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A DIY Guide to Installing Outdoor Landscape Lighting

Outdoor landscape lighting is a great way to add instant curb appeal to your home. A few well-placed lights can transform your once dark backyard into an inviting outdoor entertainment area. It can accent yard and garden features, and provide safety lighting around paths, stairs and seating areas. Low voltage lighting, especially LED, is safe and relatively easy to install.

Gather required materials and tools

Materials:

#10 gauge outdoor wire

#12 gauge outdoor wire

1-1/2 in. x 12-in. PVC pipe

1-1/2-in. PVC cap with ½-in. female thread

½-in. copper pipe

For each ground light: 1-1/2-in. PVC coupler with ½-in. tee for wire opening

Lights

One box of weatherproof wire connectors

Transformer

Two ½-in. sweat-to thread copper adapters

Tools:

Extension ladder

Garden rake

Level

Posthole digger

Safety glasses

Voltage tester

Wire stripper/cutter

Wrench setvolt me

Volt meter

A garden spade

Aluminum tent stakes.

Design it first, then buy it:

A successful low voltage outdoor lighting plan requires selecting the right fixtures, then placing and wiring them correctly. Use waterproof pond lights for illuminating pools, fountains and other water features; offset path lights for lighting walkways; cone lights for highlighting both walkways and the surrounding plants; tree-mounted spotlights for simulating moonlight; and flood lights for illuminating trees, buildings and other large elements.

Walk into any home or garden center and you’ll most certainly see a wide array of outdoor low voltage lighting to consider. You can buy individual lights or prepackaged sets, plastic or metal varieties, and moon lights that shine down from trees or up from ponds. You can choose from halogen or LED lighting, LED bulbs are a little more expensive up front, but last much longer than halogen bulbs. LED lighting also does not generate heat like halogen, which reduces the fire risk in dry conditions.

As you design and shop for your lights, keep in mind:

Buy a larger transformer than you’ll initially need so you can add lights later as your landscape ideas expand.

Avoid over lighting. Outdoor lights look best when used as tasteful accents, not a mini football stadium. If you flood sitting areas with bright light it will be distracting and unappealing.

When lighting a path, decide whether you want to light only the path or both the path and the features around it. As a rule, the broader the field you want to light, the higher the light pole you’ll need.

Install lights where they won’t be easily damaged by plows or shovels. Remember, too, that the plants you illuminate will go through seasonal changes. Not all plants must be evergreens, some plants such as hydrangea, dogwoods and sumac are intriguing lit up even when leafless. 

Outdoor Lights Buying Guide

Deck & Patio Lights

Illuminate your backyard with patio and decking lights. These lights include decorative lanterns, solar powered post lights, deck step lights, and more.

String Lights

Perfect for any backyard party, string lights will give your backyard an elegant ambiance. They are available in many shapes including Edison bulbs, globes, and more.

Security & Flood Lights

Keep your home safe with security lights. Usually plugged into a timer or motion sensor, installing security or flood lights to the front of your home can help ward off any unwanted visitors.

Landscape Lighting

Brighten up your gorgeous landscape with lighting! Landscape lighting will add shape to your pathways and will allow your garden to shine.

Outdoor Flush Mount Lights

Flush mount lights are the perfect way to welcome your guests. Installed to the ceiling of your front porch, these lights are available in a variety of colours, materials, and styles.

Outdoor Wall Lights

Outdoor wall lighting is a standard option on front porches or on either side of the garage. You can get them in many styles including a retro-style lantern, or a modern sleek LED fixture.

What are UL Ratings?

The UL mark on a light fixture indicates its rating based on dry, damp, and wet locations.

UL Listed for Damp Locations: Marked as “suitable for damp locations,” these light fixtures can be installed in outdoor locations that are periodically subject to condensation or moisture, such as a covered porch or patio.

UL Listed for Wet Locations: Light fixtures marked with “suitable for wet locations” are safe to use in areas where the electrical components of the fixture may encounter water or other liquids. Ideal outdoor locations for these lights include pergolas, gazebos, exterior walls, uncovered porches and patios, decks, and walkways.

Outdoor lighting buying guide

The best lights for patios & backyards

There’s nothing like the warm, inviting ambiance of a well-lit outdoor area. Lighting is that special design component that truly adds a magical touch to your outdoor space. Best of all, these fixtures allow you to enjoy your outdoor living space longer, illuminating your backyard as the sun sets. To help you pick the right combination of outdoor lighting for your home, we’ve put together this quick outdoor lighting guide

Function

First and foremost, outdoor lighting should be a functional way to make your outdoor space safe and livable. For example, a winding path should include some path lights (or landscape lights) and an outdoor staircase should be well lit as well.

