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How to Install Outdoor Landscape Lighting

Every home deserves quality outdoor lighting to enhance its nighttime appeal and provide an extra measure of security and safety.

There’s nothing better than low voltage landscape lighting to bring out the beauty of your terrain after sunset (and ensure sure footing).

These fixtures are mostly ideal for driveways and walkways but are just as useful for illuminating fences, dark zones, stone walls, steps, and much more.

Want to know the best part? The right landscape lighting is easy and safe to DIY because they generally operate on a 12 volts electricity system.

Here’s what to expect when installing an average size system:

Time Cost Skill
9 to 11 hours $450 to $600 Easy

What You’ll Need to Get Started 

Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting
Source: Flickr

Lights have a way of bringing out the best in any landscape. Knowing where, and how to place them is what gives you an added advantage.

That being said, you need to decide on your layout before installing landscape lighting.

Map out the area you’d like to add outdoor landscape lights, and how many. This will give you an idea of how spread out or closely spaced they should be.

As a general rule of thumb, fewer lights are advisable. You will have more ways to artfully design your landscape lighting.

It's advisable to take note of the direction you want to place your lights to ensure they don’t shine and reflect on your neighbor’s windows.

You also need to take into account where your outdoor electrical outlets are to insert your transformer(s). This helps you factor in how many transformers you may need and the length of the wires, too.

A transformer is important to have as it steps down the house voltage current (120 volts) to 12 volts. We recommend picking out a transformer that can provide enough power and allows room for you to add lights in the future.

DIYers will appreciate a low voltage lighting system as it only requires three main components:

If you’ve never dealt with any wiring before, there’s no need to worry. This process is simple to accomplish without any prior experience.

Take note: Before you excavate any part of your landscape, check for underground utilities. Dial 811 for the Referral Service to access the national directory of utility companies.

It's also advisable to consult a licensed electrician if you’d like a grounded outdoor outlet installed.

To get you started, here’s a video of the entire step-by-step process.

Step 1: Position all the components

Before installation, you need to lay out all the light fixtures and lighting wire on the ground - usually 8 to 10 feet apart.

Use the line of the light fixtures as a guide to lay the low voltage cable on the concrete walkways. According to the manufacturer's instructions, assemble the light fixtures depending on the wattage level your power pack can handle.

Choose the best transformer depending on the number of watts your outdoor lighting requires. If your system is more than 200 watts, use a 12-gauge cable and a 14-gauge cable for lighting systems that are 200 watts or less.

String the cable around or under a particular obstacle, such as a shrub or fence.

Step 2: Fold Back the Sod 

With the light fixtures out of the way, use a flat-blade shovel to cut a slot about 12 inches from the edge of the pathway. Repeat this process along the entire length of the walkway.

Use the front or corner of the shovel’s blade to create a 3-inch deep trench in the soil.

Tip: place the light fixtures above the folded sod to keep it from falling into the trench you are digging. 

Step 3: Cover the Electrical Cable

Place the low voltage lighting cable in the trench. The wires should be fitted in at least six inches deep to protect them from being damaged if the soil is aerated.

There should be a portion of slack cable exposed at each fixture point that you will use to wire and connect the light fixtures and switch. Then smooth over the soil to cover the trench, and remember to leave the cable protruding from the soil near each fixture.

If the landscape lighting is to be added to protected planting beds, you can simply cover the voltage wire with mulch or soil. 

Step 4: Mount the Transformer 

Attach the cable to your outdoor electrical outlet. Then cut the cable using wire strippers and strip off half an inch of the rubber insulation.

At the bottom of the transformer, there are two terminal screws that you should slide the stripped wires under. Then tighten the screws completely to hold the wire in place.

To mount the transformer in the ground, insert a stake into the ground and screw the transformer to the stake. For something more sturdy, you can mount it to the wall of the house instead.

Many transformers come with a "while-in-use" flap or cover on the outlet that you lift to plug in the transformer. 

Step 5: Add Holes for Fixtures 

Put each light fixture in position, ensuring the fixtures are evenly spaced.

Align the first fixture close to the walkway edge without any part of it tipping over. This is to avoid the fixture being bumped into repeatedly if it extends into the walkway.

Using a long steel punch or screwdriver, create a hole in the ground for the fixtures stake. 

Step 6: Add and Test the Electrical Connections

On the protruding cable, add the two connector halves that hang from the light fixture. Then squeeze them together until you hear a click. Doing so lets the inner prongs in the connector pierce the cable and connect with the wire inside.

The fixture should light up when you plug in the transformer, which lets you confirm whether the connection is good. If it doesn't light up, check and test the bulb or try to re-snap the connector.

If you have done so and the bulbs still don’t light up, the problem might be the transformer or outdoor electrical outlet.

Tip: use weatherproof wire connectors that have a bottom shield with sealant inside that makes them durable and the installation process easy. You can also use electrical tape to keep the wires in place and keep out any moisture. 

Step 7: Add the Light Fixtures

Use both hands to insert and gently push the light stake into the ground once all lights are connected to the main wire. Do so until the top of the stake is just above the ground.

You have to look at the light fixture from different angles to make sure it's not tilting on one side.

Then tuck the connectors and cable beneath the sod and push them into the soil - about 2 inches deep. Do the same for all the remaining fixtures in the same way.

Smooth and even out the sod around the landscape lighting fixtures once you’ve confirmed the fixtures are working properly.

Finally, set up the photo sensor or program the timer on the transformer to automatically turn the lights on and off. 

Choosing the Right Outdoor Lighting 

There are numerous lights and fixtures to choose from with varying uses.

If you want to illuminate a wide area on your landscape you can use flood lights, or spotlights to bring out a specific feature. Guests looking for your home at night will appreciate driveway lights.

Use a flashlight to determine what lights work best in your landscape. Using a flashlight at night with the ability to switch between flood and spot mode will let you see the different lighting styles.

There are four main categories of lights:

You also have the option of choosing solar lighting systems. Their installation process is easy and has no wiring process. You won’t have to deal with things like voltage and an outlet.

Although, you will miss out on the freedom to customize to your exact needs from your lighting system.

Furthermore, solar lights have no color control and low light output. You would have to add more lights to get sufficient landscape lighting. 

Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

Everyone can appreciate low voltage lighting landscape lights as they are:

  • Highly energy efficient
  • Much safer to install compared to other high voltage options
  • Safe for kids, anyone who accidentally digs up the wires or pets
  • Safe to use in wet conditions
  • Easy to install due to their lack of polarity (positive and negative wires)

Where Can You Find Quality Outdoor Lighting Equipment?

Landscape lights are a simple improvement tactic when added to any landscape and have the power to instill a huge difference.

That's what we are all about - bringing out the extraordinary features in your landscape in simple ways.

We have a wide selection of unique outdoor lighting products from fixtures, hubs, and transformers with free shipping for orders over $149. It doesn’t end there, our learning center is full of techniques and tips on how to improve your home, step by step.

We aim to share quality information alongside quality products to give our customers a holistic experience. Visit our shop today to find the perfect landscape lighting products for you

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