Houston Atomic Ranch New Landscape/Hardscape

Home improvement Q&A, pictures and news fro Mid Century Modern Homes and Houses(NOT for Real Estate)

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cougarider
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Houston Atomic Ranch New Landscape/Hardscape

Postby cougarider » Thu Nov 20, 2008 10:24 am

It took me about 2 weekends labor to get this done. What a difference lighting makes...and so easy to install! My house is no longer the ugliest and darkest in the neighborhood.

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reverb2000
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Postby reverb2000 » Thu Nov 20, 2008 4:24 pm

looks great..especially the effect of the light on the fence.
Is that Aztec grass by the pavers?

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BAZ_MCM
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Postby BAZ_MCM » Thu Nov 20, 2008 7:24 pm

Love it. Especially the way you terminated the last paver into the grass instead of in the gravel. It's the subtle touches that matter.

Cheers,

-Baz
Mid Century Modernizing the modern world: http://atomicindy.com/

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turboblown
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Postby turboblown » Thu Nov 20, 2008 8:22 pm

Did you use low voltage or line voltage lighting for the effect lighting?

I just laid 900 feet of conduit for 120 volt landscape lighting on my 96' long MCM ranch. It was the same way- the darkest house on the street. My 26 mushroom lights run at about 40% brighness using 15 watt lamps via a Leviton dimmer. My driveway lights (globe lights on posts) run at 40% until there is motion picked up by one of the 2 infrared sensors that command the lights to 100% for 5 minutes. I can also command all of them to 100% from in the house. I have 12 recessed lights (5 are original)in the roof overhang on the front of the house that highlights the hand-cut Laurel Mountain sandstone, slate porch and board-and-batten. These lights are 65W PAR series that run at about 30%.

In the Spring, I am adding tree highlight spots at ground level. All is controlled by a multi-channel Intermatic 70000 series Astronomic PC programmable timer (set with 1 second pulse output) that drives my GE low voltage lighting controls from 1965 that still work perfectly. I am eventually going to tie all 4 GE relay centers together to a central multiplex unit and control the entire home's interior and exterior lighting with my PC over standard RS232 (I hate USB...it's useless) from my home office. I have a dedicated 240V/60A outdoor subpanel just for exterior lighting and the motorized driveway gates.

I do all cosmetic exterior lighting "old school". I don't like the looks of cheesey fluorescent or LED modern McMansion type light technology. It may not be the most efficient, but I have the sweetest lighting in the area! I also do not like any low voltage landscape lighting. Even the hi-line products just don't have the visual of a real 120V mushroom light. BTW, I use RAB all-aluminum fixtures since they'll last 30+ years. All wiring is in 1/2" PVC conduit buries 6"deep that contains #14AWG THHN.

My pond in the rear of the property will also have 120V underwater lighting.

Carefully planned exterior lighting can make your home a beautiful centerpiece at night and make the entire neighborhood (or township) jealous. When done properly (as in your pics), it will highlight many MCM features...especially masonry and post/beam.

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BAZ_MCM
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Postby BAZ_MCM » Thu Nov 20, 2008 8:48 pm

turboblown,

We're going to need pics after all that over-our-heads lighting techie talk.

Cheers,

-Baz
Mid Century Modernizing the modern world: http://atomicindy.com/

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reverb2000
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Postby reverb2000 » Fri Nov 21, 2008 4:16 am

turboblown is my new idol. I had a helluva time just posting pics on this site, and you can control lights from your office..that rules.
2nd for pics request

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ch
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Postby ch » Fri Nov 21, 2008 4:32 am

Looks great Cougarider. Is there any way to get a fixture up inside that brick planter to illuminate the dark maroon wall? It would be great to have that box pop with light.

My driving rule for outside lighting is to only see the illumination and never the source. It pains me to see when people just line up those little pathway lights a foot apart.

Turbo, you rule! I too don't know what the hell you are talking about but I like the way you say it! Got any photos?

egads
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Postby egads » Fri Nov 21, 2008 10:31 am

6" conduit burial for 120v does not meet code. 18" is minimum in most jurisdictions. Low voltage lighting is available from many sources. Much of it is very good. Malibu is the worst. (although they do make a rock light made out of a real rock that holds an mr-16 lamp)
For large areas, running a low voltage system requires some careful engineering. The longer the distance and the more lights, the larger the cable must be. Line voltage solves this dilemma. However, care must be taken for safeties sake. Low voltage lighting can be dimmed using low voltage dimmers.

