Installing Low-Voltage Lighting

2-4 hours

Add security and beauty to your home landscape with outdoor lighting

Installing Low-Voltage Lighting

A low-voltage (12-volt AC) lighting system offers advantages over a 120-volt AC system more commonly used indoors. It carries less power and the cable can be buried just below the surface rather than in a deep trench. A 12-volt AC system also uses less energy. This guide will teach you the best method for installing a low-voltage lighting system in your landscape.


Wire the Transformer
Wire the Transformer - Installing Low-Voltage Lighting

• Most low-voltage lighting systems include a transformer that is plugged into a regular outdoor electrical outlet. The transformer reduces, or "steps down," the 120-volt household current to 12 volts. Most transformers are rated to handle a load of 100 to 300 watts; the higher the rating, the longer the cable—and thus the more light fixtures—you can connect to the system. If you want to add more lights, you may need a bigger transformer; if so, it's probably more economical to buy a whole new system in a kit.
• Attaching the cable for the lights to the transformer is an easy task of screwing the wires in place. Details vary by manufacturer, so follow the directions that come with the transformer.

Hang the Transformer
Hang the Transformer  - Installing Low-Voltage Lighting

Mount the transformer on the wall next to a GFCI outlet. For most types of siding, you can make the attachment with a wood screw. Drive it into the plywood or the sheathing underneath the siding. For masonry, drill a hole for a lag shield, then screw into the shield.

Assemble the lights
Assemble the lights - Installing Low-Voltage Lighting

Light fixtures usually require assembly. You'll need to snap the sockets in place at the very least, and you may need to do some simple wiring. Follow the manufacturer's directions.

Place the lights
Place the lights - Installing Low-Voltage Lighting

Lay the light fixtures in the approximate spots where they will be installed, and run the cable across the ground from light to light.

Connect the lights
Connect the lights - Installing Low-Voltage Lighting

Attach the cable connectors. For this light, put half the connecter on each side of the cable, and snap it together to connect the lights. When you turn the system if you find the lighting to be very dim, the cause is probably due to a transformer that is not able to supply enough power. Check with your salesperson when buying the transformer if it will do the job for the number of lights you plan to use. If not, find a model with a higher wattage capacity.

Dig for the cable
Dig for the cable - Installing Low-Voltage Lighting

Dig a 6-inch-deep trench alongside the cable, place the cable in the trench, but do not bury it yet.

Set the Timer
Set the Timer - Installing Low-Voltage Lighting

Plug the transformer into the outdoor receptacle, and set the timer. Cover the GFCI outlet with a plastic cover, usually sold separately. Test the lights; if they work correctly, bury the cable.