When it comes to outdoor lighting, there is a wide range of lighting fixtures available for the outside of your home. These fixtures are perfect for illuminating walkways, flower beds.
In addition to the aesthetic appeal that landscape lighting provides, it also makes your home and property safer.
They are generally two types of lighting:
- Line voltage lighting: systems that tap power directly from your home's main power line. They operate at a voltage of 120 volts.
- Low voltage lighting: systems that generally operate at 12 volts. The voltage for this type of light is reduced from your home’s 120 volts using a transformer.
Key Components for a Low Voltage Lighting System
While lighting kits can vary from brand to brand, there are a few components that are needed for all outdoor low voltage lighting kits.
The transformer is the component that reduces the line voltage. It plugs into an outdoor electrical socket or outlet and outputs 12 volts to the lighting fixture. Transformers range from 40 to 1000 watts according to their maximum output.
Every lighting fixture that is powered by a transformer comes with a rating in watts. For example, if you want to install 20 LED lights each rated at 5 watts, your total load is 20 x 5 for 100 watts, which means that your transformer must be rated for at least 100 watts.
After determining the necessary total load in watts, it is wise to select a transformer size that includes room for future expansion needs. The typical suggestion is 30% more than your current needs. In the previously mentioned example, you would choose a transformer rated for 150 watts.
Low-Voltage Electrical Cable
You need an electrical cable to carry the current from the transformer to the lighting fixtures. Because this cable will be used outdoors, it is generally different from the power cables used within your home.
Power cables are rated by gauges. The common gages are 12, 14, and 16 gauge. The lower the listed gauge is, the thicker the cable will be. A thicker cable can carry more current and therefore power more lights.
Manufacturers of outdoor lighting kits provide tables that enable you to match the cable rating with your transformer rating. This is really the best source of information to refer to before purchasing a power cable.
Lighting fixtures that use LED technology are the best option for outdoor lighting because of their lower power consumption. Virtually all lighting kits contain LEDs.
Laying the cable
- Lay the lighting fixtures in the spots where you intend to install them. The manufacturer’s instructions will provide guidance on ideal spacing, which is typically between 8 and 10 feet.
- Unroll the low voltage cable beside the electrical fixtures you just placed on the ground.
- Next, use a shovel to dig the trench where we will lay the low-voltage power cable.
- Push the cable into the trench. If you need extra pressure to force the cable down, you can use a piece of wood or another dull object. Shovels and other tools with the sharp edges are not recommended because they can cut into the power cable.
Installing the Transformer
- Strip some insulation off the power cable and insert it into the output side of the transformer.
- Ensure that the connections are secure by tightening the screws of the terminals.
- You can find specific installation instructions for the transformer in the manufacturer's manual.
Connecting the Lights
- Lighting fixtures usually come with snap-on connectors that attach directly to the lower voltage power cable. Simply snap these on before moving on to the final stage.
- Connect the power outlet of the transformer to the main power outlet.
- Ensure that you have secured all your connections before powering on the transformer. After powering on all the fixtures should light up.