Does your backyard dream include a lush garden? If so, you’ll want an outdoor lighting scheme to showcase the natural beauty. Perhaps you’re a grilling enthusiast with a desire for an outdoor gourmet kitchen? Then power your al fresco cucina properly (and safely) by planning ahead and getting the right professionals on board.
Entertaining in the great outdoors
As Canadians, we want to enjoy every moment outdoors when the weather is nice. Why not take everyday tasks like food prep and cooking outside? The outdoors is naturally “open concept”, so you’ll want to define zones for cooking, lounging and entertaining. You and your guests will enjoy sitting on a comfortable sectional with vibrant pillows in sun and water resistant fabrics under a canopy of lanterns to set the right mood come nightfall. Torch lighting, set along the perimeter, can further help define the entertaining spaces.
Many of these elements you’ve been dreaming about have electrical requirements, so advanced planning is key. If you’re thinking of a breezy new ceiling fan for the cabana or lanai, for example, it requires a specially approved junction box— different from the box for a standard light fixture—which provides additional space for the remote control and the support that assures the fan is secure and won’t wobble or fall. A bar fridge, ideal to keep beverages cool on a hot summer day, needs a dedicated outlet, so you’ll want that to be part of your electrical plan as well.
Did you know that all 120-volt 15 and 20-amp receptacles in your backyard must be protected by a Class A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)? You’ll recognize this outlet, designed to prevent shock, by its tester buttons. If the outlet is exposed to elements like rain or snow, it needs to have a cover plate marked “Extra Duty.” These rules are there for your safety—and it’s best to leave it to a professional to ensure the installation is done to Code.
From developing your plans to pulling permits, your Licensed Electrical Contractor is required to know what’s needed to make your backyard electrically safe.
Light up your oasis
Without question, good lighting is key to amping up your entertaining space and setting the mood for evening summertime soirées. Just like indoor lighting, you’ll want to develop a layered lighting scheme to give your outdoor entertaining spaces the ambiance you’re looking to achieve. Incorporate exterior lighting such as sconces on your house; particularly near doors and any transition in flooring. Whether you’re highlighting your pathways or lighting up the foliage overhead, landscape lighting turns an otherwise dark backyard into a well-lit retreat. Rustic strings of Edison bulbs overhead never go out of style. Use them to add sparkle to every occasion. But, just like holiday lights, ESA recommends taking them down once patio season is over to prevent damage to the wiring from our harsh climate. It’s always a good idea to look at product markings and packaging instructions for further direction.
While low voltage lighting systems for landscape lighting and some accent lighting look beautiful (and use very little electricity), they do require a special isolating transformer, which helps prevent shock and short circuits. If your plans involve getting the power all the way to your back garden, your Licensed Electrical Contractor will need to run the wiring through a trench. The depth of the trench will depend on the location; it will be different if it’s crossing a driveway or isolated to the yard. Assuming it’s low voltage lighting at less than 750 volts, the depth requirements are 60-90 centimetres and 45-60 centimetres, respectively. Before anyone digs in your yard, contact Ontario One Call to locate existing underground wires, natural gas and water lines.
Planning an outdoor upgrade may seem like a DIYer’s dream, but never take for granted the importance of working with a Licensed Electrical Contractor for your electrical needs. Done safely and to Code, the result will be a beautifully-lit yard that makes outdoor living feel magical.
Add height and texture to your outdoor spaces by using a mix of plants that vary in height and bloom at alternate times throughout the season.
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