Landscape lighting without experts

Brittany, aka PrettyHandyGirl
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Adding lighting to your landscaping is like adding jewelry to your home's exterior. Pathway lights illuminate your sidewalk to welcome your guests. Spotlights aimed up at the canopy of a tree will showcase its beauty. And lights placed inside your planting beds set the mood and reveal beautiful colors after dark. Plus, a well-lit house is a deterrent to thieves.

Landscape lights come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most path lights spike into the ground and have a top hat that directs the lighting downward. Innovation has brought new path lights that are actual paver bricks that illuminate at night. Spotlights are adjustable to aim up at a tree or the side of your house. There are also spotlights disguised to look like a rock from the back side.

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Solar vs. Low-Voltage:

Solar landscape lights are the easiest to install because you literally stick them into the ground and they charge themselves with the sun's rays. They typically cost less than traditional low-voltage lighting. The downside to solar lighting is that the light emitted is usually dim, and after a while the battery won't hold a charge anymore.

The alternative to solar lighting is low-voltage landscape lights. It is a misconception that you need to hire an electrician to install low-voltage wired lighting. This is a project that any homeowner can handle, no electrical experience necessary.

Low-voltage lighting consists of three parts: a transformer, low-voltage wire, and the light fixtures. Before making your purchases, plan the layout of your lighting. Avoid runway style lighting along a path (lights symmetrically lined up on either side of the path.) Stagger lighting for more visual interest and natural looking light coverage.

Once you have a plan, add up the total number of light fixtures. Next determine the wattage of the bulb for each fixture. Add up all the watts. Purchase a transformer that can handle more than the total of the wattage needed. Purchase wiring that matches your transformer's specifications. To make your life easier, choose a transformer that has a dusk and dawn (photo cell) sensor.

It is a good idea (but not necessary) to purchase all your parts from the same manufacturer. This should ensure that they will work in conjunction with one another.

Install the transformer on the wall of your home next to a GFCI outlet. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for mounting height and wiring connections.

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Then, dig a trench to bury your wiring 12 - 18" deep in the ground. Loop the wires around each light fixture to give some slack in the wiring should someone trip or knock the light fixture loose.

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The light fixtures have a simple clamp style connector that puts a small hole into the wire insulation and connects prongs into the wire. After all connections are made, test your landscape lights. Should any lights fail to work after completing the installation, check that the connectors are tightened properly onto the wire.

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If you still have a stubborn light, you may have a faulty light fixture. Try a new bulb, and if all else fails, replace the light fixture.

Within a few hours you can complete this simple DIY landscaping project.

The next time dark rolls in, sit outside and enjoy the beauty of your mood lit yard. And be sure to congratulate yourself on the money you saved from not hiring an electrician.

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Brittany writes for her blog,