LightQuest: Your Journey To Legendary Lighting

Do I Need A Transformer For Outdoor Lighting?

To answer this question, we would need some additional information. If you are looking to install a low voltage or 12-volt landscape lighting, then the answer is yes. We have come across many 120-volt landscape lighting systems in our years in business. Most of them are old and a little dangerous. Let me explain, just about every system we have looked at has had water in the electrical boxes that hold the fixture. I don’t know about you, but whenever I see 120-volt electric wires in the water it makes me leery. These older systems are usually controlled by a yellow dial timer in your basement or garage. These systems are not adjustable as the wires are in rigid pipes below the ground so you cannot move the fixtures very easily. The only thing Mike’s Landscape Lighting will do with those systems is to disconnect the power from the source, remove the fixtures, and install a new low voltage landscape lighting system. 

Transformers and Landscape Lighting

Now we can talk about transformers! (No… we don’t mean Optimus Prime. ) Transformers reduce the power coming into the transformer (usually 120-volt) down to a desired lower voltage (usually 12-volt). Our transformers perform a 10 to 1 reduction of power. What are the benefits of using a transformer to reduce the power to 12-volt for outdoor lighting? First and foremost, it is a safer and lower voltage to run in your yard to the landscape lighting. Second, a 12-volt landscape lighting system is more flexible for moving and adding fixtures in the future. Third, it is easier to install with little or no damage to your yard to bury wires and set fixtures. 

With the information above, using a transformer to power your landscape lighting system is truly the best way to go. What transformer do you need? Transformers come in many different sizes based on how many watts a transformer can handle. If the transformer can handle 100 watts you never want to use more than 80% (80 watts) of the transformer. How do you figure out how many watts you are using? You need to figure out how many watts each fixture is using (they all could be different) and add up the total number of watts. Remember the 80% rule and always account for future needs. Now that you have the size of the transformer you need, there are other factors to consider. Most commercial-grade transformers are multi-tap transformers. A multi-tap transformer will have voltage taps from 12-volt to 15-volt, some will even go up to 20-volt. Transformers you see in the big box stores will usually only have a 12-volt tap to hook up lights. The higher the voltage connections will come in handy if you have a long run of wire to be sure you still have 12 volts of power at the light fixture. LEDs do not like to go far below 12 volts, or they may turn into a strobe light, you don’t want your yard to look like an 80’s disco club, do you?

The last thing you will need to consider when choosing a transformer is how do you want to control the lights to turn on and off. There are many options to do this, a simple mechanical timer, an astronomical timer, a simple on and off switch, an app on your phone, or a photocell. Each of the options has both pros and cons, but your lighting designer from Mike’s Landscape Lighting will be able to discuss all those with you. Contact us today to schedule your landscape lighting consultation appointment!

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