If you plan to install LED pathway lighting in your front yard, you can do this project without the help of a professional electrician. With the right tools and a little bit of patience, you can install your landscape lighting all by yourself. Here are the basic things you need to know:
Create a Plan
Having a plan for your outdoor lighting project is very important. Before you start, plot the placement of each landscape path lighting fixture on paper. To create an inviting layout that does not resemble an airport runway, you will want to either alternate and stagger the LED pathway lights to the right and left of the walk, or position all of them on one side. The first light fixture should be at least 10 feet away from the transformer. The rest would be 8 to 10 feet apart. Be sure to mark their locations.
Before you start digging, call 811 to make sure it’s okay for you to dig. 811 is a free service that gets you connected to your local One Call Center. Just inform the operator where you are planning to dig, what type of work you will be doing, and they will notify the affected local utilities companies. Within a few days, they will send a locator to mark the approximate location of your underground lines, pipes, and cables, so you know exactly what’s below and will be able to dig safely.
Lay out the light fixtures and wires according to the plan you created. Use a 10-gauge wire for the main lines from the transformer to where the lights begin, then switch to a 12-gauge wire between the lights. The higher gauge wire is needed to decrease voltage drop, create a more even voltage dispersion, and get the best out of all the lights on your line. With a shovel, bury the wires across your lawn by digging a hole into the ground and folding back the sod. Bury the wires at least 6 inches deep. This prevents any damage when you aerate the lawn.
Mount the transformer on a post located near your landscape plan and an outdoor ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). This allows you to easily change the orientation of the photocell. Strip off ¾ inch of insulation on the 10-gauge wires. Twist the strands together then attach the wires to the transformer terminals. Since the transformer will always be plugged in, it is ideal to replace the standard outlet cover with a weatherproof cover to protect your transformer.
Secure the Bases
The ground stakes that come with most LED pathway lighting kits are not long enough to keep the light fixtures vertical over time, so use plastic pipes instead for the bases if your path lights are top-heavy. Plastic pipes as base makes the light more securely attached to the ground, provides covering for your wires, and makes it possible for you to make extensions from ½ inch copper pipe. Make sure you do not to glue any of the plastic parts together.
Use weatherproof with wire connectors with a shield on the bottom and a blob of sealant inside to connect the wires. If your lights came with press-on connections, cut these off, strip off 1/2 inch of insulation, and install the connectors to protect the wires and make them last longer.
Dig a hole that is deep enough to level with the top of the PVC pipe base. Level the light pole then pack in soil around the base.
Test each pathway light fixture for its voltage level with a digital voltage meter. If you get really low readings, there could either be too many lights on a circuit or there is a bad connection somewhere in the system. Make minor voltage adjustments using the voltage controls on the transformer.