One of the most effective ways to improve your curb appeal is to install low voltage outdoor lighting. Not only does it give your house a high end look on the outside, it also makes your room look larger from the inside once the sun goes down. How? Lighting the outdoor spaces creates a visual extension to your indoor space at night, like adding additional rooms. And lets face it, if you spend any time in the yard after dark, lighting changes everything.  A lit landscape under the stars gives your home and garden a resort feel. (Been to Disneyworld? Lighting is everything!) And you can do this yourself! Follow along with our tutorial on how we did this, and learn how to install low voltage outdoor landscape lighting to enhance your home’s exterior. Make your outdoor space as special as your indoor space!

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


How to Install Outdoor Lighting – First Steps

Installing outdoor lighting is actually a lot easier than people think! Start at a landscape supply or home improvement store to buy everything you will need to install your outdoor lighting. Or of course Amazon. See supply list below.

First step : Plan out your lighting layout. Use a diagram or layout the main wire on the ground ahead of time to make sure you have the right lengths, and to plan out placement of each light. This is a good time to decide how far away from each subject (plant, wall, fence, etc…) you want to place each light, as the farther away from an object, the wider the beam will appear, but the dimmer the light. We wanted bright light and drama, so our lights are between 2-4 feet away from the intended subject, and pointed upward.

Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting Wiring Diagram

It’s a good idea to make a rough sketch or diagram of your wiring and light placement before you start buying all your low voltage garden lights and lighting supplies. Here’s our rough wiring diagram for our front, side and back yard. We figured out which plants and areas we wanted to light which then made it obvious where we needed to run our main wiring lines.

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


Supplies for DIY Outdoor Lighting Installation

What Gauge Wire for Landscape Lighting

Tip on choosing the gauge of low voltage landscape lighting wire – If your furthest point from the transformer is:

30-50 feet, use 16 gauge

50-75 feet, use 14 gauge

75-150 feet, use 12 Gauge

150-250, use 10 gauge

250-300 feet, use 8 gauge

Lots of choices on Amazon!

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


How To Install Outdoor Lighting

Place the low voltage light fixtures where you want them – We learned to leave more slack than you think, because when you join all the cables you need more excess. Start where your transformer is going to be, and lay out the main line going past the spots where each light will be connected, as below.

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


There are different methods for connecting your lights onto the main line, for instance crimp on quick connectors, but the experts say the best way to make sure they don’t fail is to use wire connectors. We strongly suggest you choose this type of connector. (See below) Make sure you get the wire connectors that are silicone filled and waterproof, like these we found at Lowes from Kichler.

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


Wherever there is a landscape light, cut the main feed cable, pull the ends apart about 6 inches down, and then strip 1/2 – 3/4 inch of the ends. You should now have 6 “ends”. Take one end from each of the three wires and twist the copper wire together. Make sure to twist the wire in the same direction as you are going to twist on the connector. For most people that is clockwise. Now twist on the connector until its as tight as possible. It’s similar to twisting on a cap on a bicycle tire tube. Silicone will leak out of the connectors, this is normal. This is what seals it against the weather. Repeat with the other 3 wires with another connector.

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


You should now have two connectors with three wires coming out of each. See photo below.

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


If you need to branch off your main line to go another direction, you can attach the branch off wire the same way as if you were connecting a lead wire from an individual lamp.

Now hammer in your stakes exactly where you wish your outdoor lighting to be. If the stakes are plastic like ours were, us a scrap piece of wood to prevent cracking the stakes. Remember, the depth you pound the stakes in will affect the height of the light once you install it.

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


Attach the low voltage lights to the stakes.

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


Make trenches and bury all your cable. If you have rock or mulch, it just needs to run underneath so that it isn’t exposed to the elements, or causes someone to trip. If you are laying your outdoor lighting cable under soil, use a square edge shovel to dig a trench 2-3 inches deep, then push the wire into the bottom of the trench and cover.

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


Attach the end of the main line to the transformer. We had a “multi tap” transformer, so we had two main lines to attach. You might only have one depending on the transformer you buy, and how extensive your outdoor lighting layout is. Tips on buying your transformer : Make sure you read the specs on your transformer to make sure you have enough total wattage for all the lights. Usually you just add up the total watts of all the lights you are installing, then add 20 percent. This keeps the transformer only working at 80% of maximum, which keeps it from being overtaxed. For instance, if you have (quantity-20)  5 watt lights, that adds up to 100 watts. Add 20% and that = (at least) a 120 watt transformer. This is another good reason to use LED lights, as they use far fewer watts than halogen.

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


Mount your transformer according to specs, usually at least 12 inches off the ground.

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


Low Voltage Lighting Installation Completed

So here are our finished low voltage outdoor lights… Such a difference! We love how they highlight our feature trees in the landscape, and add security to the yard as well.

Adjust your lights to the right position and angle at night, so you can see the whole effect. We used lights with a 2700 color temperature, which is a warm white. This is the most popular and also the most natural looking light. When choosing your lights, pay attention to beam patterns for different areas of the yard. We used 38 degree spots on our trees here.

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


On our plant wall we used 60 degree flood lights for a wider beam pattern. We love this softer pattern here because it really made our plant wall part of the outdoor room on the patio, and can be seen from our main living area indoors as well. See the tutorial on how we made this plant wall here!

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting


We actually had a lot of fun installing outdoor lighting all around our home. It’s so nice to drive up to our house at night now. Such a difference! Here’s a photo showing our front of house lighting positions. We used 38 degree spot lights here to light up specific plants.


On the house wall, here again we used the 38 degree spot for drama. (we had just planted the plants so they were small – obviously looks much better when the plants get bigger) You can either place your lights in front or behind your landscape plants, depending on the effect you are going for. Obviously placing  them in front  of your plants gives you a little more drama, but this is less effective if you have large shrubs that block a lot of the light path. We used light fixtures from ‘Volt Lighting‘ because we preferred them, but we also saw similar low voltage outdoor lighting at both Home Depot and Lowes.

How To Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting

Would you like to install outdoor lighting, DIY? We think you will also love our posts on 12 Inspiring Backyard Lighting Ideas and our own DIY Water Feature for Less than $30! Also check out DIY Light Fixtures you can make over at TBD!

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1 Comment

  1. Barb November 21, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    Great guide on installing low voltage lighting, thanks. We’ve spent a lot of time landscaping our property, and setting up the lighting is one of the last big things we need to do. We’re trying to avoid paying an arm and a leg for someone to do it for us, and instead want to do as much of it ourselves as we can. When we’re done, we’ll be sure to post a picture or two!


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