal Non-Binding Materials

Be careful when you’re attaching temporary lighting strings and ornaments. Don’t use something that might damage the wires, and avoid anything with metal in it. Metal conducts electricity. Plastic cable ties are one popular and inexpensive choice for this task.

Ready to install some outdoor lighting? Now is the time. We’re offering $25 ANY service now through 6/15/17. Call us at 612-331-8658 for more details!

For help with any electrical needs, contact Affordable Electric today. Our electricians in Minneapolis are fully equipped to perform any job. If you need an emergency electrician, we’re here 24/7. When you want reliable service with quality products, you want Affordable Electric!

4 Ways to Increase Your Home’s Beauty with Outlets

Think outlets have to be boring, blah and basic? There’s no reason why your outlets have to be plain old beige. We recommend LeGrand outlets for all our style-conscious clients. They have a number of lines for any need and budget.

Our personal favorite is the adorne® collection, which combines the best of both style and function. These sleek plates come in white or magnesium, with a border available in any color. Shop the full collection on their website. Choose the best outlet for your needs:

 

USB

How would you like to charge your cell phone or mobile devices anywhere in your home? The USB outlet makes it easy to charge your devices anywhere, anytime. We recommend the USB outlet for high-traffic areas, like the living room and kitchen.

 

POP-OUT™ OUTLET

Hide your outlets when they’re not in use. The adorne Pop-Pout Outlet seamlessly blends into the wall. Pushing on the center reveals an outlet with three plugs. Push again and it slides back into the wall.

 

Standard Outlet

Don’t let the name fool you – this outlet is anything but standard. Choose the color that matches your décor and the power you need. For an added bonus, try the energy saving on/off outlet to reduce your electric bill. If you need more room for large items or appliances, try a Plus-Size Outlet.

 

Wi-FI Ready Outlet

If you’re always on the hunt for the latest technology, this is the outlet for you. It can configure with the adorne SofTap or the Touch™ Dimmer Switch to control your light output.

For help with any electrical needs, contact Affordable Electric today. Our electricians in Minneapolis are fully equipped to perform any job. If you need an emergency electrician, we’re here 24/7. When you want reliable service with quality products, you want Affordable Electric!

New GFCI Outlet Requirements Create a Safer Home

Keep Your Family Safe with Updated GFCI Outlets

Ground-fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) outlets are important to create a safe environment in your home. They protect you from any dangers of utilizing outlets near water supplies such as sinks or outdoor surfaces. GFCI receptacles constantly monitor any electrical circuit that is connected to it.

A ground fault is a conducting connection, both intentional and accidental, between an electric conductor and conducting material that is grounded or may become grounded. Electricity likes to find a path to the ground, but when it does it is unwelcome and may become in contact with a person.

If a GFCI outlet detects even a slight flow of electricity to a grounded item, it immediately shuts off the flow of electricity. This is a safety measure, as the flow of electricity may have found its way through water or a person. This protects people from electrocution. If one’s body starts to receive a shock, the GFCI senses that and cuts all power connected before any injuries occur.

Garages, bathrooms, laundry rooms and kitchens are the main locations in your home that is required to have GFCI outlets. Generally, they replace your regularly installed outlets that supply electricity for appliances or power tools that may become in contact with water. You will usually see these near kitchen and bathroom sinks. These are then used as a replacement for standard circuit breakers and provide GFCI protection to all receptacles in that individual circuit.

Be sure to test each one monthly, to make sure that they are operating properly. To test, simply plug in a lamp, the easiest item to utilize to test. Turn the lamp on, to make sure that the lamp itself is working properly. With the light on, push in the “test” button on your GFCI outlet. This should trip the outlet and turn the light off. If the lamp does not turn off, the circuit may be faulty or installed improperly. Once you have tested the outlet and the lamp has turned off, push in the “reset” button and the lamp should turn back on.

With these new installations and updates, you can be sure that your home is safer for you and your family. If there are any problems, contact us for assistance.