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turboblown
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Postby turboblown » Fri Nov 21, 2008 11:32 am

You are correct on not meeting code, but we don't have code Nazis in my township to worry about. We also don't follow BOCA or any other modern over-restricted code where I live. Unless it is inside on new construction or remodeling that requires inspection, it will never matter. Besides, it's easier for me to access it when I want to expand next year. Sometimes it's nice to not live in California (no offense, Cali dwellers!) and not be over enforced to the point they dictate how far apart staples are holding my CATV or doorbell wiring to the floor joists. It may only be about 6" deep, but I know where every inch of it is located should I ever need to excavate. If I damage it, I have an excuse to install more lighting when I repair the damage (: Perhaps the trees in the front yard need mid/upper highlighting sometime soon.

I don't like low voltage lighting since it just doesn't provide the light scatter as high voltage (it has a tightly-wound filament and needs specific optics and reflectors to do what hi voltage already does). There are many experts that frown upon hi voltage, but none of them have ever been able to provide a manufacturer and part number for a basic green powdercoated 3-tier lo-volt mushroom light that mounts to 1/2" pipe, either.

Even the best of the low voltage lights are problematic since you are dealing with much higher amperage. You also need multiple transformers to operate large numbers of lamps. Several hundred feet of low voltage cable is also more inefficient AND more expensive. I have yet to see any low voltage fixture that looks like something from the fifties or sixties since they are all produced and marketed for Yuppie McMansion. As for Malibu lighting....good luck getting a second season from this crap.

The hi voltage lights do everything they should for a "vintage" looking and very reliable installation. I can run one service for over a hundred lights and even run them over 500' to the back of my yard without voltage drop or booster (buck) transformers that you have to provide with high voltage anyway.

I'll have some pics soon. The yard is a mess with this disgusting white stuff (snow for you lucky ones in the south that have never seen it before) that covers everything.
I still didn't do the PC control, but that will come in the spring once the rest of the outdoor lighting is completed.

pgharchfan
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Postby pgharchfan » Fri Nov 21, 2008 12:13 pm

Vista has some low-voltage styles that match up to the early line-voltage fixtures.

They offer about a dozen different finishes as well, including some of the verde looks that were popular.

Almost all are available in low-wattage low voltage halogen or warm white LED (3 watts!)

http://www.vistapro.com/Product.aspx?Pr ... 1&typeID=3

http://www.vistapro.com/Product.aspx?Pr ... 1&typeID=3

mushroom style

http://www.vistapro.com/Product.aspx?Pr ... 1&typeID=3 3-tier pagoda

http://www.vistapro.com/Product.aspx?Pr ... 1&typeID=3


I personally prefer low-voltage as the energy consumption is less (lower watts, multiple fixtures in the landscape) and less.

cougarider
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lighting

Postby cougarider » Fri Nov 21, 2008 7:41 pm

For lighting I used a low voltage Malibu system from Home depot or Lowes. It is extremely simple to install that even the village idiot (myself) could install. You just lay the 12 gauge cable where you want the lights and clip the fixtures into place. I used 20 watt lights on a 300 watt power box.

CH. Commented about lighting the planter and the vertical beams. I did consider but when the sunroom is lit it does allow for light to slide through the beams. I also think adding too much light might be over kill. Good suggestion though.

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turboblown
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Postby turboblown » Sat Nov 22, 2008 7:42 am

Those low voltage units look nice and appear to be well-built, but when illuminated, they just don't look anything like a classic. The have a teeny little lightbulb inside instead of a large frosted glass bulb and they just don't cut it for looking correct when on. The LED ones are laughable unless you're dealing with someone that is worried about saving 4 watts per fixture. If they would make the interiors a little better with dual glass to emulate the fixtures of yesterday, the would be nice for installations where you only need to cover a small area.

Also, each of those draws 1.5 amps! gang 20 together and you now have to have a cable capable of 30 amps to run them. If you have a 400' cable run, you'll need #10 or #8 cable in order to provide an acceptable voltage drop. Most installers will use multiple transformers instead of one large, long cable for all of the lights. Now you have to run 120V to all of these transformers which takes you right back to stringing 120VAC wiring all over the place to run these transformers. Could have just used 120VAC fixtures in the first place and save a lot of work and money. Oh, and the bulbs are only $0.89 for a 2-pack of 15 watters.

Low voltage is nice for installing a few localized lights in a small area like a garden or a 20' walkway, but when doing a large job (like my 2+ acres) there is no substitute for hi voltage.

You can definitely overdo lighting. I see many people install Malibu lights down their driveway or sidewalk and make them only a foot apart...and they do both sides! These lights are meant to highlight and beautify landscape and surrounding items and not meant to light a parking lot- that's what overhead floodlights are for. Less light is better, especially when you are dealing with a smaller lot and/or a smaller house (duh!). Several strategically placed lights can make an entire house a night-time showpiece, as you can see in the original posting. Overdo it and you may have airplanes land on your house.


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