Brighten your deck or landscape for nighttime use with a low-voltage lighting system that's safe for outdoors.
Think quality when buying the basics of your low-voltage lighting system, and you'll be rewarded with a system that stands up to the elements. Look for hard-to-find items in electrical supply stores. Here are the basics you'll need.
Determine the size transformer you need by counting the total number of lamps in your lighting plan and multiplying that number by the wattage of each lamp. Buy a transformer that's rated to carry 20 to 25 percent more than your total wattage. For example, if you have twelve 20-watt lamps in your plan, your total wattage is 240. Add a 20 to 25 percent excess to increase the wattage by 48 to 60 watts. You would need a 300-watt transformer.
Buy a transformer based on its continuous wattage. For example, a transformer that runs 300 watts continuously may be rated as high as 400 watts, but you'll be happier with its output if you purchase it for a system that requires slightly less than 300 watts.
Buy a transformer that has multiple taps: 12, 13, and 14 volts. That allows you to tap onto the 13- or 14-volt lines if you have a long run; the higher capacity improves the flow of electricity through the cable and ensures bright lights at the end of a long run. Tap onto the 12-volt line for close-in lighting. Splitting up the electrical lines among taps ensures that the lamps get more even voltage and the front lamp doesn't burn up. Although you may tap into more than one line, it's important that the total wattage on all cables does not exceed the transformer's rated wattage.
Tier lighting costs $9 to $20 per unit. Solar versions range from $13 to $30. Entrance lights will make a statement from $10 to $20 per unit. Floodlamps that illuminate a large area will cost between $33 to $63 dollars. It's also not a bad idea to install small floodlights triggered by a motion detector. These vary in price from $11 to $25. This same per-unit price range applies to well and mushroom lights.