Do you want to give your home’s exterior a custom, high-end look? Learn how to install outdoor lighting and provide a gorgeous, soft glow to your house! There are many brilliant ideas to upgrade your patio, you can get the best gazebos for your garden, and you can even build an outdoor kitchen and a garden room, but the cherry on the cake will always be garden lighting!
If you think that landscape lighting is a complex and expensive project to start, you should think twice! Installing outdoor lights is much easier and cheaper than you might think, and it can make a significant impact on your house after the sun goes down. We are here to give you all the top tips you need about lighting installation to light up your garden!
Table of Contents
Why outdoor lighting is important
Lighting to your outdoor space will not only increase your kerb appeal but has so much more to offer! Here are the top advantages it provides:
Security and safety
- When navigating your property during the night, darkness is not a friend. You can stumble and injure yourself if walkways and stairs are unlit. Post lights and lights in paths, walkways and stairways improve visibility and keep you and your guests safe.
- Not only that, but they can also help deter crime after dark! Floodlights fill in any shadows a trespasser could take advantage of. Using lights with motion sensors connected to the light switch will not overload your neighbourhood with light or burn up extra energy.
- You can create the impression you’re at home when you’re out of town, using timers to switch on security lights.
- You can control many security lights from your computer or phone when wired to smart home systems.
Ambience and character
- Accent lighting, like small spotlights, can enhance your home’s architectural beauty.
- String lights are perfect for nighttime events and entertaining.
- If you enjoy late-night swims, poolside lighting will make it even more special.
- Dazzling landscaping and garden installations can show off your property.
- You can set the perfect mood with ambient lighting for decks and patios.
- Outdoor decorative lights can give your home character, choosing between a variety of shapes and colours.
- You may use rope lights to accent handrails and stairs.
Types of outdoor lighting
They come in various types and styles. Keep on reading to find out which one best suits your taste and garden area! There are two main types of DIY lighting, each one of them requiring a different install method:
- Low voltage landscape lights: Low-voltage lighting systems use a simple plug-in device that lowers the regular voltage down to 12-volts from standard 120-volt. They offer better illumination than most solar light fixtures, and their installation is more manageable than with line-voltage systems, not requiring a building permit. A DIY installation is an option, and these systems are safe to work with and energy-efficient.
- Solar-powered landscape lights: This type of lights is powered by small photovoltaic cells. The only thing they need to recharge their built-in batteries is plenty of sunlight during the day. To work effectively, they need six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. They are the simplest to install since all you have to do is position the fixtures wherever you want them. It is better to use them as decorative lighting spots and not so much about improving your garden’s safety and security.
Lighting installation plan
Before you start your garden lights installation, there are a few things you should first consider. Planning right will save you a lot of time and money on the way!
Local building regulations
You should know that lighting installation outdoors is classed as notifiable electrical work under the Part P of the Building Regulations, so contact your local authority’s building control department for processing requests needed. It is also common to require buildings to be as energy-efficient as possible.
Minor domestic light fittings are excused from planning controls. Nevertheless, you should ensure that light’s intensity and direction do not disturb others in your neighbourhood.
Also, make sure your property is not a listed building. If it is, you should consult the Local Planning Authority.
There are certain safety precautions you should follow when you’re thinking about installing lighting in your outdoor space. Here’s what you should look after:
- All outside sockets must be RCD protected for safety. RCDs work by switching off the flow of electricity when a flex or cable is cut.
- To avoid damage from garden tools, all underground cables must be buried at a sufficient depth.
- All cabling you are going to use should be suitable for installation outside.
- If your decorative lights plugged into an outdoor socket are not waterproof, you should take them inside after use.
- Use a voltage tester for lighting circuits. You should test each circuit to check they are safe to work with before you begin.
- Make sure the mains power circuits are switched off before you start working on your lighting.
Landscape lighting overview
- Get an overview before starting your project.
- Create a sketch of your property after measuring its accurate dimensions.
- Consider which areas need the most lighting.
- Determine the type of lighting you need. Consider safety, beauty, security, economy and your lifestyle.
- Mark where you’ll place each fixture.
- Determine the light direction for each light point.
- Select the proper voltage for your lighting.
- You can use small flags or pencils to mark each fixture’s approximate position in the landscape.
- If you are working with a low voltage system, first set its location and determine wire runs.
Step-by-step guide to installing landscape lighting
The proper lighting can enhance the features in your yard and provide security. You can always hire a qualified electrician to complete the installation, but if you have the right equipment and follow the right steps, you can make it a DIY project. Find here a complete step-by-step guide to help you complete your project!
How to install low-voltage lighting
Most lighting systems include a transformer that is plugged into an outdoor-rated GFCI electrical outlet. It reduces the 120-volt household current to 12-volts.
What You Will Need
- Tape measure
- Cordless drill
- Cordless screwdriver
- Lighting wire
- Waterproof wire metal conduit connectors
- Wire strippers
- Wire cutters
- Electrical tape
- A pair of pliers
Step 1: Measure the length of the area
To ensure you have all the wire you need, measure the area from the source to where the lighting will stop. Choose a wire that can handle the wattage.
Step 2: Turn off the power
Turn off the power from the circuit breaker for the area where you will be working. Test that the power is off before moving on.
Step 3: Mount the transformer
Mount it next to the GFCI outlet on the exterior of your home. It should be at least 30cm above the ground, and you may need to drill a hole to attach it to your house’s side. Correctly wire yours, using the directions that are given.
Step 4: Lay the cable
Lay down the cable, where you will place the lights. The cable should lie at least 15 cm away from the pathway. Mark where you want to put the lights along the cable, using the light’s stakes.
