Planning a successful landscape lighting setup takes time, and part of that is ensuring your low voltage lighting transformers, cable, and wire connectors all work in harmony.
In this article, we will discuss some of the most important aspects of correctly wiring low voltage landscape lighting, including:
- What is a low voltage lighting cable?
- How to choose a low voltage lighting transformer
- How to determine a cable gauge
- Cable compatibility with in-lite lighting fixtures
- Finishing low voltage cable ends
So, let’s get into it!
What Makes Low Voltage Lighting Cable Different?
Unlike household lights, low voltage landscape lights operate on 12-volts instead of 120-volts. To install low voltage fixtures, the voltage from the house needs to be stepped down to 12 volts by a low voltage transformer. The landscape lighting cables then connect the transformer to the fixtures in order to power the lighting system.
A low voltage landscape lighting cable is made of multiple strands of copper wire that are bonded together. A 120-volt line voltage cable, on the other hand, is a single strand wire.
Low voltage cable comes in different sizes, referred to as gauges, depending on what the use for the lighting the requirements are different. The gauge refers to the diameter of the bundle of strands, with the smaller number being a larger wire that is required.
Landscape lighting cable is often listed as 12/2 or 10/2. The number 2, in this case, does not indicate half, but rather represents the number of conductors (which is the number of wires inside the outer insulation). Paying close attention to this indicator when supplying the right number of conductors is critical.
When sourcing professional landscape lighting supplies, make sure the cable is direct burial landscape lighting wire from a reputable outdoor lighting manufacturer. This wire is made of special UV- and weather-resistant material that will withstand years of aboveground and belowground exposure.
Without direct burial landscape lighting wire, the connections won’t last and will need to be replaced often.
Professional Landscape Lighting Supplies: Choosing a Low Voltage Transformer
It’s important to pay close attention to the landscape lighting suppliers’ instructions on installation as it will guide you throughout the process. Here at Insider, we are recommending measuring the lights in volt amps due how it measures the potential energy that a light can pull. This energy pull that volt amps enables accounts for the 10% left in relation to calculating lights with watts.
To explain further, for example, if a light is 10 watts but 12-volt amps you will want to use 10% of a transformers energy when measuring the lighting in watts. We recommend doing this because there is a possibility that the light could spark a use in the energy consumption and pull more than 10 watts resulting putting your transforming in an over capacity and shorting out the system.
Since volt amps measure the potential energy that the lighting fixture could pull (for example, the 12-volt amps it could end up only running 10 watts all the while calculating that it is pulling more. This allows safety room in case of the fixtures spiking in energy consumption all at once, your lighting system will not shut down.
Determining Low Voltage Cable Gauge
Low voltage landscape wiring or electrical cable comes in several numerical gauges or sizes. A lower number means thicker wire and greater capacity to carry the power current for longer distances. Determining the distance and area of the space that you are working with for lighting is essential to start the installment process.
The further you get from the transformer and its power supply, the more resistance occurs in the circuit, which causes the voltage to decrease.
There are several gauge sizes that are used in landscape lighting with the most common being 10-gauge, 12-gauge, and 16-gauge wiring. To determine the correct gauge you require, you first need to figure out how many fixtures you are using and how much power they will consume in total. You can use the same figures you calculated when choosing a transformer to determine this amount.
Generally, LED outdoor lighting suppliers recommend you use a thicker wire such as 12 gauge for longer distances to prevent voltage drop. You can run a 12-gauge for about 100 feet without having issues with the voltage dropping when the total of volt amps of the fixtures on the wire are 100 amps or less.
When in doubt, our customer support team is always here to help you choose the best professional landscape lighting supplies for the job!
In-lite supplies the following types of cable that are compatible with all in-lite fixtures:
- 12/2-gauge cable in 246’ rolls
- 12/2-gauge cable in 429’ rolls
- 14/2-gauge cable in 132’ rolls
- 18/4-gauge extension cord in 3’, 6’, or 9’ lengths
Finishing Low Voltage Cable Ends
After you finish rolling out your low voltage cable, there are a couple ways you can end the cable safely.
You want to do this to prevent any moisture damage to the system. If water gets into your main line cable, it can cause issues to the transformer and the fixtures – so this part of the installation is very important!
To end your main line cable, you can:
Use our cable caps that come with the in-lite transformer. Split your cable a little at the end, add a drop of dielectric grease to both ends and finish it up by sliding in the cable caps that come with the in-lite transformer.
If you don't have these caps or they have been lost, use dielectric grease and electrical tape. The trick here is to split the cable right down the middle to separate the two copper sides, then cut one of the sides shorter to ensure that they don't touch.
Check out our article on how to finish off a low voltage cable for more information!
Ask Your Outdoor Lighting Supplier About Low Voltage Lighting Transformers, Cables, and Wire Connectors
It is important to choose a supplier that provides quality materials and products, along with genuine customer support. Entering the professional lighting industry requires an abundance of knowledge and we are here to help!
Low voltage lighting cable can be tricky, so make sure you reach out for further assistance if you’re ever unsure! Don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance in navigating the professional lighting systems and installation industry, as well as questions or concerns regarding low voltage lighting transformers and wire connections.