Putting in a typical low-voltage lighting system requires three major steps: laying the cable, installing the transformer, and connecting the lights.
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Plug the transformer’s power cord into the outlet. Next, connect each light fixture to the cable. Most landscape lighting fixtures come prewired with easy-to-use snap-on connectors. Simply pinch the connector onto the cable. Sharp prongs inside the connectors pierce the cable and make contact with the wires. Since the transformer is already plugged in, the fixture should light up. If it doesn’t, pull apart the connector and try again, or check the lightbulb.
Depending on the size and layout of your yard, there are different choices when it comes to illuminating your outdoor space. Landscape lights are categorized by usage, style and type – path lights are ideal for illuminating your sidewalk, while spot or flood lights add impressive accents to trees or your home. You can find energy-efficient LED landscape lighting in traditional or modern designs, and in ground lights cast a unique beam of light upward from wherever they are placed.
Once you’ve connected the cable, stand up the light fixture and press its pointed stake deep into the ground. Be careful not to hit the buried cable. Check to make sure the fixture is straight, then move on to the next. Once all the fixtures are installed, fill in the narrow cable trench with topsoil and top with grass seed.
It’s also easiest to run your cables along the ground and place the wire behind plants or lightly cover them with dirt or mulch. Doing so will allow you to readjust them if necessary.
There are dozens of low-voltage lighting fixtures and accessories available in a variety of styles, sizes, colors, and finishes. Nearly every system, regardless of its complexity, is composed of four basic parts.
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Laying the Cable: Start by laying the light fixtures on the ground where you intend to install them. Space the fixtures 8 to 10 feet apart. Next, unroll the spool of low-voltage electrical cable and lay the cable beside the fixtures. If you come to an obstacle, such as a boulder, tree, or fence, string the cable under or around it.
Extra tips: Pad your numbers. There’s no harm in giving yourself some room to expand on your lighting system. Purchasing a transformer with a higher maximum wattage capacity will come in handy if you want to add more lights later. And, save with LED! Transformers are priced according to wattage, so by choosing low-wattage LED lights, you’ll saveon the bost of both your transformer and your monthly electric bill.
Installing the Transformer: Low-voltage cable consists of two insulated stranded-copper wires stuck together. Peel them apart so you have about 4 inches free for each wire. Then use wire strippers to remove about 5/8 inch of insulation from each side. Slide the wires through the retaining strap on the back of the transformer and then insert one wire under the A screw terminal, and the other wire under the B screw terminal. Tighten the screws to secure the wires.
Lastly, connect all cables to your transformer, plug the transformer in, and enjoy!
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Low-Voltage Electrical Cable: The cable used for landscape lighting is specifically made for burial underground. It runs from the transformer to each light fixture in the system. Low-voltage cable is commonly available in 12-, 14-, and 16-gauge. The lower the number, the thicker the wire and the greater its capacity.
Next, drive a pressure-treated 2 x 6 stake into the ground next to an outdoor electrical outlet. Attach the transformer to the stake with galvanized or stainless-steel screws. Secure the cable to the stake with insulated cable staples.
Pathway Lights: Designed for installation along walkways and driveways, this type of fixture represents the most stylish and elegant of landscape lights. Shiny copper or plated-metal fixtures stand out, while green-, black- or brown-painted fixtures can blend in with the surroundings.
= The total is the transformer size, in watts, that you’ll need – a 150 watt transformer in our example above.
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Setting up landscape lighting is a good idea when establishing the boundaries of an outdoor path.
Extra tip: Fine tune your lighting placement by checking everything right at dusk. You’ll get a sense of how everything will look at night with just enough residual daylight left to work.
For more installation inspiration, watch this quick overview on installing landscape lighting, taken from our YouTube channel.
Transformers are rated according to the maximum wattage output. Models range from about 44 watts to 900 watts. To determine which size transformer you need, simply add up the wattage of all the lights in the system. For example, if you plan to string together 10 18-watt light fixtures, then you’ll need a transformer with a wattage output of at least 180.
Each landscape light provides a maximum bulb wattage rating. Once you have your total number of lights, follow this simple formula to ensure you pick an adequate transformer:
Transformer: The power behind every low-voltage system is the transformer. It plugs into a GFCI-protected outdoor electrical outlet and steps down the house current from 120 volts to 12 volts. Most transformers are equipped with a 24-hour timer that allows users to decide when the lights go on and off automatically.
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When purchasing cables to connect your outdoor landscape lighting to the transformer, you’ll want to make sure you have enough wire to run the lighting to your power source.
+ Add together the combined wattage of your individual lights – for example, 5 lights each using 20 watts (5 x 20 = 100).
Call at 800-782-1967 to speak with one of our friendly, professional Lighting & Home Decor Consultants or visit a Lamps Plus location near you. Whether via phone or in person, we’re happy to assist you in planning your landscape lighting system.
All transformers are designated with a maximum wattage capacity. For example, a 150 watt transformer can safely provide power to a circuit demanding up to 150 watts. To start, map out your yard and how you plan to distribute your lighting – a simple sketch works. From there, you’ll have a better understanding of how many lights you’ll be using.
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Set the cable into the trench and push it all the way down to the bottom using a short, narrow piece of 1/2-inch-thick plywood. Don’t use the shovel or other tool; you might accidentally slice into the cable.
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Now use a square-blade shovel to cut a 2- to 3-inch-deep trench along the line where you want the light fixtures. The trench doesn’t have to be perfectly straight, so if you hit a rock or root, just go around it. You don’t even need to remove any dirt from the trench. Simply stomp the shovel into the ground and pull the handle back and forth to open a deep V-shaped trench.
Connecting outdoor lighting is as easy as plugging a cord into an existing outlet.
Some landscape lighting systems operate on “line voltage,” the 120-volt current from your house. For DIY installation, though, we highly recommend low-voltage systems that operate on just 12 volts. They’re less expensive, easier to install, safer, and use less energy.
Accent Fixtures: The unsung heroes of any landscape lighting design are the accent lights. These specialty fixtures, which are often hidden from view, include floodlights, spotlights, up lights, and wall-wash fixtures. They’re used to shine a light on trees, shrubs, walls, flower beds, fences, ponds, and other landscape features.
The most important step is to think through what you want to achieve: Is it security? Safety along walkways? Ambient decorative lighting? Once you understand what your goals, finding the right landscape lights is easy.
Low voltage landscape lighting is a great way to add value to your home and up its curb appeal while saving you money and minimizing energy use. All you need to get your system installed are the right lights, the proper transformer and cables. If you are looking beyond options that a complete kit offers, here are some tips to make sure you choose the right individual products for your easy-to-install landscape lighting.
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A collection of the components you’ll need to set up a landscape lighting system. The Three Things You’ll Need: Landscape Lights Transformer Cables Showcasing Your Style: Lights
Which cable to use depends largely on the size of the transformer and the length of cable you need. For example, a 300-watt transformer can power 100 feet of 16-gauge cable, or 150 feet of 14-gauge cable, or 200 feet of 12-gauge cable. Check with the lighting manufacturer to determine the proper-size cable to use for your specific system.
Landscape lighting describes a large and varied family of outdoor lighting fixtures. These versatile, weatherproof lights can be used to illuminate pathways, flower beds, trees, fences, driveways, stone walls, doorways, and more.
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Connect the Lights Attach a plastic “while-in-use” cover to the outdoor electrical outlet. This type of cover protects the outlet from rain and snow but allows easy access.
First, lay out all your components and cables. Be sure to leave extra cable running to each light so you can reposition easily, if needed. Save on cable by finding an outlet close to your lighting needs.