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Installing Line-Voltage Landscape Lighting

 Installing Landscape Lighting
 

The right landscape lighting can enhance trees, shrubs, flowers or other features in your yard and provide a safety boost along a walkway or around a deck.

 

The three types of outdoor lighting are:

 

     • Solar powered lights, which require no wiring and must be installed in full sun to provide illumination
       at night.


     • Low voltage lighting, which operates at 12-volts, is safe to work with, energy efficient, and easy to 
       install and move. To install this type of system, just follow the instructions that come with your kit.


     • Line voltage lighting, which operates at 120-volts, the same voltage as the appliances in your home. 
       Installing these fixtures outdoors requires the use of conduit to protect the wires and an electrical 
       junction box, often included with a fixture, to power the fixtures. The junction box must be hardwired 
       into your electrical system.

 

This project guide will show you how to install a line voltage landscape light, which provides brighter light from fewer fixtures than low voltage or solar powered lights. Be sure to follow all manufacturer installation instructions that come with your light fixture.

 

If you don’t feel comfortable with electrical projects, hire an electrician to install landscape lights for you.

 

Preparation

 

• Check local building and electrical codes before running outdoor wiring to ensure compliance. In some
  areas this work must be performed by a licensed electrician.
• Check with local utilities before digging in your yard to ensure you don't dig up utility pipes and cables.
• Diagram and measure for the wiring. Buy about 30% more cable than you think  you'll need.

 

Safety

 

• You must use a GFCI circuit breaker to power your outdoor lights. Turn off power at the breaker panel
  to the GFCI circuit breaker you will use to power your lights.
• Be sure the circuit breaker you draw power from will not be overloaded by the additional fixture or fixtures.
  If the circuit breaker will be overloaded, you will need to install a dedicated GFCI circuit and breaker.

 

Savings

 

• Save time and money by purchasing and installing outdoor fixtures yourself.


WHAT YOU NEED FOR THIS JOB:

TOOLS:

MATERIALS:


Step 1: Determine Your Fixture and Switch Locations

Determine Your Fixture and Switch Locations

• Decide what feature you want to light, such as a flowerbed, shrub or other 
  landscape ornament, and select your fixture.


• Decide where to put the light switch to operate your new fixture. For this project 
  guide, we’ll assume it is located on the inside of an exterior wall, directly above 
  where the cable will exit the house and enter the conduit.


• Measure from the fixture location to the location at your house where you will install 
  the light switch and from the switch location to the breaker panel. This will give you 
  the amount of UF cable you need. Remember to add 30% to the amount you 
  purchase.

  

Step 2: Install the Light Switch Box

Install the Light Switch Box

• Use a stud finder to locate the wall studs on either side of the location for your new 
  light switch. You’ll want to install the remodeling box for the switch between two 
  studs, not adjacent to a stud, at about 60 in. up from the floor.


• Hold the remodeling box up to the wall in the location where it will be installed. 
  Trace around the box with a pencil to mark the area to be cut.


• Use a utility knife to score the drywall paper along the outline of the box.


• Use a drywall knife to carefully cut out the hole. Go slowly to ensure you don’t cut 
  any wires behind the wall.


• Push the remodeling box into the hole for a test fit. It should fit snugly, but you 
  shouldn’t have to force it.

  

Step 3: Dig the Trench

Dig the Trench

• Dig a trench from the location at the house where the power cable will exit to the 
  fixture location, at least 18-inches deep in most areas, for the UF cable that will 
  carry power to the new light.


• For specific instructions on how to run outdoor conduit, see our How to Install 
  Electrical Conduit Outdoors Project Guide.

  

Step 4: Drill a Hole in the Ceiling or Floor for the Cable

Drill a Hole in the Ceiling or Floor for the Cable

• If you’ll be running cable through the ceiling, carefully drill a hole with a  1/8-inch 
  drill bit through the ceiling above the new switch location. If you’ll be running 
  cable through your basement or crawl space, drill into the baseboard or floor right 
  next to the baseboard instead.


• Insert a stiff wire or straightened coat hanger into the hole.


