Question - I want to install outdoor lighting myself for security and landscaping because I cannot afford an electrician. What is new for 1994 in efficient do-it-yourself low-voltage lighting? - H. W.
Answer - There have been many improvements to do-it-yourself outdoor low-voltage (12-volt) lighting over the past several years. The new designs are easier to install with brighter lights, automatic controls and more styles available (tier, brick, flood, globe, well, spot, deck, bollard and spread).
Low-voltage lights are energy efficient. A do-it-yourself kit with six low voltage lights uses less electricity than one standard 75-watt bulb. Since they operate on only 12 volts, low-voltage light kits are simple and safe to install. Just lay the wiring in the grass or on top of the ground.
There are two basic categories of low-voltage lights. Many inexpensive plastic kits are available at hardware stores. More expensive decorator die cast metal, solid brass and redwood kits are available through lighting outlets. Even though kits may look similar, there are major differences in features and light output.
Simulated brick paving or edging low-voltage lights are one of the newest innovations. High-strength (can support a car) plastic paving lights are the exact size of a brick. The outside housing looks like a real brick.
Place these in a patio, driveway or walkway to light the path or accent landscaping. Another design uses snap-together bricks to form edging along a walk or garden. Wiring is built into these bricks for simple installation.
Several manufacturers offer adjustable low-voltage spot/floodlights. By turning a knob on the back or rotating the lens, the light beam ranges from a wide flood to a tight spot. You only need one light for two purposes.
For additional versatility, select a new convertible design.
Interchangeable prismatic lens (multi-angle lens distributes light evenly) tier or floodlight tops snap onto the same base.
Since only the top light section needs to be changed, the entire fixture does not have to be removed and rewired. Santas, jack-o-lanterns and snowmen tops can be snapped on during the holidays.
Several kits have new wire connection methods for easier installation. One method uses two small clips that snap together over the wire. Another method uses a cam lever action. Both hit the conductor on the first try.
Some new decorator die-cast post lights have ivy leaves or cattails cast into them. With a natural variegated green color, they blend nicely into the garden. Contemporary redwood and perforated spherical lights are attractive.
Write for Utility Bills Update No. 948 showing a buyer's guide of 13 low-voltage lighting manufacturers listing styles, features, prices and a style selector/-landscaping guide. Please include $2.00 and a self-addressed envelope. Write to James Dulley, Deseret News, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244.
Question - My toilet always seems to be hissing and gurgling. I am sure that it is wasting a lot of water. How can I fix it myself? - J. L.
Answer - A leaky toilet increases your water bills because it runs continuously. The noise is often caused by water leaking past a deteriorated stopper bulb in the tank. A bad float bulb or shut-off valve which lets the water level rise too high may be the culprit.
Replacement parts cost only about $10 to fix either problem. Simple installation instructions are shown on the packaging or check your library for "fix it" books. They all cover simple toilet repair.