How to Wire Low Voltage Landscape Lighting
Posted on July 15 2018
If you happen to be someone who is looking to install low voltage landscape lighting in your home, then you’ve landed at the right place. Landscape lighting can lift the aesthetic appeal of your house significantly. They go perfectly in your yard where you might want to use them to highlight the path to your door. Alternatively, you could also choose to play around with them and use them near a beautiful plant, or perhaps even a DIY waterfall.
Since landscape lights are low voltage lights, you do not need to call a professional electrician. You can install them on your own, provided you stick to some basic rules that can help you wire them efficiently. Before we get to the know-how, first let us go through a list of all the equipment you will need. Since the requirements of the project are drastically different from conventional home lighting, you need to take extra care of what equipment you use.
Things You'll Need to Get Started
Don't let the word ‘Transformer’ scare you already. We are talking about the step-down transformers here. These transformers plug into your GFCI-protected outdoor electrical outlet and help bring down the regular 120V voltage to a mere 12V. Most transformers in the market range from 44-900 Watts. You need to add up the required wattage of the lights you want to operate before you go shopping for a suitable transformer. For instance, if your DIY project includes twenty 12 watt lights, then you will need a transformer having a rating of at least 240 Watts. Also, consider getting a transformer with a 24-hour timer. This will automatically switch on the lights when the sun goes down.
Low-Voltage Electrical Cable
You might want to bury the cable underground to improve the overall look of your yard, you need to buy specific wires for that. These cables are usually available in three ratings 12,14 and 16 gauge. However, you might also want to measure the exact distance of the lights from the transformer, since the length can alter the performance. For better understanding, say you buy a 300 Watt transformer. It can either power 100 feet of 16-gauge cable, or a 200 feet 12-gauge cable.
Your Choice Of Lights
The last thing you need for landscape lighting is the desired lights. You can browse through the variety of pathway lights available in the market and opt for the one that allows you to best illuminate the path to your door or perhaps some steps if any. Choose colors that will blend in well with the surroundings. White fixtures especially stand out, which is why it is a wise idea to stay away from such colors.
Additionally, you may also consider accent fixture lights. These lights can work wonders when looking to lift the overall look of your yard. Use these to highlight a tree, some shrubs or a pond. One thing we especially like about these fixtures is that they remain relatively hidden from your guest and never interfere with the look and appeal of your place.
The Installation Process
Step 1: Zero Down On The Design
The first and foremost thing that you need to do before all the technical stuff is to plan the design carefully. Since you are clearly going to spend a lot of time on the project, it makes up for a great idea to explore all the options. Have your wife or kids weigh in on the subject. Listen to their inputs, and together, decide what you want to highlight and where you want the fixtures.
Step 2: Lay The Cable
Once you know where the fixtures for your landscape lighting have to go, start by laying the cable on the ground. Place each fixture 8-10 feet away from each other. Start digging 3-4 inches into the ground with a sharp object. You do not need to lay the cables in a straight line. Therefore, if you encounter something like a fence or rock, simply dig around it. Then place the wire into the ground and firmly push it further down with the help of a piece of wood. Ensure that you do not use a sharp or wet object here. You could potentially end up putting small cuts into the cable. And once when it starts raining, these cuts could eventually lead to a short circuit. In fact, you might even put all this time and monetary investment in jeopardy.
Step 3: Install The Transformer
The low voltage electrical cable consists of two insulated stranded-copper wires that are ‘glued’ together. The first thing you need to do is to peel them apart, so you can comfortably attach each one to the transformer. Then use a wire stripper to remove some part of the wire at the end which should expose the copper elements. Now connect one of these two glued wires to Screw A terminal at the back of the transformer. The other one similarly connects to Terminal B. Screw them tightly to ensure they do not come out easily.
Step 4: Connecting The Fixtures
The final step of your DIY landscape lighting project is to connect the wire to the fixtures. If you buy a good quality fixture, you will luckily find an easy connector at the back which will minimize your efforts. However, even if you don’t, this isn’t any tedious task for you. Connect the transformer to the socket and the lights should now light up.
Important Things To Note
- Buy A Larger Transformer Than You Need So you can connect more fixtures later
- Buy only good quality cables and fixtures
- Never use sharp objects to push the cable into the ground
- Attach a plastic ‘while in use’ cover that protects external power sockets from rain
- Fill the narrow cable trench with top-soil and grass seed to hide the trail
- Connect a wooden stake near the transformer to provide support to the wires
- Add an analogue or digital clock to the transformer that can help you automatically turn on/off the lights
- Alternatively, a photocell can help you run them from dusk till dawn
Now go on and get started!