Plan And Install A Low-Voltage Lighting System For Your Yard

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]


    I hate those Solar LED garden lights. They give off that creepy blue light in the garden. Not a very natural colour for the garden.

      eh... isn't that 'creepy blue light' about the same colour as moonlight??

    Low voltage is not inherently cheaper to run, as claimed. To use their example, 400w is 400w, regardless of the voltage (low voltage halogens draw much higher current). They are still a good choice for the other reasons, just don't confuse "low voltage" with "energy saving".

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