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How to Install Low Voltage Hardscape Lighting

When you are working to expand your range of services that your business offers, there is no better compliment to your hardscaping than outdoor lighting. From installing hardscape lighting to accent lights and path lights, outdoor lighting really helps to highlight your incredible work and other features in the landscape.

Not to mention that once you know how to install outdoor lighting, it is incredibly easy and will really push sales higher and higher. Along with that, it is a fairly easy up-sell to your customer while also adding incredible aesthetic value for the landscape that you are installing.

With so many benefits of adding installing low voltage hardscape lighting to your services, it is a no-brainer to learn it as soon as possible. This post is dedicated to helping you learn how to install hardscape lighting and sell it to your customer.

Why Install Landscape Lighting

As you add services to your business, you can improve your business’ revenue without having to spend more money and time on acquiring new customers. The more services you can offer the customers you already have or the customers that you are going to have, the more you can increase the revenue of each job that you install.

This is why learning more services is so important to your business. Landscaping lighting is one of those services that is fairly easy to install, not time consuming in its installation, drastically improves the aesthetic of a landscape, and will improve your revenue.

In this article, we are going to walk through the installation of landscape lighting including what you need to factor in to your installs and how to price it for yourself. By the end of this read, you will have the knowledge and skills to sell landscape lighting to your customers confidently.

Different Types of Landscape Lighting and Their Uses

There are a few different types of lighting that you will be installing as a landscaper. These all have different uses and it is important that you understand each of them in order to know which ones you should suggest to your customer so that you present yourself as an expert in outdoor lighting.

Knowing these three different types, as well as the kinds of light within these categories will set you up for success when you meet with your customer for the first time and when you create a design for your customer to show them what you can do with their outdoor landscape.

  1. Hardscape Lighting

  2. Hardscape lighting is used underneath wall and step caps. It is the perfect product to light up steps moving up a front or back entrance to allow your customers to be able to safely walk up the steps and find their footing in the dark. Not only that, but it also highlights the wonderful texture of the wall itself. Why install such a beautiful wall for your customer if they cannot even enjoy it in the night.

  3. Accent Lighting

  4. Accent lighting is used to show off trees, bushes, shrubs, and walls of a house. It serves as a spotlight to accentuate wonderful stonework on a house and the vegetation from short to tall. If your customer has invested a great deal into their softscaping, then perhaps this would be the perfect product for them to complete their landscape. It allows them to enjoy this softscape into the night. The light provided off of the vegetation will also provide light to the landscape itself.

  5. Path Lighting

  6. Path lighting is used to provide light to a walkway. These can add some much needed light to a long stretch of pathway. However, they have a tendency to need to be adjusted over time as they will move with the ground. An alternative to these lights would be ground lights. Though path lighting has a benefit of blocking the source of the light and not providing the glare that ground lights do.

  7. Ground Lighting

  8. These lights can be beautiful when properly installed. They are designed to sit in a drilled hole of interlocking stone or other materials. The downside to these lights is that they do not block out the source of the light. This causes a glare to those walking by them, kind of like looking into a flashlight. When you look into a flashlight, the surrounding area becomes darker. The purpose of outdoor lighting is that the light shines on the landscape or surrounding features to provide substantial lighting to a landscape and the source is blocked. These products do still have a use in certain landscapes.

    There are also many other lighting products available for outdoor use including wall lights, post lights, wash lights, and many others that you can offer your customers.

Installing Low Voltage Landscape Lighting

Low voltage lighting does not require you to have an electrician on the crew or have to subcontract this work out. It is something that is reasonably easy to learn how to install and it makes your work really stand out above the rest. There is nothing like a lit up landscape at night.

Choosing and Installing the Transformer

The choice of transformer depends on the amount of lights that you are installing and the amount of watts that those lights draw. The transformer should have the appropriate capacity for these lights, and ideally you will install a transformer that uses at least 50% of the transformer’s wattage capacity (if you only have a few lights, then get the smallest transformer). The lights should also not be more than 90% of your transformers capacity either.

Choose a transformer that is best suited for your customer and if possible choose a transformer that would allow your customer to expand their lighting system in the future should they choose to add more lights.

Install the transformer at least 12″ above grade (this varies from municipality to municipality so you should look into that for yourself. You can install it on a wall, panel, or pole away from any sprinkler systems and following the directions with the light sensor (some are installed facing the ground and others towards the sky) while also avoiding areas that will be affected by light that is not the sun.

Each manufacturer’s transformers have varying installation instructions when it comes to the cables. Some have connectors that get hooked into the transformer while others require you to strip the wire and connect it into the transformer by screwing a connector into the wire.

There are many different transformers to choose from, as well as accessories that can also be installed with your customer’s lighting system. From integrated or add on dial timers to programming lights to turn on and off at specific times while also being connected to Bluetooth so that you can control your lighting on your phone and separating different lights into separate zones so you can have some zones off and some zones on. There is so much that you can do with these outdoor lighting.

Choosing and Installing Wire

Choosing the right gauge wire depends on the amount of watts that your lighting draws while also taking into consideration the run of that wire. With a 12 gauge wire, you are going to get a further run than you would a 14 or 16 gauge wire. Though this run decreases the more lights are in that run and the wattage that these lights draw. It is best to double check with your manufacturer to see what they recommend for different runs and the amount of watts that your run is going to have.

The cable runs from the transformer to each light creating a closed circuit by either connecting to the last light of the run or by striping the wire at the very end of the run and adding a wire connector.

The wire should generally be a minimum of 6″ below grade (this varies from municipality to municipality and should be looked into before installation). Run your wire along the route that it will take and leave an extra 3′ of wire at each light fixture. This allows your customer to move the lights around the area should they ever decide to do so or for you to be able to fix the lights by snipping portions of the wire at the lights if the connection ever fails.

