Lighting your outdoor space can seem like a daunting task at first but if done right it can be one of the most enjoyable and painless additions you’ll make. With the right planning and attention to a few do’s and dont’s it shouldn’t take more than an afternoon to install a few low voltage landscape lights that will last for years to come.
1. DO use brass fixtures. Most landscape lighting fixtures on the market, especially those in the big box stores are made out of aluminum. Aluminum landscape lights will corrode overtime as they are exposed to rain and groundwater. While they may be relatively inexpensive they ultimately fail to please. Don’t skimp on the materials in your landscape lights and you’ll be halfway there from the start.
2. DO add up the total voltage of all the lights you are going to use FIRST. You need to know this number so that you can get an adequate transformer. Eventhough these landscape lights are low voltage (usually around 20 volts), inadequate power supplies can lead to uneven landscape lighting and can even damage the lights over time. This is an important step that shouldn’t be ignored as it will allow you to head off the common problem of voltage drop in these sorts of systems. This step will also be important in determining the size and length of the underground cord you’ll be using for the same reason.
3. DON’T overload your power runs. For big landscape lighting layouts plan in advance and build your setup from a central hub or junction box. Make sure you have enough power run to the junction and that each line branching off of it doesn’t bare more than 110-120watts. The amount of voltage used by the landscape lights you choose will determine how many branches you’ll need to run from the hub. If you’re really worried about voltage drop then go ahead and lower the max watts per line to 75watts or so. If your junction carries sufficient power you should be able to stagger your landscape lights on their individual lines to get a contiguous effect without sacrificing voltage and/or landscape light intensity.
4. DON’T use cheap connectors! Remember, the wires and connectors for landscape lights are underground, which means they will be exposed to groundwater most of the time. To reduce the chance of future headaches you want to make sure this very important part of the system is as waterproof as it can be. Wire nuts and electrical tape will not cut it here! Save yourself a lot of time and energy and make sure the connectors on your landscape lights are high quality. Look for connectors with some sort of grease sealant in the specs. This is a good sign that longevity was a factor in the manufacture of the landscape light.
5. DO make your outdoor space look awesome. Sure, this one goes without saying but there are a few things to consider if you really want to achieve in this regard. First, avoid splitting up the space you want to light. Put roughly, this means either choose to light a bunch of space or just a little. If you can’t afford enough landscape lights to accent everything don’t try to compensate by spreading the landscape lights thin. You’ll end up disappointed with the results. It’s better to focus on one or two spots that you really want to show off rather than end up with a bunch of forbidding shadows and empty spots all around.
In the end, good landscape lighting, comes down to just a little bit of planning and the right materials. Done carefully setting up landscape lighting ought to be a fun, enjoyable project that will add a huge spark to your outdoor space. Landscape lighting done well is a thing to marvel at and knowing you did it yourself will make it all the more wonderful.