Quick summary of planning an outdoor lighting project
Landscape Lighting Plan
The first step is planning your outdoor lighting layout. Start with a simple diagram of where you want your outdoor lighting fixtures, and mark down their bulb wattage. To determine what size transformer will be necessary, add up your total bulb wattage and multiply by 1.3. A similar equation is used to determine outdoor lighting cable length: measure all distances and multiply that total by 1.3. We recommend a 12 gauge cable for most runs, and a thicker gauge (10/2 and 8/2) for longer runs and runs with higher loads.
Purchase outdoor lighting transformers, cable, bulbs, and spot light or path lights to complete your outdoor lighting project. We recommend the following tools for this type of project: voltmeter, wire cutters/strippers, pliers, screwdriver, flat shovel, and a drill and screws to mount the transformer.
When you have the necessary equipment, assemble your outdoor light fixtures and place them where they will be installed. It is important to place the fixtures in the correct places where they will do the most good. Make separate cable "runs" from the transformer to the fixtures. Keep outdoor lighting fixtures that are of similar distance from the transformer grouped together in the same "run." This minimizes voltage drop and loss of brightness. Maintain less than 180 watts in any one "run." Also be sure to keep in mind that the cable is to be buried after installation, so make sure give yourself some extra cable to make it easier to bury. Now connect the runs to the transformer and the fixtures to the cable. When wiring into the transformer, one wire from each run should connect to the common terminal, and the other wire to the 12 volt terminal. Use a direct burial splice on the landscape lighting fixtures to connect the wires to the cable.
Plug the transformer into a GFI outlet, and do not use extension cords with transformers. Turn on the outdoor lights, and examine them for any areas of voltage drop. If any zones appear dim, turn off the transformer, and move them from the 12V tap to the 13V tap. Test each fixture individually and look for a voltage range between 10.5 and 12. Do not over-volt the outdoor light fixtures, or they could be damaged and cause fires.
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