Lighting a walkway can be a relatively easy task depending on the type of lights that are chosen. There are two basic types of lights that you can select for a walkway. The first and easiest is solar lighting, and the second is low voltage lighting. Low voltage lights will require a little more work and money, but the end benefit is greater.
With solar walkway lighting, your hardest decision is choosing the look of your lights. Solar powered lights require very little assembly; typically, you insert the light bulb and the light is ready for the yard. Since there are no wires to connect, solar walkway lighting is the choice of most do-it-yourselfers.
Low voltage lighting is a little more difficult. However, you'll get better overall lighting along your path because the walkway lights won't dim as the night goes on. You can purchase a path light kit to obtain all your needed items; the downfall is that the longer your path, the less effective a kit will be.
Lights generally come in two different wattages--20 or 30. The higher the wattage, the brighter your lights will be. The wire necessary for the lights comes in different gauges. The lower the number is, the further you can go with your lighting and the greater the number of lights you can attach. 12 gauge wire is standard for most home owners, but for a larger job, I would recommend 10 gauge wire.
Transformers have a total amount of watts that they can handle, and the more lights you want, the bigger the transformer that you'll need. The basic rule of thumb is one light for every five feet. A simple math equation will help determine which transformer is right for you. For example, if each light is 20 watts (recommended) and you have a 20 foot walkway, you'll need 4 lights. With four lights, you are using only 80 total watts. You'll need a transformer that produces more than 80 watts. The catch here is the length of your wire. The wire must run from the transformer to the lights. If that distance is long, you will need to have a larger transformer because you lose power the further the lights are from the transformer.
Now keep in mind that transformers are broken into one or more stations. Each station is a fraction of the total watts in a transformer. A 300 watt transformer will have two stations, each being a total of 150 watts. This is key when planning out your lighting, because this determines the number of lights on each wire. Going back to our example, you would only need to use one station of a 300 watt transformer. For a longer walkway and more lights, you need to change how things are done.
Here is how to set up low voltage path lighting. Let's say you have a 300 watt transformer and 12 lights (20 watts per light); we'll use 12 gauge wire for this example.
- Lay out two strands of wire, one on each side of your path, making sure that the wire stretches from your last light to your transformer.
- On your transformer, unscrew the screws on both stations.
- Take the ends of both wires and cut them down the center, giving you two individual wires. Now strip the black plastic coating off, leaving approximately 5/8 of an inch exposed on each of the wires.
- Place the exposed end under the copper plate attached to your transformer screw and replace the screw back in the transformer with the wire between the plate and the transformer.
Now that your wire is attached to your transformer, it's time to attach the lights to the wire.
- Path lights are generally put together when bought; if not, follow the instructions that come with the lights.
- Attaching the lights to your wire is simple. Each light has two clamps coming out of from the bottom. Place a clamp on either side of your wire and squeeze them together. The wire should be in between your clamps and the clamps locked into one another.
- Now plug in your transformer and turn it on. Your lights should be on. If they're not, check your connection between the wire and the light; it may not be tight enough. Another place to check is in the bulb--it may be broken.
Check out both outdoor light options before choosing low voltage or solar path lights. They both produce nice outdoor lighting so decide which will be the most effective for your walkway. By following these simple steps, you can install your own walkway lighting. Good luck!