Step by Step Install of Outdoor Lighting System

You've put together your outdoor lighting design. You've assembled the materials you need. Now it's time to actually install the system. Here's what you need to do.

1. Bring in the professionals. If any part of your design involved using a licensed professional, say, to bury cable or send it under a sidewalk; this is the time to bring that person in. Let him get his work done first and you can go from there.

2. Position each fixture in its desired location. If it is to be a hanging fixture, place it on the ground directly below where you wish it to hang. Do not install the fixtures or place them in the ground yet. With each fixture, consider its location with respect to tree branches, downspouts, lawn mower paths, snow removal equipment and other potential hazards. Adjust the positioning as necessary in light of these considerations.

3. Lay out the cable above ground to each fixture that will be powered. Leave an additional foot or two of slack so the fixture may be moved later without too much hassle. Remember to lay the cable along the path it's actually going to take, accounting for any length that's taken up by running up a fence or tree trunk or hugging a wall.

4. Attach the cables to their fixtures. Mostly, this will mean running the cable through the fixture's ground stake and attaching the leads. In all cases, make sure that the contacts are clean so that the cable has a good connection.

5. Install the transformer in the location you chose. Make sure the plug can reach the wall socket, but don't plug it in yet unless you've turned off the circuit breaker. Make sure the transformer out of reach of children and animals. Use the screws and staples as necessary to mount the transformer and to secure the cabling.

6. Plug the transformer in and test the whole system. All the lights should light up to full brightness. Look for any flickering that may indicate a loose connection or a short in the system.

7. Bury the cable underground or beneath mulch where appropriate. Staple it along the underside of a fence or up a hidden part of a tree. When burying low voltage cable, it's not necessary to dig too deep. Use a landscape rake to dig a shallow trench in the mulch, lay the cable, and then cover it with about 2 to 4 inches of mulch. For turf, use a square-nosed shovel to dig a 4 to 6 inch trench, lay the cable, and cover it up. Remember to step on the turf to seat it back in place.

8. Secure the fixtures in their desired locations. Imbed them in the ground or hang them from the branches as appropriate. Make any final adjustments to the positioning and wait for dusk to see how it all turned out.

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