Step-by-Step Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

Installing low voltage lighting can be as easy as one-two-three. One, install the transformer. Two, install the low voltage wire. Three, place the lights. Here's a simple walkthrough:

One - Install the Transformer

The transformer takes your 120-volt current from a standard outlet and transforms it into the 12 volts needed to run your low voltage landscape lights. It should be a weatherproof box and it may come with a timer.

You will need a transformer rated high enough to accommodate all the lights you intend to attach. A general rule of thumb is that all the lights together should add up to no more than 80% of the transformer's rating. The simple way to calculate this is by adding up the wattages of all the lamps and multiplying that number by 1.25. The transformer you purchase should be rated for at least that number of watts. If you're unsure, the salesperson at your home store will be able to help you make the right decision.

Installing the transformer is relatively straightforward. Still, as a precaution, you should turn off the electricity at the circuit breaker before installing.

Two - Install the Low Voltage Wire

Low voltage wire can be purchased at most home stores as well as at lighting stores and from electrical specialists. Peel back the wire to expose about one and a half inches at the end. Screw on the wire nuts.

At this point, before you lay the wire, you may want to test it to make sure it will light the lamps. Once you're assured of that, distribute the wire along the route you intend it to take. Remember to leave a little slack at the transformer end and a little slack where the lamps will attach.

Once you've laid it along the route, bury the wire sufficiently deep so that it won't accidentally get dug up. Since this isn't 120 volt wire, you don't need to bury it very deep for safety reasons. You just need to set it deep enough that it won't come back up.

Three - Place the Lights

This is where it helps to have a friend or spouse. Although placement can be done by a single person, that often involves a lot of running back to the house to see the effect and then trotting out to make a minor adjustment. With someone else to help, you can concentrate on the field work and rely on the other person for aesthetic judgments.

If you are hanging lights in trees, place them no more than eight to ten feet high so that it won't be difficult to replace burned out bulbs. When highlighting objects, place the lamps no more than twelve feet away. Other than that, experimentation will help you decide.

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