three examples of how low voltage lights are installed
Photo: Joshua McHugh
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Tips for DIYers

1. Where to buy? All the components you need are available online at sites such as Landscape Lightwerks or landscapelightingworld.com.

2. What skills do you need? Digging trenches and connecting fixtures and cables is straightforward stuff. But if you don't have a 20-amp GFCI-protected outdoor receptacle to plug the transformer into, hire a licensed electrician to install one.

3. What size transformer? To determine the watt-capacity of your transformer, add up the total wattage of all the lights you plan to install and multiply by 1.25.

4. How to control the lights? Timers are the most reliable automatic switches; the best ones adjust for seasonal changes in day length. Wireless keypads and fobs are convenient ways to manually control your lights and, unlike hardwired switches, don't require an electrician to install them.

5. How to ensure uniform brightness? Attaching fixtures to one cable in a daisy chain can overpower the lights closest to the transformer and leave the last few power-starved and dim. The solution: Run a 10-gauge cable out to a hub­­—a waterproof junction box­­—and branch out with equal lengths of 12-gauge cable. Keep the runs under 50 feet, and power should arrive at halogen fixtures in their sweet spot: 10.8 to 11.5 volts (for LEDs, 8 to 15 volts).

Low-voltage cables (left) must be buried at least 6 inches deep. A plastic spike (center) anchors the fixture (right) in the ground. Similar to shown: Frosted Globe walk light by Malibu with 11-watt bulb, about $20; Malibu Lighting
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