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Installing Outdoor Low-Voltage Lighting

Materials List
Low voltage lighting kit
Tools List (click item to shop)
Work gloves
Flat head screwdriver
Wire strippers
Easy2 Home Improvement
Laying a Brick Walkway or Patio
Installing a Frost-Free Outdoor Hose Bib
Patching Dead Grass
Laying Stepping Stones

Exterior Painting
Exterior Paint Preparation

IMPORTANT: Read this before you start

One of the most simple and cost effective ways to liven up your landscaping is through subtle illumination. Low voltage lighting is simple to install and offers many benefits including ambiance, safety and security. They can be used to illuminate a walkway or to lighten up your home's street address at night. Today's manufacturers are making low-voltage lighting products geared for the do-it-yourselfer, which makes purchasing and installation easier. These low-voltage kits come with a transformer with a built in timer that allows you to set the lights to turn on and off at what ever time you desire. They also include the necessary lights and electrical cable for complete installation. These transformers' main duties are to take a normal 120-volt household current and reduce it to a safe 12 volts. For this project, you will need a GFCI receptacle on the outside of your house. If you don't have this, either have a professional electrician install it, or refer to our tutorial on installing a GFCI receptacle.

Skill Level & Time To Complete
• Beginner - 6 hours
• Intermediate - 3 hours
• Advanced - 2 hours

Before you dig, always contact your local public utilities company to find out where all underground pipes and cables are located.

1. Low wattage lights come in numerous styles from small accent lights that are used to softly illuminate a patio or walkway, to brighter floodlights that can illuminate larger areas. You will have to decide which type of light or combination of lights will best suit your needs. Lights are typically four or seven watts each, which isn't much. So if you are lighting a walkway or steps keep this in mind. When purchasing your lighting kit make sure that the transformer has enough wattage so you can add more lights in the future to highlight added landscaping.
2. It's always a good idea to start your project with a simple diagram. This is a good way to get an idea of what areas you need to illuminate or what objects you would like to accent. The easiest way to do this is by walking the area and then mapping it out on paper. You should make notes and sketches of what area you want to highlight and the type of lights that would best suit your needs.
3. Position the lights on the ground corresponding to the placement on the diagram. Prior to installation, it is a good idea to walk through the area as done when drawing the diagram to ensure the location of the lights is correct. Most lights come with a stake connected on one end to makes installation easy. With firm pressure just push them into the ground. If the ground happens to be to hard, make a starter hole with a screwdriver or similar tool.
4. At an outside GFCI receptacle start laying out your cable so it runs by all of your lights (the cable will be buried so don't worry about trying to hide it). Make sure you leave extra cable at the transformer and at each light. This will allow you to adjust your lighting in the future.
5. Most lights today are connected very easily. The light comes with two wires each with a tab that has a metal tip. To install simply put one tab on each side of the cable and snap them together. The piercing of the tip into the cable creates your electrical connection. If the light fails to illuminate, check to see that these tabs are firmly snapped together.
6. Separate the wires on the end of the electric cable and strip off 1/2" of insulation. Loosen the two screws on the transformer and place the bare wires under the appropriate terminals and retighten the screws. Most transformers have these terminals. If by chance your transformer has different connections, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
7. Begin by plugging in your transformer and turning it on. You will want to check that all your lights are lit. Some lights can be difficult to see on a bright day, so doing this step at dusk makes it easier to see. Working on your low wattage system in the evening actually makes your job a bit easier because you can see that the lights are actually highlighting the desired locations. At this time you will also want to do any last minute adjusting.
8. With your shovel, carefully go back and dig a 5" deep trench next to the cable. Try to keep as much of the dirt close to the trench as possible. Insert the cable into the trench and back-fill all of the dirt that was removed. Carefully compact the loose dirt with your foot as you go.
9. Set the timer for the desired period of time you want your lights on. Most transformers today have at least two on/off cycle settings that can be adjusted for morning and evening illumination. This feature allows for lighting your walkway in the morning on the way to work or to just give you that added security on the dark nights when you get home.



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