Low-Voltage Lighting Equals High-Voltage Wow!


“… 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.


Floodlights illuminate ornamental trees

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.

Garden path light

Garden path light

Spot Light

Spot Light

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.


Path lights reflect down, illuminating plants

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.


Path lights illuminate the garden and stone walkway

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!


Spot lights send pools of light up exterior walls


2 responses »

  1. Great job! That’s exactly what I would like to do with the trees in the front of my house. I will consult your instructions and see if I can get as good an outcome.


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