Installing accent and security lighting in your yard shouldn't require an electrician and lots of expensive labour. Low-voltage lighting systems make it easy to plan and install yard lights without a professional.
Why use low-voltage lights over traditional 120-volt residential power? Low-voltage lights are cheaper to run, cheaper to install, and safer to operate. If you hit a line for your low-voltage system with a garden spade, for instance, the biggest concern you'll have on your hands is simply repairing the line, not taking a trip to the ER.
Reader's Digest has a step by step guide to planning and installing a large low-voltage system. Included are tips to improve on the design of more inexpensive lights, and a variety of ideas that will save you money and headaches:
- Buy a larger transformer than you'll initially need so you can add lights later as your landscape (and imagination) expands. If you'll be installing 400 watts of lights, buy a 600-watt transformer.
- The farther a light is from the transformer (and the more lights installed between it and the transformer), the less light it will put out. Avoid this "voltage drop" by creating a tee (Fig. A ) and running two short lines rather than one long one. A good rule of thumb is to put no more than 100 watts of lighting on one line. If you want to put ten 20-watt lights on a circuit, make a tee connection with five lights on one line and five on the other. You can also minimize voltage drop by using a thicker gauge wire.
Installing a low-voltage system isn't as simple as buying a box of solar lights and jamming the stakes into your garden path, but the end result is a superior lighting system with more even, dependable illumination.
Check out the detailed guide below for lots of pictures, tips, and tricks. If you've installed your own low-voltage lighting system, let's hear about it in the comments.
Low-Voltage Outdoor Lighting [Reader's Digest]