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Installing Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

How do I choose which lights I need?

You need to determine which outdoor lights are right for you. Walk around your property, look outside your windows and entrances. Think about mood, safety, glare and your neighbours. Balancing light and and subtlety is very important as well as highlighting features of your landscape.

Why would I choose low valtage lights for my landscape design?

Low voltage lights (normally 12V) are easy to install, the wiring can be set just below the ground level, they are flexible, energy efficient and - most importantly - much safer than 240V lights.
Warning You can't just connect low voltage lights to your household current. You must drive them through a transformer.

How do I choose the right transformer for my low voltage lights?

Choosing a transformer for your landscape is dead easy so long as you follow these simple 3 steps:
Step 1. Add the wattage of all the lights. For example if you are planning to use five 20W lights then the total wattage is 100W.
Step 2. If you have cables running from the transformer, multiply the total wattage by 1.1 to allow for loss due to cable distance. In this case it would be 100 x 1.1 = 110W.
Step 3. Choose a transformer that has a wattage rating of roughly 20% more than what you need. In this case you would purchase a transformer rated at about 110 x 1.2 = 132W.
Tip Outdoor transfomers plug into your 240V household current, and drive your low voltage lights.
Tip Transformer wattages are often shown as Volt-Amps (VA).
Tip Your transformer's maximum rating should be at most double your total wattage. In this case your transformer should be 220W or less.
Tip The wattage of a light is determined by the globe that is installed in it, not by the rating of the light fitting.
Warning Your transformer's minimum rating should be your total wattage. NEVER connect lights whose total wattage exceeds your transformer's rating. In this case this means that the transformer's rating must be 110W or more.

What happens if my lights are too far away from the transformer?

If a light is too far from the transformer, then it may cause the light to become dim due to voltage drop. You can reduce this in three ways: by improving your wiring method, using heavier gauge cables or by installing a higher rated transformer.
Tip Make sure your connections are high quality across the entire circuit, as low quality connections will cause contact problems.
Warning The straight wiring method - also known as daisy chain - is the easiest and cheapest solution, where all your lights are connected directly to the transformer in a continuous chain. However this is the wiring method that will cause the furthest voltage drop across the chain, and so each light in the sequence will get progressively dimmer. You should try to avoid this method if possible.
Daisy Chain
Tip The Junction wiring method - also known as a hub - can reduce voltage drop. Here all the lights are connected to a central hub, which is then connected to the transformer. The hub should be be buried in a roughly central location to the lights but the lights do not need to be equidistant from the hub. The trick here is to ensure that the wire length between the hub and each light is the same, with any extra wire length buried near the fixture and never cut. This ensures even brightness in all the lights. The hub is suitable for circular drive ways or paths where dimming would be noticeable.
Hub
Tip The circular wiring method - known as a loop - connects the last light back to the transformer. The voltage drop occurs on both sides of the loop so will produce a more uniform light output.
Loop
Tip The split wiring method - also known as the T-junction - connects the lights by having two runs of cable out of a central point that are connected to a T-junction. This improves the voltage drop for lights that are further away.
T-Junction

Where should I install my transformer?

The best location is as far away from rain as possible but with access to your AC current. Good locations include the garage, shed or under a roof eve.