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How to Install a Low Voltage Landscape Lighting System

By Ryan Iversen on 05/10/2019

 

How to Install a Low Voltage Landscape Lighting System


Just like the interior of your home, the exterior deserves to be highlighted as well. Well-manicured lawns, nice flower beds and gardens and even neatly pruned trees can make your home stand out during the day. At night without a source of light these details are obscured and the curve appeal you worked so hard on can be lost. So, how do we remedy this? The answer is simpler than you think. Today, I’m going to walk you through how to install a low voltage landscape lighting system.



Landscape lighting is a great way to highlight the features of your home’s exterior at night. This can increase curve appeal so when you sell your home, you can get an extra bump in value like with security lights. Now this how-to will be focused on low voltage systems. Why low voltage? Well for one, the power used is DC 12V, making it safer to work with and makes it less dangerous for animals and those you care about to be near the lights. Low voltage landscape lighting is also much better for Do-it-yourselfers to work with so you can save a little money by doing it yourself instead of hiring a professional and because of this low voltage system, there is less chance of accidents.


Now what I like to recommend before starting any lighting or any other type of project is to plan. Planning things out reduces the chance of something going wrong on your project. It also helps you get an idea on the amount and cost of materials, as well as the time and the labor you’re going to need to complete the project. You don’t want to be halfway through installing your lights only to realize that you need to start over or have to replace something. That is never a good feeling. Part of the planning is determining what types of lights that you need, how many and where are they going, what kind and how much wire are you going to need and what size transformer you’re going to use.



A transformer is the power source for your low voltage landscape lighting system. It converts your home’s 120V AC power to 12V low voltage DC power. Do not ever wire low voltage lights into your home’s power supply, you’ll up ruining them or in the worst case scenario, cause your lights to explode. Now the size of the transformer you will need for your project is determined by how many lights you are going to use and the combined total wattage of all of them. For an example, person A has 4 lights that are 5W and 10 lights that are 3W. Add them together and person A’s total wattage is 50W. So they need a 50W transformer to power their lights right? Well no, a tip that a lot of landscape lighting designers, professionals and Do-it-yourself experts give is to oversize the transformer by 10% to 20% over the total wattage of your lights. This way you can add lights later and it gives you a little padding when powering your lights. So for the example given, person A would need at least a 60W transformer to power their lights.


When choosing your transformer, it is a good idea to look for ones that come with a timer and/or a photocell. With these, your transformer will turn your lights on automatically at night and the timer lets you set how long you want your lights on for. A good tip is to mount the transformer to either a wooden stake or to the wall, don’t install it until all the wiring is done. So after planning and selecting the transformer you are going to use, it’s time for the lights and the wire. Now landscape lights come in different types that fulfill different needs. The first kind is referred to as both a spot light and a bullet light. These lights can be angled up and down and their heads typically have a slight hood to them. These lights are mostly used for up lighting. Up lighting is when you light objects from below. In landscape lighting, up lighting is popularly used for lighting bushes, tree trunks and your home’s architecture. TORCHSTAR provides these lights on a 3000K, 4000K and a 5000K to suit your preferences.



Another type of landscape light that is very popular is path lights. As the name implies, path lights are used to light pathways at night. They come in many different styles and are very easy to install. They are also used in flower beds and gardens to not only highlight them but also to create a perimeter effect that keeps people from accidentally walking off the path.


The third type of landscape light is what is referred to as both well lights and in ground lights. These lights sit in the ground and the lens and light body never peak above the surface. Not only do the send light upwards from a lower starting point, but the in ground profile makes them a preferred choice in lighting high traffic areas or in lawns where regular paths and up lights would get damaged.


The last type of landscape light that we will be going over is deck lights. TORCHSTAR provides these lights in two different styles, recessed and surface mount. Recessed deck lights sit away from the surface, perfect for use on deck paths and stairs to highlight steps. The surface mount deck lights shine their light downwards and are mainly used on deck fencing and in walls to light the ground below like flower beds and stone pathways. Landscape lighting systems will use a combination of these lights in different ways to highlight the exterior of your home and key features like pathways and trees.



After you determine what types of lights you are going to use, lay them out where you want to install them. But before you install them, you need to connect the wire to the transformer. Direct burial wire is used for landscape lighting as the name implies, it can be buried. These wires come in different gauges from 10 to 22 gauge. For the best result, use 12, 14 or 16 gauge as this work really well with most landscape lights. Installing spot lights, path lights and well lights is very similar. First you dig a hole, and you inset the stake of the light. Then you attach the light to the stake, in the case of well lights they will go directly into the hole. Now you wire up your lights. Make sure you’re using wire connectors that are designed for outdoor use. TORCHSTAR have outdoor wire connectors with sealant in them to flood the connector when wires are inserted to create a waterproof barrier protecting the connection. These lights and connections are going to be outside and in the ground where stuff like rain is going to happen, so keep that in mind.


Deck lights need to be installed into a hole if they are the recessed kind and mounted to a surface if they are surface mounted. The wiring is the same as with the other kinds, but make sure that the wire has someplace to run through if it is installed in the wall. After that, you can now bury the connected wires in the holes for the lights and a small trench about 3-6” deep for the run in between the fixtures. After the connections are finished and the wires are buried, plug in your transformer and enjoy your new low voltage landscape lighting system.



Now what I gave here were the basic to landscape lighting as different projects at different homes are going to be done in different ways. The features that need to be highlighted at one home are most likely not going to be the ones another home has to highlight. Like with most things, personal preference will be a deciding factor. Hopefully this how-to gives you some ideas on how to go about your low voltage landscape lighting project.


Product reference:


5W LED Landscape Light

3W LED Landscape Light - Grid Style

3W LED Landscape Light - Mushroom Shape

3W LED Outdoor Well Light

7W LED Outdoor Well Light