Planning for Low Voltage Garden Lighting
Low voltage lighting is a safe and easy alternative to more traditional garden lighting fixtures. These systems take the standard 120 volt current and reduce it to 12 volts, making the wiring safer to install and less of a danger to pets and children. Additionally, this allows you to handle the wires and fixtures while lit to test positions in your garden to find the most effective lighting design for your space.
Unlike other lighting kits, low voltage lighting does take some planning because of the use of a transformer (much like the box on laptop cables) that converts a high electrical current into a low one. This essentially reduces a dangerous voltage to one that is safe in case the electrical wire is exposed and touched.
A prepared kit can simplify the process, but it may be inappropriate for your garden. Consider designing your own system instead. To begin with, you’ll need a standard outlet outside your home to connect the transformer to; if you don’t have one you can connect the transformer inside, but you’ll need one that is intended for indoor use.
Before purchasing a transformer, you’ll need to determine the number of lighting fixtures that you’ll use in your garden. Regardless of the style, each one of these fixtures and the distance needed to wire them to the transformer will affect the transformer to purchase. Once you have decided on your fixture, add up the wattage of the fixtures and acquire a transformer that is more than the total wattage (for example, 6 lights at 30 watts should use at least a 200 watt transformer). This is to surely cover the necessary wattage of your lights and to allow expansion of your design scheme later if desired.
The next thing to consider is how you’re going to wire your lighting system. Again, the wattage of your fixtures needs to be considered. The general rule is no more than 100 watts on a 100 ft of cable. If you need more than this to light your garden well, you’ll need to purchase more than one transformer. A good way to test this is with rope before making any investments in wire or transformers. Keep in mind that the wires will most likely require extra length in order to reduce their appearance in your garden and to prevent the lines from being taught at any point. Also, cables will not bend as easily as rope so plan your layout accordingly.
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