DIY Complete Landscape Lighting Installation Tutorial
Outdoor landscape lighting can seem like a daunting task, but we’ll make it simple for you.
Things to consider
We’ve installed thousands of landscape lighting setups and know what works and what doesn’t. LED bulbs are the best bulb option, low voltage is the easiest electrical option, and solar lighting is unreliable (for now).
Where do I begin?
We’re going to break this tutorial down into steps, making it simple.
- Where you want lights and which type.
- Deciding if you want low or high voltage lighting.
- How you’re going to wire the lights.
- What material and light fixtures you need.
Where You Want Lights and Which Type
First you’ll want to know where you want to place lights. From there it’s easy to decide which type of light fixture to install. There are four types:
- Accent Lights
- Pathway Lights
- Specialty Lights
There will be examples of each, but you can see general installations on our projects page.
1) Spotlights are usually installed to highlight trees but can also be used for bushes or to highlight signs. It depends on the desired effect. If you want a more broad spread out light, the accent light works better than the spotlight which is concentrated. Examples of spotlight installs.
2) Accent lights are best for bushes and shrubbery.
3) Pathway lights are self-explanatory. They’re best along pathways or surrounding areas like firepits and pools.
Low or High Voltage Lighting?
Unless you’re an electrician, you’ll need to install low voltage. We also recommend low voltage setups because they’re easier to install, have less shorting issues, and make the bulbs last longer.
There are a lot of light fixtures for both low (12V) and high (120) voltage. The issue is that high voltage lighting systems require more maintenance. Low voltage lighting works better for wet conditions, safer for people and pets, and the wiring can be installed without conduit.
If you ever wanted to relocate light fixtures, low voltage makes it easier. You will also have more options of lights to choose from and you’ll find the cost of high voltage lighting systems is more expensive.
Applications where high voltage systems are installed usually include commercial, security, or government owned properties. There are certain requirements as far as how deep the wiring must be installed, it must be placed in conduit, and the connections must be waterproof.
We’ll briefly go over the high voltage setup, but again, you must be an electrician to install.
How You're Going to Wire the Lights
We’re going to go over the three most common wiring setups. The daisy chain, the T-method, and a hub configuration.
Most installations can be setup using a daisy chain method. The disadvantage of this method is that the voltage starts dropping over distance. This is also the easiest way to install a lighting system. Since there is a drop-off, this setup is best when there aren’t a ton of light fixtures and they aren’t scattered too much.
There are calculation you can make to see which method to use.
If you’re replacing existing lighting, installing low voltage (12V) lights is a piece of cake. Just disconnect the wiring from your old fixture and connect to the wiring coming from the new fixture. When designing a new landscape lighting system, I recommend going with low voltage. Most people think high voltage (120V) will make their lights brighter, but our low voltage bulbs are around the same lumens as our high voltage bulbs.
You’ll need a licensed electrician for a high voltage installation. As for low voltage, just make sure your wiring isn’t exposed to any element that could cause a short (break in the wire). A low voltage transformer, wire, wire nuts, and light fixtures is all you need to get fully setup and without the need to pay for someone to come install it.
What we've covered
There isn’t a lot to making sure you’re covered for years to come with landscape lighting, but for some reason people keep making the same mistakes.