Highlights

Outdoor lighting can also be used to highlight standout features in your backyard or garden. For example, your favorite tree can be brought to life with low, upward facing lighting or a fountain can be illuminated for a show-stopping effect.

Atmosphere

Lastly, (but certainly not least), outdoor lighting is amazing for creating atmosphere. Whether you’re hosting an outdoor dinner party or simply enjoying long summer nights, outdoor light fixtures can add a soft glow, magical twinkle or bright light for the setting.

String Lights

String lights are the “jack-of-all-trades” of lights. These small (but mighty) beacons can be used practically anywhere. They can be strung around banisters and columns for a bold statement. They can create a star-inspired atmosphere when strung overhead. Or they can define a border by being hung around an entryway or door. Basically, you can’t go wrong with string lights. With various bulb sizes—smaller for a more twinkle-like effect and larger for more direct lighting—you can add that sparkle to any outdoor space.

Outdoor Lighting Tips, Tricks, and Considerations

When homeowners think about lighting a home, they may forget about the importance of outdoor lighting. The ability to see outdoors often focuses on visibility for the driveway and walkways, with security as a secondary concern. It is easy to overlook the fact that outdoor lighting factors heavily into a home’s curb appeal, especially at night or in seasons with short days. The trick lies in knowing the best way to light a home’s exterior property. There are plenty of options that homeowners can try, but there are also many ways to do it badly. Making mistakes in design or installation could make the home look worse instead of better.

As such, homeowners should investigate their options and the best ways to put them into action before buying products or attempting to install. With this information, they will know the most common lighting types available, best practices for installation based on the type of lighting, as well as common problems they should avoid. This will help them design outdoor lighting that provides ideal illumination in the most important areas, protects the home, showcases beautiful features and ensures a better space for spending time outside.

Types of Outdoor Lighting

Choosing outdoor lighting starts with an understanding of the various types. Many light fixtures may count as more than one type. In most cases, people should use a combination of lighting options—many homes in inman take advantage of multiple types of lighting, for instance. These lighting types offer a variety of ways to highlight:

large or small structures on the property

parts of the home’s exterior

walkways

driveways

landscaping

Spotlights

Spotlights offer plenty of light targeted in a specific direction. The amount of light these fixtures provide depends on the size and the strength of the bulb. Spotlights offer flexibility in that they can be pointed in virtually any direction. This allows homeowners to choose how much lighting they would prefer. For example, a large spotlight with a bright white light bulb and a 60-degree beam angle may be ideal to light a dark portion of the yard. By comparison, a spotlight with a softer color, fewer lumens, and a smaller beam angle of light may be preferable to call attention to smaller parts of the architecture or landscaping.

Flood Lights

Flood lighting is an exceptionally descriptive term. Flood lights are intended to flood the area with light. This is why they have a large beam angle, 60-120 degrees. They are most appropriate for areas like patios or driveways, which need a lot of lighting at night. Homeowners should be wary of trying to create a sense of daytime at night. If they use too much lighting, the area can take on an appearance that feels stark or cold. Most people do not use flood lights when they want a gentle ambiance, but there is a broad range of options between low lighting and something harsh.

Up/Downlights

Most lighting options require homeowners to position them either pointing upward or downward. Uplights and downlights can dramatically change the way structures and walkways look at night. Either option may help illuminate spaces between hedges and walls, making tighter spaces safer and easier to see. Most uplights and downlights could be called spotlights, given the shorter length of their beam angles.

How Much Does It Cost To Install Or Replace Outdoor Lighting?

Cost to Install Outdoor Lighting?

The national average cost of installing outdoor lighting is between $2,000 and $4,500. At the low end, a project that only includes incandescent path and deck lights costs from $2,000 to $3,000. A high-end installation that also includes designer, motion and solar-power lights costs between $5,000 and $6,000.

Outdoor lighting allows you to improve your home’s security while also adding style to its exterior. It’s particularly important when you have well-defined outdoor spaces like a patio or deck that serves as a natural gathering place for a large number of visitors. This guide shows you how to estimate the cost of your outdoor lighting project

Low-Voltage Landscape Lighting Installation Cost

The full retail price of low-voltage lighting is between $190 and $450, not including the transformer and wiring you would need for a new installation. They use a maximum of 15 watts of power and often less. These lights have die-cast aluminum fixtures and an anodized finish to prevent weathering.

Lamp Post Installation Cost

Professional contractors charge an average of $970 to install a lamp post and require about 13 hours of labor. Most of this cost is labor, so location is the primary cost factor. The cost also increases the further the lamppost is from the house, especially when the power lines are underground.

Cost to Install Outdoor Motion Sensor Lights

The national average cost of installing motion sensor lights is $370, assuming it’s a new installation. The low end is $220 if the installation site already has an electrical box. The upper end of the cost range is $550 for installations with smart LED lights and a smart-home controller.