Porch Deck and Patio

Low Voltage Patio Lighting

Outdoor Projects

Low Voltage Patio Lighting

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 120 Projects

Thanks to the many inexpensive and easy-to-install lighting kits and fixtures available, outdoor lighting has become a standard feature in today’s home landscapes. A good lighting plan not only makes your patio and walkways more useful at night, it gives these spaces a second life with a completely different feel from the daytime setting. Standard low-voltage lighting systems are commonly available in complete kits that include a low-voltage transformer, low-voltage cable, and several light fixtures, each with a wire lead that links to the main cable with a special connector. In addition to standard wired systems, you can find a wide variety of solar powered fixtures that offer free operation and the easiest possible installation.

Here are some other factors to consider when choosing a standard low-voltage lighting system:
  • Transformer Power: For best performance, the total wattage of the light fixtures should be at least one-third of the transformer’s wattage rating but should not exceed the wattage rating. If necessary, use two systems to avoid overloading a single system with too many fixtures.
  • Transformer Controls: Consider timers and photosensitive switches for automatic operation.
  • Cable Gauge Size: 12-amp UF cable is recommended to reduce voltage drop, resulting in dimmer lights at the far end of the line. Long cable runs may require 8- or 10-gauge wire to prevent voltage drop.
  • Fixture and Bulb Brightness: Brightness is often rated in foot-candles: one foot-candle is equivalent to the brightness of a 12" square area lighted by a candle held 12" away. Use the brightness rating to guide the fixture layout.

How to Install Low-Voltage Patio Lighting

  1. RN0732269A

    Determine where you will install the transformer(s)— either in the garage, on an exterior house wall, or on an outdoor post buried in the ground with concrete. If installing the transformer in the garage, mount it on a wall within 24" of a GFCI receptacle and at least 12" above the floor.

  2. RN0732269C

    Drill a hole through the wall or rim joist for the low-voltage cable and any sensors to pass through (inset). If a circuit begins in a high-traffic area, it’s a good idea to protect the cable by running it through a short piece of PVC pipe or conduit and then into the shallow trench (see step 9).

  3. HI05332006

    Attach the end of the low-voltage wire to the terminals on the transformer. Make sure that both strands of wire are held tightly by their terminal screws.

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    Transformers usually have a simple mechanism that allows you to set times for the lights to come on and go off automatically. Set these times before hanging the transformer.

  5. HI05332008

    Many low-voltage light fixtures are modular, consisting of a spiked base, a riser tube and a lamp. On these units, feed the wires and the wire connector from the light section down through the riser tube and into the base.

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    Take apart the connector box and insert the ends of the fixture wire and the low voltage landscape cable into it. Puncture the wire ends with the connector box leads. Reassemble the connector box.

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    Feed the wire connector back into the light base and attach it according to directions that came with the lamp. In this model, all that was required was pushing the connector into a locking slot in the base.

  8. HI05332011

    After the bulb is installed, assemble the fixture parts that cover it, including the lens cap and reflector.

  9. HI05332013

    Lay out the lights, with the wires attached, in the pattern you have chosen. Then cut the sod between fixtures with a spade. Push the blade about 5" deep and pry open a seam by rocking the blade back and forth.

  10. HI05332014

    Gently force the cable into the slot formed by the spade; don’t tear the wire insulation. A paint stick (or a cedar shingle) is a good tool for this job. Push the wire to the bottom of the slot.

  11. HI05332016

    Once the lamp is stabilized, tuck any extra wire into the slot using the paint stick. If you have a lot of extra wire, you can fold it and push the excess to the bottom of the slot. No part of the wire should be exposed when you are done with the job.

  12. HI05332015

    Firmly push the light into the slot in the sod. It the lamp doesn’t seat properly, pull it out and cut another slot at a right angle to the first and try again.