Step 5: Connect the lights
- Following the manufacturer’s instructions, connect the lights to the cable. You will probably need to cut the cord, strip off a few cm of the cable covering, and twist the cable and the light’s wires together.
- Then, cap it with a waterproof wire connector and wrap the connectors with electrical tape. Each light will have one cable that leads to the light and one that leads away from the light. Both of them need to be connected and topped with wire caps to allow the electricity to continue flowing to the next light.
- Some lights come with two connection points so that you can use these instead. Place the two halves hanging from the light fixture around the cable. Pinch them together so the prongs within will pierce the cable and touch the wires inside.
Step 6: Dig a trench for the cable
Dig a 15 cm trench next to where you laid the cable. Test the lights to make sure they work before burying the cable. Turn on the power at the circuit breaker to see if the lights are working. Then, you can bury the cable and push the lights into place.
How to install solar landscape lighting
Solar lighting offers you convenient installation without having to worry about wiring. Since these lights don’t rely on a power outlet, you can place them anywhere with plenty of sunlight.
- Plan your fixture layout by placing solar lights where they will receive at least six to eight hours per day of bright sunlight.
- If you plan for pathway lights, make sure to edge your walkway or trim back foliage in other areas where you may want to add solar lighting.
- Layout the lights along the pathway using a tape measure. Be sure your line is less than 15cm from the edge of the path for the light to illuminate it properly at night.
- Check the instructions for suggested spacing and temporarily place each light where it will go.
- Remove the cover tag over the solar battery of each light.
- Place the light top into the support and then attach the light stake to the support’s bottom.
- Expose the solar lights to full sun for 12 to 14 hours to fully charge the battery before you start with the installation.
- If the ground you are going to use for the lights is hard or dry, lightly water the soil. Let it soak for a few hours.
- Drive the fixtures’ stakes into the ground and make sure they remain plumb. Don’t force them into the ground, as this might damage the stakes.
Tips: Most solar lights install in generally the same fashion, but you should follow all manufacturer’s instructions for your choice of solar landscape light. Also, you can use a clear silicone-based caulk and a caulk gun to seal the light’s top and sides, to stop any moisture from getting in.
How to maintain your outdoor lighting
Extend the life of your lights and keep your system functioning well with proper cleaning and maintenance. To avoid more expensive repairs later, there are some tasks you should perform once or twice a year or as needed. Wondering what the basics for lighting maintenance are? Here is a list to help you out! Keep in mind to disconnect your lights from the power source before cleaning or performing maintenance tasks. Also, to learn about specific maintenance requirements, check your lights’ manufacturer’s instructions or talk to a professional.
1. Invest in the right lights
While you are planning for your project, keep in mind that they will be exposed to heat, rain, cold, wind and debris, among other things. These elements can damage your outdoor fixtures, so it is important to choose durable, reliable, and robust lights.
These days you can find a different light for almost any garden feature. There are fountain and pond lights, pathway and garden lights, bollard and post lights, outdoor step lights, pillar mount lights, ground and deck lights, porch and under eave lights, wall lights. Pick the ones that are most suited for your intended usage.
2. Invest in reliable light cover
Outdoor lights are exposed to the elements. No matter how small they are or where you place them, debris, weather, and other natural hazards can damage your outdoor fixtures. Choosing and installing a reliable light cover, depending on the type of light you need it for, is very important.
Generally, you want a fixture that encloses the appliance’s sensitive components but is not making them inaccessible or blocking out the light. For example, the ideal cover for porch lights will be translucent glass with a metal frame. This will cover all sides of the light bulb but open easily enough to take the bulb out to replace it.
3. Cover and secure cables
You should never leave electrical wires exposed, especially when they are outdoors. You should protect and cover supply cables, and keep them out of the way of usual traffic. If you have pets or young children at home, secure the wires at a place, they cannot reach them easily.
4. Cut back plants, shrubs and trees
Avoid damage to your fixtures and allow for proper illumination by cutting back any plants and branches too close to the lights. Clearing these obstructions will also help you with other cleaning and maintenance tasks.
5. Remove debris from features
You should remove any debris from your lights, including dirt, mud, fallen leaves or even debris left from insects. Your outdoor living area will look cleaner, and you will improve illumination and lengthen the life of your fixtures.
6. Check lights for damage
Check all your lighting fixtures for corrosion, broken lenses, dented metal, or any other damage. You may need to replace some of your fixtures or order some new parts if you find any damage.
7. Replace the bulbs
If you have LED lighting, there is no need to change any bulbs. However, if you want your LEDs to shine brighter or have older lighting styles, you may occasionally need to replace some bulbs.
8. Clean components and glass lenses
Clean the light fixtures starting with any metal or plastic components. Use a soft rag and soapy water to do so. If you need to use stronger substances, be careful not to damage the metal. You may provide better protection from the elements by applying a wax coat on some metals once or twice a year.
Once the plastic and metal components are clean, it is time to clean the glass lenses. Use soapy water and a soft cloth. In case you need a stronger solution, you can use CLR and a Brillo pad.
9. Check and adjust fixture positions.
Check the positions of your fixtures to make sure they are illuminating your outdoor areas as desired. If they don’t, you can move or adjust some of them. For example, a pet could have replaced a garden light, or some highlighted trees may have grown, and lightning needs some changes.
10. Use timers for your lights
Ensure your lights are not on when you don’t need them by setting them on a timer. You can use the timer, so all or only some of your lights will all come on as soon as it begins to get dark and turn off when it starts to get light.
Outdoor lighting is a simple improvement that can make a huge difference in how your home looks after sunset. Not only it illuminates the area, but it also provides ambience and decor! The process of installing yours can be difficult and tricky for someone who has never done it before. But don’t worry; it’s not an impossible task, and if you follow our guide and steps, you’ll see that it is a pretty straightforward process!