Landscape Lighting Ideas
Kim Smith - El Dorado, AR

Hardwarian Kim Smith

Ken's Discount True Value Home Center

El Dorado, AR

Landscape Lighting Ideas

Level: Beginner

These landscape lighting ideas will help highlight your home’s well-manicured yard after the sun goes down and add extra security and safety. By using low-voltage fixtures you can bring light to your greenery and be “green” at the same time.

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Project Steps
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    • Step 1: Plan Lighting Layout

      Think about what you want your outdoor lighting to do. Common uses include emphasizing landscape formations, shedding light on walkway areas and adding security.

      Look out your windows and visualize what areas need to be lit. Walk around your yard with a flashlight to experiment with how lighting would look in your yard. Determine where lights should be positioned and how many you need. All of these variables will create different moods and effects, so consider the possibilities.

      You can light up dark walkways or paths by placing lights close to each other so that the illumination from each overlaps. Accent lighting near walls or underneath trees can create great highlighting effects. Placing lights in front of trees or statues and other features can create dramatic shadows on fences and walls.

      Helpful Tips

      To add interest to your lighting plan, think about mixing up spacing and patterns.

      Remember that less is more. Don't add so many lights that they end up competing with each other.

      Be careful not to choose lighting locations that will get in the way of lawnmowers or foot traffic. Make sure your lighting won't beam directly into your home or, even worse, into your neighbor's.

      Try to plan your light installation when you're landscaping your yard or garden. When it comes to planning, it's much easier to do both tasks at the same time.

      Once you have some landscape lighting ideas in mind, drawing a plan will help you visualize the results. Using a scale of 1/8" for every foot, include the location of your home's exterior outlets, trees, shrubbery, walkways, fountains, deck or patio, as well as any areas you want to light for safety. Don't worry if you're not an artist—even a rough sketch will do the trick.

      Helpful Tips

      Check with your local municipality to determine if building codes will allow you to do what you want. Depending on what you have in mind, you may need a permit.

    • Step 2: Choose Your Fixtures
      light bulb

      Once you’ve determined how many light fixtures you need, choose which kind you want. You may prefer unobtrusive outdoor fixtures, or you might have something more decorative in mind. Your local True Value expert can lend a hand when you’re trying to decide.

      Other landscape lighting ideas include tier lighting and path lights which are good for illuminating walkways. Lantern lights can also be hung along walkways, complementing porches, patio areas and flower and mulch beds. Well lights and floodlights are great for accent lighting. When possible, use lights with rotating heads. These are very versatile and allow you to create a variety of effects.

      Consider installing low-voltage lighting that operates at 12 volts instead of the home standard of 120 volts. Low-voltage outdoor lighting is safe — there’s no risk of electrical shock to your kids or pets if the cable is accidentally cut by lawn mower or other means. It’s also more energy efficient.

      Helpful Tips

      Motion detecting fixtures can be a useful addition to your landscape lighting. Use lights with built-in motion detectors or install independent detectors. Aim motion-detecting lights at your gate, front porch or along walkways. They will snap on when someone approaches, be it a welcome or unwelcome guest.

      You can save even more energy — and money — by using compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) in applicable fixtures both inside and outside your home, such as motion detector fixtures. CFLs use 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last 10 times longer.

    • Step 3: Determine Amount of Cable
      tape measure

      One important aspect of making your landscape lighting ideas work is to determine how to properly install them. A single low-voltage cable will power all of your lights. Use measuring tape to measure the distance from the closest exterior outlet to the first light, and then to each light in turn. The sum of these measurements is the amount of cable you’ll need to power your lights. Most kits come with 50' of cable wire, but you’ll probably need more.

      Helpful Tips

      If your math skills are a bit rusty, use this simple trick: Run a piece of rope or string along the course and mark where it ends. Now just measure the rope or string.

      It doesn't hurt to buy a longer cable than you actually need. Plan for the future—you may decide to change your design scheme one day.

    • Step 4: Use the Right Transformer

      Transformers reduce standard voltage from 120 volts to a safe 12 volts for low-voltage lighting. Most low-voltage cable wire kits come with a transformer, so be sure it’s adequate for your needs. Add up the total wattage of the fixtures you’ve chosen and choose a transformer with slightly more voltage. Again, plan ahead if you think you’ll add more lighting someday.

      Helpful Tip

      Keep the first fixture at least 10' from the transformer to allow for the required voltage drop. If your light is any closer than that, you risk premature bulb burnout and a cable that is running at more than 12 volts.

    • Step 5: Install Wiring

      Connect the low-voltage cables to the transformer then plug the transformer into a GFCI electrical outlet. Attach the cables to your fixtures — but don’t set them into the ground just yet. Start with the first light, attaching it to the wire connectors around the cable, and then snake the cable between each fixture until everything’s connected.

      Helpful Tips

      Make sure the transformer hangs at least 12" above grade.

      It’s a good idea to shield your electrical outlet with a storm-weather cover.

    • Step 6: Turn It On

      After the wiring has been installed, switch on the lights to make sure they’re working. If not, make sure all the connections are secure. Because voltage dissipates, the bulbs might seem to dim a bit the farther they are from your house. If you find yourself wanting brighter lights, replace the cable with a higher-voltage model.

    • Step 7: Install Fixtures
      light fixture

      Once you’re sure all lights are working, it’s time to plant the fixtures firmly into the ground. Use your rubber mallet to gently tap the fixtures into place. Using a shovel, dig 3" furrows for the cable to run from fixture to fixture. Lay the cable inside the furrows and re-cover securely with soil and mulch, where applicable.

      Helpful Tip

      Make sure the cables are completely buried to prevent any tripping hazards or accidents with the mower.

      Congratulations! By adding outdoor lighting, your landscaping now looks as great at night as it does by day. You’ve also added some security to your yard, all while conserving energy.

  • Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.

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