“… all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun…”
–William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Nightscaping. Exterior Illumination. Whatever you call it, low-voltage lights can add some serious impact to your outdoor landscape. The idea to add landscape lights to our gardens germinated after I took down all of the outdoor Christmas decorations. I missed the colorful lights strung through the bushes and the glow of the floodlight on our Christmas-wreathed front door. Afterwards, the yard looked so boring—and dark! Unwilling to fork out the big bucks for a professional yard illumination, I scoured the Internet and found tons of information on how economically and easily you could accomplish this job yourself. So, I did it myself. Here’s how.
First, I took stock of the yard and determined where I wanted lights.
I decided to use 20 watt floodlights to highlight a few ornamental trees (a crepe myrtle and dwarf cherry blossom weeper) and 10 watt path lights to illuminate the walk and its border garden. I also wanted to light the house, so I chose some 35 watt spotlights to add pools of light here and there on the exterior.
Once I knew how many lights I wanted, I totaled up the voltage to determine how large the transformer needed to be. A word of warning here: double the voltage when buying your transformer. I originally chose a 300 watt transformer only to find that I liked the lighting so much that I immediately wanted to add more lights and had to buy a larger transformer.
I purchased the transformer and lights individually from Lowe’s, but you could also purchase a pre-made set if you wish. The only other purchase necessary is the electric lighting cable–I used 14 gauge cable.
Now on to placement. Once I placed all the lights where I thought I wanted them, I attached the cable to the transformer box, then attached each light individually to the cable. This is really simple–each light has a connection box into which you thread the cable then screw down the lid, which pierces the cable and provides the connection. 5 minutes tops. Once all of the lights were connected, I plugged the transformer into the outside electrical socket and voila!
I waited to bury the cable until the next day, so I could see how the lights looked once it got dark. Once placement was finalized, I used a garden edger to cut a ½ inch trough into the grass and pushed the cable down into it. Any cable in the gardens was simply covered with mulch.
There are many benefits to low-voltage lighting. It has a stronger and warmer glow than solar-powered lights. The low-voltage halogen lightbulbs last forever. And since it runs on a 12-volt system, it is fairly cheap; I haven’t seen a bump at all in our electric bill. The transformer I used has a digital setting and an electric eye that detects light. The lights automatically turn on at sunset, and I simply set the number of hours I want them to remain on.
This was a simple and economical way to add a lot of punch to our home and gardens. Try it and see!