Installing low-voltage landscape lighting is one of the simplest, most effective, and affordable ways to shed light on your home’s best features and enhance its curb appeal at night. This type of landscape lighting is versatile as it can illuminate pathways, flower beds, driveways, doorways, trees, fences, pools, fountains, and more. It can also increase your home’s resale value and security. But best of all, since it is low-voltage lighting, professionals recommend it for safer installation and use, even for beginners. All you need to install it are the right tools, the proper transformer and cables, and of course, a comprehensive beginner-friendly guide like this to follow as you tap into your industrious DIY skills. Let’s get started!
1. Gather the required tools and materials
Before you get your hands dirty, you first need to gather all the right tools and materials required for a successful installation. You can purchase these supplies at a landscape supply or home improvement store, or on Amazon.
Here’s a list of the key supplies you’ll need for your DIY low-voltage lighting project:
|Wire strippers/cutters |
Waterproof wires and wire connectors
Hand Conduit Bender
Plastic or lead anchors
Boxes and brackets
Low-voltage pathway lights
Toggle light switch plates
Buying a larger transformer than you need initially allows you to add lights later as your landscape (and creative imagination) expands. If you will be installing 400 watts of lights, buy a 600-watt transformer.
2. Plan your ideal lighting layout and choose your desired lighting fixtures
A successful low-voltage lighting installation requires a well-thought-out lighting layout plan and selecting the right fixtures for based on what you want to achieve. Do you want to increase your home’s security? Are you looking to install ambient decorative lighting? Or do you want to enhance safety at high-traffic areas, like walkways, steps, etc.? Once you understand your goal(s), it becomes easier to select the type of lights you need: path lights for illuminating sidewalks, cone lights for highlighting various outdoor areas, spot or floodlights to add beautiful accents to trees or your home, or ground lights to cast beams of light upward from wherever they’re installed.
- Install lights where they won’t be easily damaged by shovels or plows.
- Avoid over lighting.
- If adding light to a path, decide whether you want to illuminate the path alone or both the path and the features around it. The broader the area you want to illuminate, the higher the light pole you’ll need.
- Install lights at the right place. Maintaining your lawn becomes a headache when your lighting fixtures are installed throughout your grass. Lawnmowers, weed whackers, and fertilizers can damage the fixtures. Instead, install them in beds and use in-ground lights for the yard. Furthermore, when choosing your fixtures, make sure they can be hidden from view. Outdoor lighting looks more beautiful and appealing when one cannot see the source.
- Purchase moisture-sealed, waterproof fixtures that will provide long-lasting light in outdoor elements. Also, always ensure that the fixtures pro-quality, so they’ll provide reliable lighting.
3. Position the fixtures and lay the cables
Now that you’ve selected the desired layout for your low-voltage lighting system, it’s time to position the fixtures and lay the cables.
Laying the cable: Start by laying the light fixtures where you intend to install them. Space them about 8 to feed apart, then unroll the low-voltage electrical cable and lay the cable beside the fixtures. If you come to a tree, fence, boulder, or any other obstacle, string the cable around or under it.
Digging the trench: Now use a flat-nose shovel to dig a 6-inch V-shaped trench along the line where you want the light fixtures, but don’t cover it up yet. A six-inch-deep trench will help to protect the cables from damage. Simply stomp the shovel into the ground, then rock the handle back and forth to open the trench. If you hit a rock while digging, just go around it. The trench doesn’t have to be perfect.
Installing the cable: Set the cable into the trench and push it down to the bottom with a narrow piece of half-inch-thick plywood. Avoid using the shovel or other tool as you might accidentally slice into the cable.
4. Install the transformer
Low-voltage cables have two joined insulated stranded copper wires. Peel them apart so you have about 4 inches free for each wire. Next, use the wire stripper to peel off about 5 or 8 inches of insulation from each side. Carefully push the wires through the remaining straps on the back of the transformer 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.
Mount the transformer in a central location (preferably on a wall at least one inch about ground level) near the GFCI outlet. If you are installing the transformer on a brick wall, drill mounting holes in the wall using a masonry bit, and place the anchors in the holes. If you cannot mount it onto a wall, drive a 3-inch stake into the ground near the outlet, then mount the transformer to the stake with stainless-steel or galvanized screws at least one inch above the ground. Since the transformer will always be plugged in, replace the standard outlet cover with an in-use weatherproof cover.
5. Connect the lights
Plug the transformer’s power cord into the outlet, then connect each light fixture to the cable. Next, pinch the snap-on connectors onto the cable. 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 if there’s a problem with the light bulb. Once you’ve done that, set the light fixture to stand up and press its pointed stake deep into the ground. Be careful not to hit the underground cable. Check to make sure each fixture is straight. Once all the fixtures are installed and secured, set the timer for the hours you want the lights to turn on and off. Finally, cover the cable trench with topsoil and top with grass seed.
- Since low-voltage landscape lighting uses 12 V for efficient energy usage, the transformer steps down your home’s electrical supply from 120 V to 12 V. However, over longer wires with many lights, the lights may not be as bright. As a general rule, use a maximum length of 100 inches of 12-gauge cables per 100 watts of light. You can use a voltmeter to check the voltage.
- Since low-voltage lighting cables are buried underground, you must use the correct splice. Good-quality direct burial connectors will help to prevent corrosion and electrical resistance.
Installing low-voltage landscape lighting can be an exciting DIY project. Once you have the right supplies for installation, this simple and effective guide will help you to light up your yard in no time!
Siesta Lighting offers premium-quality low-voltage landscape lighting to enhance the beautify and security of your property. If you have any questions or concerns, we will be happy to assist you.