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How To Install Landscape Lighting


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landscape light fixture macro One of the great things about low-voltage landscape lighting is that it doesn't take a professional to install it.  With a little know-how and the right tools, any capable homeowner can install landscape lighting that adds safety, value, and ambience to his or her yard.

There are two basic types of landscape lighting systems.  Line-voltage systems are designed to operate at 120 volts, the same number of volts found in a typical wall outlet.  Low-voltage systems, on the other hand, use a transformer to operate at a much lower — and safer — 12 volts.  Low-voltage systems are the easiest systems for the typical homeowner to install.  Because it isn't necessary to bury low-voltage cabling systems too deeply, they are easy to move around if landscaping needs change.

While some low-voltage systems can be bought in kits, these have limitations and generally aren't able to be changed or expanded.  It is comparable in price, and easier, to buy components separately.  In order to install low-voltage lighting you will need the following:

  • Light fixtures
  • A transformer
  • 10-gauge cable
  • Cable connectors

Choosing Layout

The first thing you will want to do before you install your lighting is to determine the layout.  If the first fixture on your layout is within 20 feet of the transformer, and the last fixture is within 50 feet of the transformer, you can run the cable straight from the transformer.  However, if the last fixture is more than 50 feet from the transformer there are several better options.
  1. A loop layout runs cable to and from the transformer in a circle, and minimizes voltage drop.
  2. A spur layout is essentially a loop layout, with an extension for fixtures that are placed outside of the loop.
  3. A balloon layout is when a single line is run from the transformer to a nearby light fixture, and then that line is looped back to the initial fixture.  This type of layout is ideal in situations in which there is an obstacle, such as a walkway, between the transformer and the first fixture.

Installing the Lighting

After you have determined the layout, place the fixtures where you want them without sinking them into the ground.  Once you are happy with the layout, run cable to each fixture.  Finally, after the cable is attached, sink the fixtures.

low voltage landscape lighting fixture While it may be safe to leave electrically-grounded cables above the ground, cables left aboveground can be problematic in areas where grass is cut or where gardening occurs.  However, burying cables is time-consuming, and it will also make it harder to make any adjustments afterwards.  Instead, use an edger or the tip of a shovel to dig a narrow ditch where you want your cable to lie.  Place your cable in the ditch, and then don't worry about it.  It will become covered with grass and plants naturally.

Finally, get the most out of your landscape lighting by maintaining it regularly.  Replace any broken fixtures or burnt out light bulbs immediately, and be sure to regularly clean any leaves, dirt, and debris out of recessed lighting fixtures.

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Landscape Lighting Installation - How To Install Landscape Lighting Systems

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