Guide for Landscape Lighting Installation

Guide for Landscape Lighting Installation

Landscape lighting is a simple modification that may dramatically improve the appearance of your property after dusk. Installing outside lighting improves both safety and security. The correct landscape lighting may make your yard’s trees, gardens, or other elements stand out while also providing security along a sidewalk or surrounding a deck. This article will show you how to install landscape lighting and make your property more inviting to visitors and neighbors.

1. Types of Landscape Lighting

Before learning how to install landscape lighting, decide what kind of lights you want. There are three types of landscape lighting, each with a different installation method:

  • Solar landscape lights are powered by a solar cell that is charged throughout the day. They do not require any wiring, making them the easiest to install. They need six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day to completely charge.
  • Low voltage landscape lights are powered by a transformer, which reduces the usual voltage to 12-volts. These systems are safe to work with, energy efficient, and simple to install and relocate. They’re hooked into a GFCI outlet outside.
  • Line voltage landscape lights operate at 120 volts, the same voltage as your home’s appliances. Line voltage lights are hardwired into your home’s electrical system using an electrical junction box and a conduit to safeguard the wires. Because of their intricacy, these systems should be installed by a professional electrician.

Outdoor Landscape Lighting

The most widely used types of landscape lighting systems installed nowadays are solar and low voltage ones. We’ll walk you through installing each of the three kinds of landscape lighting in this guide.

2. How to Install Solar Landscape Lighting

Installing solar landscape lighting is not only convenient, but it also looks fantastic and eliminates the need for wiring. You may install solar landscape lights wherever they receive strong daylight during the day because they don’t require an outlet to function. 

A well-planned installation of solar lights is essential.

  • Before selecting your lights, refer to the manufacturer’s package or website for recommended lighting applications and spacing.
  • Make sure to properly plan out the layout of your fixtures. It is recommended to position solar lights where they will receive at least six to eight hours of bright sunlight every day, even if many of them don’t need direct sunlight all the time. To light a pathway, you might also require additional lights arranged near together.
  • If you intend to install pathway lights, make sure to edge your walkway and remove any overgrowth in any other locations where you might put solar landscape lighting. Clearing the canvas first will guarantee that nothing interferes with your lighting design.

3. Establish the Solar Landscape Lighting Layout

  • Plan out the lighting along the walkway with a tape measure. To ensure optimal illumination during the night, make sure your line is no farther than 6 inches from the path’s edge.
  • Put each light in its designated spot for the time being. Please refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for recommended spacing.

4. Assemble and install solar landscape lighting

  • Remove the cover tag from each light’s solar battery, then reassemble the light’s top as needed.
  • Assemble the lights according to the instructions. Typically, this involves inserting the light top into the support and then attaching the light stake to the bottom of the support.
  • Before beginning the installation, expose the solar lights to full sunlight for 12 to 14 hours. This allows the battery to fully charge and reveals any defective lights before you install them.
  • If the ground is hard or dry, softly moisten the soil around where the lights will be installed. Let the soil soak for a few hours.
  • Once you’ve positioned the fixtures, push their stakes into the earth. Make certain they remain plumb. The lights should be easy to install. Do not press the lights into the ground, since this may harm the stakes.

Advice: Most solar lights are installed in the same way, but you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific solar landscape light.

5. How To Install Low Voltage Lighting

Most low-voltage lighting systems feature a transformer connected to a standard outdoor-rated GFCI electrical outlet. The transformer lowers, or “steps down,” the 120-volt home current to 12-volts. Connecting landscape lights to a transformer requires more effort than installing solar lights, but it is still easier than installing line power lighting.

  • Most transformers are rated to handle loads ranging from 100 to 300 watts. A higher rating means a longer cable, which allows you to connect more light fixtures to the system.
  • If you wish to add more path lights than the transformer is qualified for, you’ll need a larger one. It may be more cost-effective to purchase a completely new system in a landscape light kit rather than just a replacement transformer.

6. Wire the Transformer for Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

  • Mount the transformer in an easily accessible area near a GFCI outlet, following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Most varieties of siding can be attached with a wood screw. Use screws long enough to penetrate the sheathing beneath the siding.
  • For masonry, drill a hole for a lag shield and screw into it.
  • Another alternative is to anchor a wooden post near your home and mount the transformer.
  • Strip approximately 3/4-inch of insulation from the two conductors of the 10-gauge main wire that will power the landscape lights.
  • Connect each conductor to the transformer terminals following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Do not plug in the transformer yet.

