Landscape Lighting Guide: How to Setup Landscape Lighting

Installing landscape lighting is not as complicated and costly as most people assume. But most importantly, landscape lights can make a huge difference in your home’s appearance, safety, and security after dusk.

Join us, the Hevi Lite team, in this discussion about the steps to follow during a DIY landscape lighting installation. Let us get started.

Table of Contents:

Sketch a Layout for Your Landscape Lighting System

When installing landscape lighting, it is always best to first create a rough sketch of your property, marking the spots where you will install each fixture. For an expansive yard, use a separate piece of paper (blank paper or graph paper) for each lighting zone.

The best drawing method is drawing a perimeter first and then adding the buildings, benches, vegetation, trees, benches, and other essential decorations. Do not forget to add existing landscape lights.

You will also need to mark the placement of the transformer. We recommend installing your transformer in a hidden location next to your house and close to the fixture locations. For a large property, you may need to use more than one transformer. But make sure to create a separate sketch for each zone served by a particular transformer.

Sketch a Layout for Your Landscape Lighting System

Choose the Right Landscape Lighting Equipment

Buying the necessary equipment has to be the most overwhelming part of the project. There are so many choices out there that can be pretty confusing. This section will walk you through the primary components.

» Low Voltage Transformer

A low-voltage transformer serves as your system’s power supply. This gadget steps down the 120V house supply to 12 volts.

Electrical codes require that you plug the transformer into a GFCI-protected outdoor electrical outlet near your house and at least 12 inches high.

Homeowners sometimes install a transformer inside their house. But running the wires through walls demands adherence to special building codes, which requires the assistance of a skilled electrician. As such, stick to outdoor installation for a DIY lighting system.

The transformer must have enough capacity to support your system’s cumulative wattage. Available are online calculators you can use to determine your ideal transformer’s power. But you can do this using a simple method- add up the cumulative wattage of the lights you intend to use and multiply the wattage by 1.25 (the fraction makes up for the power loss along the cable length).

Let us assume you have two lighting zones, where zone 1 requires two 7-watt lights and zone 2 needs four 7-watt lights. The rating of your transformer would be:
42x 1.25 = 52.5 watts

But understand the above is the bare minimum rating. Buy a higher-rated transformer that will supply enough power and even accommodate additional lighting fixtures in the future.

Also, look for a low voltage transformer with built-in dusk to dawn sensor and countdown timer.

» Landscape Lights

The light source for a landscape light fixture can be a replaceable bulb or a built-in (integrated) LED source. Hevi Lite designs and manufactures a broad range of durable and energy-efficient landscape lights that make your home glow while accenting your landscape. In this section, we will look into a few available options.

Bollard Lighting
Path Lights

Topping our list are the path lights, which are best suited for illuminating walkways. Try to maintain a 10′ distance between each path light.

Accent Lights

Accent (spot) fixtures are ideal for precision lighting on garden structures, tree trunks, porch columns, dormers, and eaves. The number of fixtures needed depends on the size of the structure. For example, while large trees with large canopies may require four accent lights, two fixtures are more than enough for smaller objects.

Flood Lights

Flood lights offer a wide flood of light on any surface. The common variants are the LED floodlights. You can go solar with these variants, eliminating the need to install never-ending wiring or buy new batteries now and then.

In-Grade Up Lights

In-grade lights are installed in the ground and an excellent choice for illuminating a tall tree or lighting down a driveway.

Hardscape Lights

Hardscape lights elevate your outdoor spaces with low-profile lighting and excel in adding dimension to tight spots. The lights can stay hidden under landscape and architectural features like window ledges, handrails, stacked masonry walls, and benches.

» Cable

The cable connects the transformer to the fixtures, and its rating depends on the size of its conductors.

Landscape lighting cables are usually listed with two numbers. For example, 12/2 or 14/2. The first number denotes the wire’s gauge. The lower the gauge, the thicker the wire. The second number indicates the number of wire strands in the cable.

For a system with a wire that runs below 150 feet, use 14 or 16-gauge wire. Lower gauges are ideal for longer runs to prevent voltage drop.

Typically, you will require 100 feet of 12-gauge landscape lighting cable for every 100 watts.

But there is a better way of determining the ideal wire gauge for your system- multiply the cumulative wattage per zone by the cable length (feet). For instance, if a particular zone requires 100 watts and 75 feet of cable, multiplying the figures yields 7,500. The general rule of thumb is to use a 12-gauge cord if the total is less than 10,000. Use a 10-gauge cable or split the zone into smaller zones if the total ranges between 10,001 and 15,000.

» Connectors

Connectors connect the wires from the transformer to the wires extending from each fixture. You only need to slide a wire into the wire holder on the connector and then tighten the connector to force the metal prongs to pinch the wire.

Some connector designs require you to use two connectors for each lighting fixture. Other connectors can accommodate both strands of the cord, which means you only need one piece for each light. Undoubtedly, you want to go for the latter to achieve a less bulky result.

Installing the Components

Below are the steps to install your landscape lighting components.

  1. Arrange the lighting fixtures in your landscape in the same fashion you had marked them on your sketch.
  2. Connect the cable to the low voltage transformer(s). Use a wire stripper to remove the plastic insulator from each wire. Polarity does not matter when inserting the bare wires into the slots on the transformer.
  3. Hang the transformer on the wall (near the electrical outlet) using siding clips or masonry bit and screw. Alternatively, you can screw the transformer to a wooden stake.
  4. Uncoil the cord from the transformer and lay it on the ground following the line of the lights.
  5. Using the connectors, attach all the lighting fixtures to the main cable. Common landscape lighting ideas (connection methods) that you can try here include daisy chain, T-method, hub connection, and hybrid method.
  6. Using a long steel punch or a large screwdriver, make holes on the ground for the fixture’s stakes. Insert each light into its stake, then push them into the ground using both hands.
  7. Turn on the transformer to ensure all of the lights are in working condition. We recommend you repeat this step at night to ensure that the result is what you desire. Make adjustments where necessary.
  8. Using a flat-blade shovel, dig a 3-inch-deep trench in which you will bury the primary wire.
  9. Use the transformer timer to set the specific time for your lights to turn on and off each day.
  10. Enjoy your landscape lighting.
Ready to install a landscape lighting system? Or do you have any questions regarding landscape lighting ideas? Lighting experts at Hevi Lite would like to hear from you.

Hevi Lite is your one-stop shop for top-quality landscape lights and accessories in San Fernando Valley. So whether you need path lights, in-grade lights, or accent lights, rest easy knowing that we have the unique products you need to reinvent your outdoor spaces. To reach us, you can complete our online form or call us at 818-341-8091.