• In your attic or basement, look for a two-by-four beam adjacent to the protruding 
  stiff wire. In an attic, this beam is the top of the wall, known as the top plate. In a 
  basement, it’s the bottom of the wall, known as the bottom plate.


• If the two-by-four is under a piece of plywood, or covered in some other way,
  measure 2 1/2 -inches. from the reference wire toward the two-by-four and drill 
  there. That should put the hole in the middle of the plate.


• Check with a flashlight to be sure there are no electrical wires or plumbing pipes 
  behind the walls where you will be working.

  

Step 5: Run the Cable

Run the Cable

Note: These next steps are easier to perform if you have an assistant. Station the assistant at the new wall box opening, while you go into the attic or basement. If you don’t have an assistant, you’ll need to go back and forth between the attic or basement and the wall box.

 

    • In your attic, use the spade bit to drill a hole through the top plate, directly above 
      the new electrical box location. If you’re running cable through a basement or 
      crawlspace, drill a hole in the bottom plate directly below the box.


    • Feed your fish tape into the wall opening, pushing it up into the hole you made in 
      the top plate. If you’re running cable through a basement or crawl space, push it 
      down to the hole in the bottom plate. You may need to insert the end of a coat 
      hanger into the hole to pull the end of the fish tape through the hole.

   • If you encounter a fire block, proceed with Step Six. If you do not encounter a fire 
      block, go directly to Step Seven below.

  

Step 6: Running Cable Past a Fire Block

Running Cable Past a Fire Block

A fire block is a horizontal beam of wood running between the wall studs. You can drill a hole through the fire block or create a notch to accommodate the wire.

 

To drill a hole:

 

• Insert a long flexible drill bit through the opening for the electrical box and position it 
  on the center of the fire block.


• Drill through the fire block.

 

To cut a notch:

 

• Cut into the drywall at the location of the wall block.


• Use a sharp chisel and a hammer to cut a ¾-inch wide by 1-inch deep notch in the 
  fire block as a conduit for the cable. Pull the cable past the fire block following the 
  instructions in Step Seven below.


• After you have fished the cable through the notch, cover the notch with a metal nail 
  plate to protect the cable from nail damage.


• Patch over the drywall hole. See our Patching Large Holes in Wallboard Project 
  Guide for step-by-step instructions.

  

Step 7: Pull the Cable Through the Wall

Pull the Cable Through the Wall

• From the attic, basement or crawl space, use electrical tape to secure one end of 
  the cable to the hook on the fish tape.

 

• At the wall opening, carefully and steadily retract the fish tape, pulling the cable to 
  the wall opening. Be careful not to create friction that can tear the cable’s sheathing 
  and avoid kinks that could damage the cable. Leave about 6-inches of cable 
  hanging from the wall box.


• Using the same methods, run the UF cable from the wall box down to the opening to 
  the outside, through the conduit, into the trench (where it does not have to be in 
  conduit) and to your light fixture.

  

Step 8: Wire the Light Fixture and Switch

Wire the Light Fixture and Switch

• Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to wire and mount your light fixture.

 

• To wire the light switch, cut and strip the ends of the black wires and connect them 
  to the two brass terminals. When connecting a wire to the terminal screw, turn 
  the loop on the end of the wire in the same direction as the screw threads, to 
  ensure it screws down tightly.

 

• Connect the white wires to the silver terminal screws and the ground wires to the 
  green grounding screws.

 

Step 9: Connect the Cable to the GFCI Circuit Breaker

Connect the Cable to the GFCI Circuit Breaker

• Turn off the main breaker in your breaker panel.

 

• Be aware that even with the main breaker off, the wires coming from the power 
  company are still energized. Be careful when working in the breaker panel.

 

• Attach the green and white wires to the ground/neutral bar.

 

• Attach the red and black wires to a GFCI circuit breaker.

  

Step 10: Turn on the Power, Test Your Light, Get it Inspected 

Turn on the Power, Test Your Light, Get it Inspected

• Turn the power back on at the breaker panel and circuit breaker.


• Test that your light switch and light fixture are working.


• Before burying the UF cable, call the electrical inspector to schedule your wiring 
  inspection.


• Once your wiring has passed inspection, bury the cable