7. Assemble and Install Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

  • Low voltage light fixture kits typically require assembly. At the very least, you’ll need to snap the plugs into place, and some basic wiring may be required. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • For path lights, choose a regular distance between the fixtures and temporarily set them on the ground.
  • Once you’ve got the fittings where you want them, drive stakes into the ground to ensure they stay plumb.
  • Run the cable from the transformer along the path of the fixtures you’ve just installed.
  • Keep the cable above ground.

8. Connect the Lights: Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

  • To make the electrical connections, leave about 18 inches of slack at each fixture. This will provide you with enough wiring to relocate or alter the fixture later if necessary.
  • Most low-voltage lighting packages include a quick-connect feature. To use, open the housing and place it over the electrical cable.
  • When you push the connector’s two parts together, they puncture the cable’s insulation and establish contact with the conductors within.
  • Wrap the connector in electrical tape.
  • Another approach is to install a permanent, watertight connection. Begin by pulling an inch of insulation from the wires coming from the fixture.
  • Then cut the cable, split the conductors, and strip the wires as well.
  • Attach a brass “butt-splice connector” to each conductor and tighten the set screw on one side.
  • Repeat with the other conductor.
  • Place heat shrink tubing over each wire. Twist one of the fixture’s wires to one of the remaining conductors.
  • Slide the wires into the end of the brass connection and tighten it.
  • Repeat the procedure with the other wire from the other fixture and the remaining conductor.
  • Slide the heat shrink over the two brass connectors.
  • Using a butane or propane flame, heat the tubing until it shrinks tightly around the wires.
  • Repeat the process with each fixture.
  • Plug in the transformer and turn the system on.
  • If the lights are excessively dim, it’s generally due to an underpowered transformer. If necessary, increase the transformer’s capacity.

9. Bury the Cable: Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

  • Use a lawn edger or a shovel to dig a thin 6-inch trench along the cable’s path.
  • Put the cable in the trench and bury it.

10. Set the timer for low-voltage landscape lighting

  • Set a timer for low-voltage landscape lights.

11. How to Install Line Voltage Landscape Lighting

Line-voltage lighting is a more complicated DIY project that may require an electrical permit from your local building department. Because it is a complex project that requires professional inspection, most individuals choose to have it done by experienced electricians.

The procedures below will provide an overview of what is involved in installing line voltage landscape lights. If you decide to undertake the repair yourself, be sure to thoroughly read and follow any manufacturer’s instructions.

12. Prepare for installation: Line Voltage Landscape Lighting

  • If you opt to install line voltage lighting on your own, check with your local building department to ensure you are following the proper codes.
  • Decide where to place your light fixture and select the light switch to control it.
  • Measure from the fixture to the spot where you will install the light switch, and then from the switch to the circuit breaker panel box. This will tell you how much wire you will need.
  • An underground feeder (UF) cable may be suitable for your area and lighting location. The UF cable is designed to be buried directly in the ground. It’s also feasible that you’ll need to run your wire through an underground conduit. You cannot run encased wire inside conduit, thus you will need to use separate conductors.
  • Remember to buy an additional 30% of cable to ensure you have enough to finish the job.
  • Install the light switch box in the wall between two studs, approximately 60 inches above the floor.

13. Install the electrical cable and UF cable for line voltage landscape lighting

  • Dig a trench that is at least 18 inches deep. It should run from the house’s exit point for the power cable to the placement of the fixture.
  • Run the cable, then pull it through the wall. If you come across a fire block, you’ll need to drill a hole or notch to fit the cable.

14. Wire the light fixture and switch for line voltage landscape lighting

  • Turn off the primary circuit breaker on your home’s electrical panel.
  • Wire the light fixture according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Next, wire the light switch.
  • Finally, connect the cable to the GFCI circuit breaker.

Safety Tip: Never work in a panel box unless you are familiar and comfortable with it. Even with the main breaker turned off, the lines from the power company remain powered. Take care when working in the panel box.

15. Test Your Light and Have Wiring Inspected for Line Voltage Landscape Lighting

  • Turn on the power at the panel box and circuit breaker.
  • Check that your light switch and fixture are functioning properly.
  • Before burying the UF cable, contact the electrical inspector to schedule a wiring check.
  • After your wiring has passed inspection, bury the cable.

Learning how to install landscape lighting may be an excellent home improvement job at any time of year. Your new landscape lighting will keep the walks and gardens in your yard safe and inviting after dusk. Are you ready to find the supplies you’ll need to install outdoor lighting? Contact us at info@illuminated-gardens.com or 313-903-5273 for a free, on-site, no-obligation quote on your landscape lighting project.