Low Voltage Landscape Lighting Design
Laying out an installation plan for a low voltage landscape lighting system is fairly straightforward but does require knowing a few things. This article covers the main steps and gives guidance and tips to ensure a successful installation.
The Basic Layout
There are four main components to a landscape lighting system.
- Low Voltage Transformer. This is the power supply for the system. Ideally, it is mounted to a stand near the house, or attached directly to the structure – keep in mind the bottom of the transformer needs to be at least 12″ from the ground. Alternatively, the transformer could be located inside the house – usually the basement or garage. But running the wires through the wall requires the skills of an electrician since special codes apply. Outdoor installation is preferred.
- Landscape Lighting Fixtures. These are, of course, the producers of light. They get their power from the transformer. Each lighting fixture contains a light source – either an integrated (built-in) LED source or a replaceable lamp (bulb). The lamp could be the older incandescent (usually halogen) type or it could be an LED lamp. The voltage supplied to the fixtures is critical and we will discuss that later.
- Landscape Lighting Wire. This is the wire (cable) that connects the transformer (and supplies power) to the lighting fixtures. The wire is rated according to the size of its conductors. Selecting the proper size wire is one of the most important aspects of the lighting plan.
- Splices. The wire from the transformer needs to connect to the wires from the fixtures. These connections can be made in several ways that involve any of various connector types.
1. Start a Sketch. Most lighting designers begin their layout by creating a rough sketch of the property – or several sketches, one for each area. Try to be as accurate as possible with your sketch because you will be using it to help estimate distances for wire runs. You can use a blank piece of paper or graph paper. Attach this to a clipboard so you can walk the property and sketch as you go along.
2. Set Transformer Location. The best placement for the transformer is usually next to the house in a hidden location (behind a garden bed, near air conditioning equipment, etc.) It should be as close as possible to the fixture locations. Sometimes it makes sense to use more than one transformer – especially when fixtures are situated throughout a large property. If multiple transformers are used then create a separate plan for each one. Mark transformer locations on your sketch.
3. Set Fixture Locations. Before you install any fixtures in the property, mark their approximate positions in the landscape using small flags or pencils. Indicate the positions on your sketch and mark what fixture types will go at each location. As you walk the property, make rough measurements to indicate the distances between fixtures and the transformer, and between the fixtures themselves.