Find out about how modernizing and upgrading your current outdoor security lighting can use less electricity while adding more light. Get tips for working with electrical wiring and outdoor security lights.
LESLIE: In Tennessee, Walter listens to The Money Pit on Discovery Channel Radio and you’ve got an electrical question. What do you want to talk about?
WALTER: Yes, I’ve got a security light that I wired to – you know, just like where a regular outside light would be wired to a switch.
WALTER: And I ended up buying an additional one to put on the back side. I have a guest house behind my main house and it’s kind of dark out there on my property. I was wondering, will I overload the circuit – far as if I join those two in together …
WALTER: … and put them on the same switch? It’s like the mercury vapor light and … one is a mercury vapor and then there’s another one that said it was more economical than a mercury vapor, that I bought a few weeks ago. I put it in the guest … I don’t even remember which … what they said it was; what kind of bulb it was.
TOM: Probably a compact fluorescent.
WALTER: That could be it. I haven’t taken it out of the box. It’s just one of those big old … like you almost would see in an industrial business park.
TOM: Right. Well, what else is on this particular circuit? Is it just a lighting circuit? Because, frankly, adding two lights to a lighting circuit is not very likely to overload it.
TOM: You know? Your typical minimum size circuit in a house is 15 amps.
TOM: And, typically, a circuit … a lighting circuit almost never pulls more than a couple of amps altogether.
TOM: So I wouldn’t be overly concerned about overloading the particular circuit. I can’t tell you for sure without knowing what else is on there. But it’s not likely that adding one light to an existing branch circuit is going to cause a problem. And if it does and it starts tripping, you’re going to know right away.
WALTER: OK. So basically … I just, basically, run like a conjunction box and run some conduit down and then tie it all in and I should be fine long as that’s the only thing on that circuit.
TOM: Yeah, but don’t tie it in … don’t tie it in at the breaker because that would be what’s called a double tap. You can’t put two wires into the same circuit; you’ve got to tie it in before that in a properly secured and wired junction box.
WALTER: OK. So the same thing would basically apply if you’ve got a single security light, far as a spotlight coming off of your house, and you want to take that down and put a double security light? And I just found some economical … like the fluorescent bulbs that only burn like 26 watts, as opposed to the 90 watts.
TOM: That’s going to use less electricity, not more. Yes, the compact fluorescents use a quarter of the electricity compared to an incandescent.
WALTER: So, basically, it wouldn’t be a problem at all, then …
TOM: Not an issue.
WALTER: … if I went around all four corners of my house and upgraded to a two … two sockets, if you will?
TOM: No. No, especially if you’re going to use a compact fluorescent like that. Because the actual consumption is so much less than what you had now.
WALTER: OK. And I should get brighter lighting also. OK. Well, yeah, I was just wondering about that because I’m not … on the electrical aspect, I’m … obviously, you don’t want to burn anything up, you know, so …
TOM: Well, yeah. And I will say, if you’re uncomfortable doing this wiring and you don’t really know exactly what’s going on, then this is a smart thing to hire a professional to do. We don’t usually recommend that people who are not totally familiar with electrical wiring do jobs like this. I mean, certainly, it’s easy to remove and replace a couple of wires ….
LESLIE: Yeah, the consequences when something is done wrong are very great.
TOM: Yes, exactly. So we want to have you approach this very, very cautiously. Because, Walter, we need every single listener we have, OK? (laughter)
WALTER: Right, right.
TOM: You hear me? (laughing)
WALTER: I understand.
TOM: Thank you so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.