How to wire outdoor lamp posts

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Wiring an outdoor lamp post is a simple task that can sound intimidating to those without any electrical experience. When you break the process down into the following steps, however, you’ll soon realize that the task is nowhere near as complicated as you may have thought.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel or post hole digger
  • Wrench (size dependent on the size of the nuts and bolts you’ll be using)
  • Underground-rated wiring
  • Level
  • Electrical tape
  • Obviously before you begin running your electrical line to where you want your lamp post to be, you will need to decide exactly where you want your new fixture to be placed. Be sure to check with your local permits office if you are planning to install the lamp post near the street. Some cities require you to keep back from the street a set number of feet.

  • Run the electrical wire to the location. If you are not familiar with electrical work, it is highly advisable that you seek the advice of a licensed electrician to connect the wiring to your home. Once you have the wiring connected to a source, you’ll need to run the wire underground to the location of your lamp post. Be sure to bury your underground wiring a minimum of 12 inches. For colder climates, 18 to 20 inches is recommended. The wire you use will need to be rated for use underground.

  • Dig the hole. While it is possible to dig a post hole using a simple shovel, the most convenient tool for this job would be a post hole auger. These look like large drills and are a quick way to make sure your hole will be wide enough. If you don’t own one, chances are good you’ll be able to find the right tool available to rent from a home improvement store. It is recommended that your hole be a minimum of 30 inches deep to avoid your post shifting due to ground freezing. Placing a layer of loose rock or gravel under the post is also a smart move, as it will help keep moisture from pooling up at the bottom of your post.

  • Wire the lamp post. Wiring your lamp post can be done a few different ways, depending on what type of post you are using. Some people will use a lamp post that may already be pre-wired, possibly even already having the lantern attached. Others may have chosen to create a more custom lamp post, be choosing their own post and lantern combination. If that is the case, you will need to bring the underground wiring up through the center of the post. The easiest way to do this would be to feed a length of string through the center of the post. Once the string comes out the bottom end, tie it around your underground wiring. Electrical tape may be added to ensure the wiring stays attached to the string while you are feeding it through the post.

  • Set the post. When placing your lamp post into the ground, be sure to use a level to ensure the post is straight. If your level does not have a clamp you can use to hold it to the post, try taping two levels tightly along adjoining sides of the post. This will allow both your hands to remain free for adjusting the post. Once you have the post situated, you’ll need to “pin” it into place. This is most easily accomplished using stakes at an angle between the ground and the post, adjusting the stakes as necessary until you are confident the post is set straight. Once you have the post staked into place, fill the hole back in a few inches at a time, pausing to “stamp down” the dirt.

  • Wire and attach the lantern. If your lamp post came pre-wired with a lantern already on it, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for connecting the wiring to the lantern. Otherwise, strip the PVC coating on the last inch or so of the underground wiring, at the top of your post. You will need to secure the underground wiring to the lantern wiring using wire nuts. It would be advisable to wrap the connection with electrical tape as an added moisture barrier. Once you have the wiring connected, feed any excess length of wire back into the center of the pole, and fasten down your lantern to the top of your post

Tips & Warnings

  • When working with electrical wiring and installation, it is best to have some sort of “ground” (for example, rubber soled shoes, or rubber gloves) to reduce your risk of electric shock. Whenever possible, avoid direct contact with anything metal while handling electrical wires. You may also wish to spray some sort of animal deterrent on any freshly dug ground, to avoid the possibility of wildlife or household pets re-digging the area.
  • Always make sure you have the power shut off to all electrical wiring involved before beginning any project.

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