How to install landscape lighting?

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  #1  
Old 06-21-05, 01:38 PM
giveingitashot
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Question How to install landscape lighting?

I would like to add some landscape lighting to a new garden area we just finished - and I see all these different light sets for outside, some solar powered, some low voltage, etc. Are these hard to install? Do they just plug into an exterior outlet or are they hardwired into a switch somewhere?

What are the pros and cons of low voltage lighting, and what other options are there to try?

Thanks for any suggestions you have!
Theresa
 
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  #2  
Old 06-21-05, 09:44 PM
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Location: Yorba Linda, CA
Posts: 338
What are the pros and cons of low voltage lighting, and what other options are there to try?

Thanks for any suggestions you have!
Theresa
Low voltage lighting is very easy to install, as long as you have an electrical outlet close to where you want to put the lights. It's usually the best way to go unless you want a whole lot of light for some reason. If you need an additional outlet you (or an electrician) can usually add one without too much fuss.

You buy the landscape lights with a transformer to step the voltage down to run them - the more lights, the larger the transformer has to be. Most of these transformers just plug in to the wall and have time clocks built in to them to turn the lights on and off. From the transformer you run low voltage landscape lighting cable (who knew? <g>) which looks like a fat extension cord and doesn't have to be buried at any particular depth. The lights hook to this cable with special connectors, you stick the lights in to the ground and you're good to go.

There are all sorts of fixture styles available, and it's been my experience that while you are best to avoid the very cheapest ones, it is not necessary to use the most expensive ones, either. I like the ones that use MR-16 halogen lamps - lots of light and several different lamps available in different patterns. Some of the fixtures themselves are quite decorative, and they can run in to some serious $ if you have a taste for such things.

Alternately, you could use the solar lights. They're even easier to install (stick them in the ground) but the light output is pretty puny. Regular 120 volt landscape lights are also a good way to go, but the installation is a lot more complex ($).
 
  #3  
Old 10-08-05, 11:15 AM
filmbufs
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Smile How to Install Low Voltage Lighting

Hello, Theresa...

I just finished installing some low voltage lighting in my front yard and it looks great. I am certainly no handyman but I did some research, rolled up my sleeves and jumped right in. If I can do it, you can too! I will relate my experience as it may help with your project. This may be long, but I tried to give details.

As you noticed, Low Votage Lights (LV) come in a variety of styles and wattage powers. The big disadvantage to most solar lights are the amount of illumination they produce. Even with LED lights, they just don't provide the brightness I was looking for (I do, however, have several out back but they are simply for decoration and minor illumination.)

I chose LV lights with a variety of wattage powers for my project. I wanted several areas to be brightly lit while giving other areas a soft glow. This is where wattage output becomes important. I chose 50 watt flood lights for the bright areas (provides both security and illumination) and 20 watt spot lights to illuminate some columns. I also chose an 11 watt decorative light by the entry way. So, I can "create" lighting areas by the power of illumination and/or the decorative style of the light. FYI, 50 watts produce the kind of light you might see at other houses with night light landscaping (highlighting shrubs, sides of houses, etc.) 11 watts essentially illuminates a small area under the light, idea for walkways, etc.)

Prior to buying anything, you need to decide what you want to achieve. Walk around the area you want to light and imagine it all lit up. On a sheet of paper, draw out the area you want to light and put circles or triangles (or any other symbol) to indicate what light you would like in that area. This will probably be your biggest clue into getting the right equipment up front and it helps taking this diagram to the store. Some stores carry LV kits which can be a good deal if it contains the equipment you're looking for. They also sell lights, etc. individually and that worked best for me. I would recommend metal lights instead of the plastic ones due to their longevity and being able to withstand the elements better (my solar lights tend to blow over in heavy winds.) You will also need to measure out the length to know how much wiring to buy. I had measured approximately 85 feet on each side of my yard and then added another 15 feet for contingincies. I was at the limit on both sides so you may want to add even more. I wouldn't use anything less than 12 guage wires (the higher the number, the thinner the wires.) 12 guage will probably serve you well and you can read the websites for more info. They typically are sold in packages of 50', 100' and 500' rolls. If your plan is to split off in different directions, you may need 'connectors'. I had to find a "T" connector (surprisingly known as an LVC4) for my project. It was extremely difficult to find since HD or Lowes didn't carry them. There is also a "quick connector" but unless you're splicing two cables together, you won't need this unless your light doesn't have a connector gizmo already in place (see below.) If your project is straight forward, then you might not need any connectors at all.

