How to Install Landscape Lighting

how-to-install-landscape-lightingLandscape lighting can make your yard both safer at night and more beautiful. We perform many such projects throughout the Raleigh area.

However, we also know that many people enjoy the pride and fun of doing these kinds of projects themselves. That’s why we’re taking the time to offer you a step-by-step guide on installing your own landscape lighting.

Note that this project covers low-voltage landscape lighting only. High-voltage lighting is used in commercial projects and can’t be done without the assistance of a certified electrician.

Solar lights are okay, and they do form a plug-and-play solution for the faint of heart. However, they also produce faint lighting which means that they do very little to increase the security of your yard.

After all, solar lights are only as reliable as the sun is. If they don’t get a good dose of sun they might not even work, which defeats the purpose of the exercise.

What You’ll Need

To complete this project you’ll need the following items:

  • A flashlight with spotlight settings and floodlight settings.
  • Pen and paper
  • Lights (assorted floodlights and spotlights)
  • 12-gauge cable
  • connector caps
  • Electrical tape
  • Shovel
  • Utility Knife
  • Wire cutters
  • Wire strippers
  • Screwdriver
  • Work gloves
  • A wooden post

You can get many of these items in a basic garden lighting kit from your local hardware store.

Preparing Your Project

Use your flashlight to decide where you’ll place the lights. Spotlights create a highlighting effect which is good for trees, prized rose bushes, or other visual interest features. Floodlights create brilliant lighting which is great for entrances and pathways.

Make sure you’re creating a beautiful effect and that you’re not annoying your neighbors by planning lights which will shine directly into one of their windows. Then use the pen and paper to sketch out your yard. Plan where each of the lights will go.

Now you can go choose your lights and/or lighting kit.

Assessing Wattage

Add the wattage on each of the lights that you buy. Make sure that the power pack rating is 70% to 100% of this number.

In other words, if you have 100 watts worth of lights then your power pack would need to be rated at 70 to 100 watts.

Make sure that you have enough connector caps for each light. Make sure that your cable can handle the project too. If you’re working with more than 200 Watts you will always need 12-gauge cable.

Finally, you need to call Miss Dig at 811. You need to show them your plan and make sure that there are no underground water or gas lines that might be damaged by your project.

Installing the Lights

Start by locating the outdoor GFCI outlet or outlets on the side of your home. Drive the post into the ground and attach the power pack on your post very close to that outlet.

Next, assemble each of the lights. Lay them out where you intend to use them.

Next, take up your cable. Start at the power pack, then lay down your cable along the lighting path. Make sure that the cable will reach each light.

Next use the connector caps to connect the lights to the cable. Follow the instructions that came to the pack, but be aware that the object of this exercise is to puncture the cable enough to make contact with the wires inside. Otherwise the current won’t flow.

Now you’ll need to cut a trench for the cable. Again, you’re going to start out at the control box.

Make sure the trench is at least 3 inches deep. You’ll be burying the cable in the trench. You might also make slits for the lights wherever you intend to place one, just to make it easier to get them into the ground.

Next you’ll connect the cable to the power pack. You’ll see a pair of screws on the pack at the connection site. This is very similar to connecting jumper cables to your car battery–it’s not mysterious!

Of course, you might have to expose a bit of the wiring in order to make the connection. This is where your wire cutters and wire strippers might come in.

Just feed the wires into the terminal and secure them. Once you’ve done this you can plug the power pack into your outlet.

Set the controls for your on or off times so that you’re not running the lights 24/7…that could really prove to be a drain on your electrical bill!

Finally, push the lights into their final position and enjoy.

Here is a video from Lowe’s which explains the process in more detail and shows you exactly what you’ll be doing:

Of course, DIY electrical work is a matter of comfort. While this project is pretty safe there is never a good reason to work on these kinds of projects if you’re uncomfortable doing so. You always have the option of calling a licensed electrician to do the job for you.

We’ve been installing landscaping lights in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Durhamn and Cary for over 20 years. We’re also available 24/7, so give us a call today if you’d like us to tackle this project for you.

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