Installing Landscape Lighting You’ll Love, Part 1

Floodlights? Two words. Ug. Ly.

Floodlights are for theater plays, lighthouses, and prison yards, but they sure don’t flatter your home.

What you really want is landscape lighting, because landscape lighting:

  • is low voltage so it’s safe to use.
  • is easy to install.
  • accents the plants and features you want highlighted.
  • improves safety.
  • flatters your landscape so it looks even more beautiful.
  • offers you all kinds of choices.
  • can include floodlights (if needed and you don’t mind the ug-ly).

Before we get to what you need to do to install your landscape lighting, let’s talk tips! Yes, tips with an exclamation point. They can be very helpful and exciting.

  • Avoid over-lighting. Outdoor lights look best as subtle accents.
  • Install lights where they won’t be easily damaged by plows, shovels, or lawn mowers.
  • Call 811 before you dig to figure out where the underground wires and pipes are.

First step? Determine what kind of lights you need.

There are all kinds of different options for different needs and purposes. There are waterproof lights for ponds. Trailing lights for walkways. Lights you can safely place in plants. Lights you put in a tree that looks like moonlight (they’re actually pretty cool). There are also floodlights (see?) for light taller trees, buildings and other large elements.

Decide if you want to light the path or the path and the features around it (plants, rocks, ceramic deer you hate, stuff like that). If it’s both, you’ll need taller light poles. Place a 20-watt halogen bulb at 24 inches high every 10 feet to illuminate the path and features around it.

Buy the lights and stuff you need.

Here, you have a lot of choices.

When it comes to the light bulbs, halogen bulbs last longer. They also give you a whiter, more focused beam, almost like natural sunlight.

Solar lights need direct sun, so aren’t the most reliable, but they don’t require wiring. You can position them where you want them (and where they get the most light). They’re also cheaper.

You can spend about as much money as you want, too. You could get those incredibly inexpensive lights you see advertised in Sunday magazines… or you could buy systems where each light is over $100. Whichever you choose, you get what you pay for. Buy a larger transformer than you need, so you can add lights later if you want. If you’re installing 400 watts of lights, buy a 600-watt transformer.

Install the lights.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” you say, “Can I actually install landscape lighting?” Maybe. You just need to know a little math, follow a few design tips, and have the right lights and tools for the job. One caveat. If you need to install an outdoor GFCI outlet, you probably want to hire a pro to do that.

Ultimately, however, If you have the time, talents and tools, you can install your own landscape lighting. We’ll take you through those steps in the next blog.


The general knowledge and advice in this blog is designed to give you a little background information about your electrical system and may not be complete or contain minor errors.  Early Bird Electric is not responsible for any consequences if you attempt to fix your electrical problem using this information. It’s always a good idea to hire a local, licensed electrician like Early Bird Electric to safely and professionally handle the job.