How To Install Landscape Lighting
This tutorial on how to install landscape lighting is for an professional low voltage landscape lighting system. Although you could you the same steps for the cheaper landscape lighting kits, some of what will be discussed may not apply.
If you have done all the preliminary work for your landscape lighting system you are now ready to install it.
Step-1 Assemble The Fixtures
Once you get the fixtures, you will need to assemble them and insert the appropriate bulbs you have chosen for each fixture.
Halogen lights should not be touched with your hands, the oil from them will reduce the life span of the bulb. So use a cloth or a glove when installing your bulbs.
Tip: Now is a good time to record information about the fixture and bulb. Write the wattage down, along with bulb beam spread. This will save you time when you are doing your landscape lighting maintenance
Step-2 Transformer and Fixture Placement
Place your transformer near the area where you are going to mount it. Install your fixtures in the areas you plan to light. Tip: If at all possible try to hide the fixture from being seen. You can use plants, rocks or other landscaping elements to achieve this.
Your path lights will not be hidden, but they do need the right spacing. Read this article for proper path lighting distance
Step-3 Cable Runs
Now is the time to make your home runs. Run the lighting cable from the transformer to your hubs if you are using them or to your fixtures in the zones you have. Leave a few extra feet at the transformer on each run, as well as a few extra feet on each run.
Color code each run at the terminal and at the end of the run. You can use colored electrical tape or use one color of tape and label each run with a number.
Here is an article on the methods for installing low voltage lighting.
Step-4 Wiring your Fixtures
Next we are going to connect the fixtures to your runs of cable or hubs. Splice the low voltage cable to your fixtures, using direct burial connectors.
Remember that low voltage lighting does not have a polarity. So you don't have to keep track of cable wires when connecting to the fixtures.
If you are installing a hub system, connect your cable run to the hub and your fixtures wires to the hub wires.
Tip: Solder your wires before you put on the gel filled connectors. This makes a permanent connections and reduces your lighting problems down the road due to a bad connection.
Step-5 Mounting The Transformer
Most transformers will be mounted on an exterior wall of your house. When deciding on the best place to mount your transformer, you need to remember that some transformers will produce a hum or vibration. So make sure to mount your transformer in a location that the sound will not distrub you.
Transformers should be installed 12 inches or more above the ground or surface below the transformer.
It also should be noted the the 120 volt plug in for the transformer needs to have an electrical cover on it.
Make sure that the 120 volt plug in is a ground fault circuit interrupting outlet or commonly called a GFIC outlet.
Please be sure to shut off the electricity to this outlet when working around or with it. I highly recommend that if you have any problems with the 120 volt, that you get a licensed electrician to do the work.
Step-6 Connecting To The Transformer
Connect the runs to the transformer. Use one wire from each of your runs and connect them to the common terminal, the other cable wire will go to the 12 volt tap terminal. Connect all of the runs to the lowest volt terminal you have, which should be a 12 or 13 volt.
Step-7 Check Your Lights
Check your lights to see if one light or a zone of lights are dim. If so move this cable run to a higher tap in the terminal. On a multi-tap transformer you can move the wire to a higher or lower output tap to achieve the desired volts.
Also now is the time to use the volt meter to check voltage at each light. You want your lights to between 10.8 and 12 volts.
You will also need to make sure that all the lights on that specific run are within 1.5 volts of each other.
Step-8 Adjust Your Lights
Now is the time to adjust your lights. Once it is dark, look over your lighting project and make any changes that needs to be.
This could be as simple as readjusting the light direction, move the fixture itself or you might need to change the bulbs wattage or spread.
In some cases you might have to change out the bulb to change the spread width. This is also a good time to see if any of your lighting fixtures would benefit from a colored lense cover.
Step-9 Bury Cables
Once you are happy with the outcome of your lighting, it is now time to bury the cables. The National Electric Code (NEC) Requirements for burial depth of the cable is 6 inches. If you have to go under a driveway the (NEC) code is 18 inches.