Installing Landscape Lighting

Connecting the wire to the lighting is a simple process. Again, some manufacturers have different processes so you should follow their steps if provided. However, this is as difficult as it is going to get.

With the 3′ excess wire that you left at each light fixture, you will snip the wire in the middle of that, pull apart both strands of wires, and strip the wire with your strippers approximately one inch to expose the wires. You will then connect one of the strands of wire from the transformer / previous light fixture, one of the strands that continues to the next light fixture, and one of the wires from the light fixture you are currently installing and twist on a wire connector until it is snug. The wire connector should be outdoor rated and silicon filled to create a waterproof seal.

You can continue this process with each light until the last light in the series. At this light you will have no more wires continuing the circuit. You will pull apart the wire from the previous fixture and connect one end to one end of the light fixture and the other end to the other end of the light fixture, twisting on the wire connectors.

It would help to test the connection at this point by plugging in the transformer and seeing if the lights turn on. If they do, you are good to bury the wire. If they do not, then you can test the connection of each of the lights. Start by double checking that you connected the correct wires in each of your light fixtures.

When testing a connection, if we have a spare transformer handy it is the first thing that we try. Disconnect the transformer and connect the new transformer to see if it was the transformer that was the problem. We also make sure that we are using the right transformer for the amount of lights that are on our run. Sometimes a customer will decide last minute to add more lights and we do not remember to compensate with a larger transformer.

You can then start at the first light in the run. Disconnect the wires and connect the light as if it is the last light in your run, only connecting the wire coming from the transformer to the light fixture and not continuing the run to the next light. Turn on the transformer and see if the light turns on. If it turns on, then you need to connect the wires back as they were initially so you can continue the run to the next light and test that light as you did with this one. Continue this process until you reach the end of the run or you find the problem.

In this process, you may need to cut the wires and re-strip them while also reconnecting them with new outdoor wire connectors. This is why it is so crucial to have 3′ of excess wire at each light fixture and to have some extra wire connectors on hand at all times.

How to Install Hardscape Lighting

Hardscape lighting is installed just as other landscape lighting would be. The only difference is that hardscape lighting is not installed in the ground, but in wall features to provide lighting for steps, seat walls, and the surrounding area. When properly installed, these lights make a statement and allow the texture of the walls to really pop at night while providing a safety factor allowing people to find their step in the dark of night.

Planning is crucial when installing hardscape lighting. You will definitely want to install this lighting and run the wires prior to installing walls. Your hardscape lighting for steps and walls can be glued with the same glue that adheres the caps to the wall after the lights have been connected to the wire and tested to make sure that they work. You may need to score the wall pieces in order to provide room for the wire to run into the wall, down the wall, and into the ground towards the transformer.

Selling Landscape Lighting to Your Customers

With all of this information that has been provided in this article, you will have gained all of the knowledge required to be able to answer any questions that your customer may ask of you when selling a landscape lighting job. Selling this to your customer is about being confident with your knowledge and presenting your customer with the best options that suit their needs.

Whether they are interested in path lighting or to accent lighting to highlight their trees or hardscape lighting to light up their steps and seat walls, you should familiarize yourself with the products that are offered for these uses. Choose a manufacturer that you feel you can stand behind their product whether that is because of their quality of build or the warranty that they offer their customers and learn as much about the handful of products that they offer for these different types of lighting. That way when your customer asks what is available based on their needs, you will be able to easily recommend a product for them.

There are two really good ways in which you can sell landscape lighting on a project. One way is by including it in a design. Landscape lighting is only done justice when the customer is able to see its effect at night. Generally you are likely not meeting your customer late at night. However, there is design software available that allows you to change the design to night time to show off the projected effect of the landscape lighting on the project you have designed. This really helps your customer visualize the value of landscape lighting in the design. Even if my customer does not ask for landscape lighting in the project, I will still include it in the design to help them see what their landscape would look like lit up.

Another good way to sell landscape lighting is to always have some products with you whenever you consult with a customer. Bring an already wired transformer with some accent lights and possibly some hardscape lighting. You can then leave these with your customer for them to play around with at night. They can see the difference that these products have in the night time and it helps them by having something tangible that they can see with their own eyes exactly what it looks like.

Your customer will likely ask you if it is possible to decide on landscape lighting after the job is completed. It is important that you explain to them the importance of installing the landscape lighting before the base is prepared if the wire is needed to be run through the base. This is especially essential when installing hardscape lighting as previously discussed. However, you may be able to get away with installing landscape lighting at a later date.

Pricing a landscape lighting job involves calculating how much the materials are going to cost you, including the light fixtures, transformers, wiring, wire connectors, and any other materials required for your installation. You will have to factor in burying the wire at least 6″ below the ground and running the wire from the transformer to the various lights. For hardscape lighting, you will also have to factor in the time to run the wiring through wall caps which may involve making slight cuts into the walls to run the wire. By determining your overhead costs of installing these products and calculating in your revenue, you can fairly price a landscape lighting project. During your first install, make sure to keep track of production rates by taking detailed notes on how long each part of the installation process takes you.

If you want more information on how to price landscaping jobs, then check out our estimate template here.

Best Landscape Lighting Manufacturers

There are some great lighting manufacturers in the market. Two that we have become familiar with the most is Inlite and Kichler. These two manufacturers offer some incredible lighting options with quality design and manufacturing. Either of these companies would be good to start with when designing a project for your customer.

We hope that this guide brought you a lot of value in terms of adding landscape lighting as a service you can offer in your business. It is something that does not require a lot of difficulty acquiring as a skill, but it will dramatically improve your revenue if you are able to sell it to your customers. It will also add a lot of value and aesthetic appeal when properly installed for your customer.

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