How to Set Up and Run LED Landscape Lighting

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Setting up and running LED landscape lighting is essentially just like setting up any other low power yard lighting system. While many lighting systems, especially those packaged together in a kit, will come with their own specific instructions, here are some basic guidelines to setting up the lighting system yourself.

Materials Needed:

  • Bulbs
  • Fixtures
  • Connectors
  • Cable
  • Transformer
  • Tape Measure
  • Mallet
  • Stakes
  • PVC pipe
  • Saw

Step 1 - Layout

Decide exactly what layout and lighting plan you want for your system. Draw an overhead picture of your yard and mark out exactly where you want to place each and every light. Plan for highlighting key areas of landscaping, lighting up a dark path, etc. Go ahead and put stakes in the ground as a visual reference for where you want your lighting, then measure the distance from where you want your transformer to each light in the series, and keep track of the total distance (so that you can buy a cable of adequate length.

Step 2 - Buying The Parts

Your lights should be the first thing you purchase. Different lights and fixtures will have different wattages, and you'll need to know your total wattage for your cable and transformer.

For the transformer, be sure that it can handle the full amount of wattage that the lights will be drawing from it. It is a good idea to buy a transformer that can supply some extra watts, in the event that you want to add lights later. However, never use a transformer where less than half of the total potential watts are being used.

For the cable, you'll typically either want to use either 14-gauge or 12-gauge cable on a low-volt system. If your total wattage is under 200, 14-gauge will do. If it is over 200 watts, you should use 12-gauge cable or else your lights may appear dim or won't light at all. You may want to just use the 12-gauge cable anyway, in case you want to add lights later (in which case you'll want to buy it with some excess length, as well).

Step 3 - Place Your Lights

Remove the stakes (if you used them) that marked your light positions. Assemble your lighting fixtures as needed, and plant them in the ground.

Step 4 - The Transformer

Pick a place, preferably on the outside wall of your house, where your transformer can be installed that is at least a foot or two off of the ground.

Step 5 - The Cable

Before plugging anything in, lay out your cable starting at your transformer (with a few feet there to spare) leading all the way to your last light; make sure you lay the cable within a foot or two of each light. Once you are sure that the cable's length is good, attach it to the transformer. Be sure to follow your transformers instructions for connecting the cables into the proper places (especially the grounding wire).

Step 6 - The Connectors

There are many types of connectors out there to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. If you choose any sort of pierce-point connector, you can turn on your transformer since you won't be stripping the cable wire, to see whether or not the light comes on when you pierce the cable. For any connectors that require stripping the cable, leave the power off. Attach your connectors to both the fixtures and the cable. Once everything is connected, test your system to be sure it is working properly, making any adjustments as needed.

Step 7 - Hiding The Cable

Many people choose to bury their cable. If you do, make sure it is at least a solid foot deep. For any areas that are dug into regularly (like a garden), cut section lengthwise off a piece of PVC pipe and lay it on top of the cable for protection. You may also choose to obscure the wire with rocks, wood chips, mulch, etc.

It's as simple as that. Whether lighting up your entire yard, or just creating some path lighting, these simple steps will help you set up the perfect lighting system for you.

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