Once you decide on the amount of lights (less is more, as shadows help enhance the areas that are actually lit) simply add up the wattage of each light. There is a recommended amount of wattage not to exceed (something like 240 watts but I will include some websites so you can confirm.) So, if you have a total of 150 watts (3 floodlights at 50 watts each) you should get a transformer that can produce 200 watts (they also recommend getting a transformer over the amount, allowing you to add lights on later, etc.) For my project, I had under 500 watts of lights that I simply divided on each side of my entry way (under 250 for each side) and I bought a 600 watt transformer. This 600 watt transformer is essentially divided into two 300 watt capacities housed in one unit.

You will need a transformer that simply plugs into an existing outdoor outlet. It is recommended the outlet is GFCI and has a weather protection cover (I will be getting one at HD soon.) Also, something they don't tell you until you read the instructions, it is recommended the transformer be elevated off the ground by 12 inches (presumably to protect from flooding.) To do this, you need to drill two bolts or screws close to your outlet and simply slide the transformer over the screws (the transformer has two convienent holes for this on the back.) My research suggested using Tapcon screws and drill bit for my brick house. Attach one end of your wiring to the transformer, mount the transformer and plug it in. There is no harm in having the wires plugged in or doing the following steps.

Now, take your lights out of their boxes, assemble if necessary and position your lights at the approximate spot you want them. Another tip, you cannot put your first light any closer than 10 feet from the transformer.

Okay, now the hard part. Digging. While you don't have to bury 12 volt low voltage wires, you will probably want to. Burying eliminates a lawnmower or weedeater cutting into the wires or, if you need to replant or dig up the ground, you won't accidentally tear up your wiring. It is a clean look, safer and will be worth the trouble. It is recommended you bury the cable 5-6 inches. I used a shovel and marked the blade at the six inch height with masking tape. VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: it is recommended you call your utility companies so you can avoid cutting into any of their cables. They will do this free of charge so there's no reason not to do it. Also, be careful of any sprinkler systems you may have installed. Okay, back to digging. Slide the shovel into the ground up to the six inch mark. Push the dirt away and continue following your path. (One tip I can share now that I've done it. I would cut a wedge out of the ground instead of simply pushing dirt away with the shovel. When it comes time to burying the cable, it will be easier to insert it all the way down.)

Now, lay the cable along your pathway. When you come to your light, add some slack, like a loop, next to your light in case you need to move the light slightly a bit later. Since your wires are already plugged in, you should now attach the wires from the lights to the LV wires. Most lights will come with a clamp that looks like an alligator clamp (like Malibu brand lights.) Attach them to the wires, as indicated, but just know it takes a little muscle in your hands to do so. Attaching the lights as you go helps confirm the lights work properly before the wiring is burried. Makes good common sense, doesn't it? Continue along your path, attaching as you go. After attaching the last light, you may have extra wiring left over. Don't do anything yet with that extra cable. Now, it will be time for a well-deserved break until dusk or night but not before you unplug the transformer.

When it's dark enough, plug in the transformer and take a walk around your lights. If neccessary, adjust the positioning of your lights until you're happy. You can decide to keep the lights on or off for the night. Pat yourself on the back and get a good nights sleep. The next day, it's time to burry the cable. Make sure the transformer is UNPLUGGED. Start at the end light and, if necessary, cut off the end of the wiring to the appropriate length (give it a bit of slack for future needs.) Attach wire plugs to the ends and start burrying your wire to the 5 or 6 inch depth. You may have to dig a little more and a hand trowel comes in handy. Once you're finished, plug in the transformer, set the timer if included and enjoy the show. The reward of your work comes at night.

Helpful websites: http://www.rd.com/familyhandyman/art...volt/main.html
http://www.residential-landscape-lig...to_12volt.html
http://www.mmlighting.com/store/PPF/.../more_info.asp

Good luck!
-Michael

Originally Posted by giveingitashot
I would like to add some landscape lighting to a new garden area we just finished - and I see all these different light sets for outside, some solar powered, some low voltage, etc. Are these hard to install? Do they just plug into an exterior outlet or are they hardwired into a switch somewhere?

What are the pros and cons of low voltage lighting, and what other options are there to try?

Thanks for any suggestions you have!
Theresa
 
  #4  
Old 06-22-06, 08:52 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: usa
Posts: 209
mike,that was great help i'm gonna try it this weekend,how much did it all cost you?
 
  #5  
Old 06-22-06, 09:09 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: usa
Posts: 209
can i hook up a post lantern to these lights
 
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