Yes, you can install low voltage outdoor lighting for less than $500. And, you don’t have to depend on an outdoor lighting kit if you don’t want to use one. The best thing about a low voltage outdoor lighting system is its flexibility. You can move lights
around as plants grow or if you need to change the lighting effect because you changed your landscaping plan. The cable can be buried and won’t harm children or pets who might accidentally cut or chew into the cable. This also means you can easily add on to your system if you spend a little time doing some planning on the front end. Here are some tips to help you get creative with your low voltage outdoor lighting design.
Establish Priorities for Your Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting
You probably can’t do all of the areas you want to do so what is most important to you? First should be your entryway if it is currently unlighted. Next priority should be the entrance to your driveway or sidewalk from the street. Don’t forget your house number to make it easy to see. If you can also combine these low voltage outdoor lighting priorities to include the decorative lighting of some planting beds and the walkway to your front door, then all the better.
Use some graph paper to draw out a plan for your low voltage outdoor lighting. It doesn’t have to be to scale. But do indicate your house, the locations of planting beds, the length of your driveway and sidewalk, and the location of outdoor electrical outlets. Visually committing your low voltage outdoor lighting plan to paper will make it easier for yourself and the sales person when you are ready to purchase the components for your outdoor lighting system.
Experiment With Your Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting Plan
Make sure the low voltage outdoor light you are considering is strong enough to enhance the feature you are trying to accentuate. In other words, make sure the light is not too dim or doesn’t create an unattractive shadow effect. A dim low voltage outdoor light may show off a featured plant with a beautiful glow but you wouldn’t want the same dim light by your driveway entrance.
Use a flashlight to determine what you need. Hold the flashlight different ways around the plant or other feature to see what direction and amount of light looks best. Are you wanting to see the effect from the street or from the house? Placement of the light will differ. Make sure the flashlight has a similar wattage to the low voltage outdoor light you are considering or your experimenting won’t be very helpful.
Basic Components of Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting
The basic components of a low voltage outdoor lighting system are simple. You’ll need the lights, the cable wire to connect between them, a connector that will connect each light to the cable, and the transformer, which ties everything together and is the go between for your lighting cable and your electrical outlet. If you want the low voltage outdoor lighting to come on automatically a timer and light sensor is needed.
A basic low voltage outdoor lighting kit can be found for as low as $250 at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Now, rest assured, you will want to add on to this kit or will need more cable or different lights. For that reason, you might want to select your components “a la carte.” That way, you won’t pay for low voltage outdoor lighting components that you don’t need or like. The most expensive component of your low voltage outdoor lighting system is the transformer. Transformers range in price from $55 to $250 depending on the wattage. Try as I might, I was never able to find one of these on clearance so this will probably be your most expensive purchase. To size your transformer add up the wattage of the lights you want and buy the next largest size. You will also need to consider the total length of the cable wire when buying a transformer. LED systems are available – great for low shrubs or lighting walks. Big trees require the brighter 12 volt systems with regular bulbs.
Purchase Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting on Sale
Home Depot or Lowe’s are great for purchasing low voltage outdoor lights on sale. You should check the lighting department every time you go to these stores. Buy multiples when you find a good sale on attractive low voltage outdoor lighting that will illuminate the sidewalk, for instance. For up-lights and other low voltage outdoor lights that are highlighting bushes, it isn’t necessary to get a perfect match since much of the light fixture will be hidden by the shrubbery, anyway. Which takes me to the next point and one of the best ways to save money.
Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting Designs – No Need for the Perfect Match
When you go to the store you can easily get caught up in purchasing a matching set of low voltage outdoor lighting – either in a kit or piece by piece. But, wait a minute. Does it have to match? Other than sticking to a single color, it really doesn’t have to match. We’ve all seen the low-voltage lights “out-of-a-box” kits running along the sidewalk. Do they work? Yes. Do they light the sidewalk? Yes. Do they look a little like airport runway lights? Sometimes, they certainly do. Creatively mix and match your low voltage outdoor lighting to produce a more interesting effect.
Personal experience in installing low voltage outdoor lighting features at two homes.
Joe Provey, Low-Voltage Outdoor Lighting the Easy Way, Popular Mechanics