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How to Install Malibu Landscape Lighting

By Laura Reynolds ; Updated September 21, 2017

Malibu and other low-voltage landscape lights are inexpensive and easy to install. They provide outdoor lighting for gardens, patios, walks and other areas that benefit from illumination but do not require floodlights or other bright lighting. Fortunately for do-it-yourselfers, these convenient lights come in kits with lights, wiring and controls already designed to work together as a system. Units are designed for landscape and aquatic applications and models are available for up-lighting, down-lighting and general landscape lighting.

Measure the distance to be covered by the lighting and determine how many lines of lights will be needed to illuminate the area. Each lamp is 7 to 11 watts, depending on fixture. Power packs, which range in size from 120 to 300 watt maximums, must be large enough to support the number of lights on each line.

Plot a location for the transformer (or locations for transformers.) Power boxes should be mounted at least a foot above ground level. Wire a circuit from the household supply to a ground fault interrupt (GFI) outlet for the power box.

Assemble the fixtures. Insert the lamps and add gaskets, lenses, globes, covers or face plates—whatever parts are included in your model. Attach the connectors to the supply cord that comes out of the bottom of the fixture or riser.

Lay low voltage cable along the pattern of lights and place the lights along the wire for placement. Check to make sure that the first fixture is far enough from the power box (usually about 10 feet) and that the total number of watts of the lights does not exceed the rating of the power box.

Strip the ends of the low voltage cable and attach it to the power box as directed on the box, usually to two screws located inside the cover.

Plug in the power box and switch it on. Beginning with the first fixture, clamp the two connector pieces together over the cable near the base of the light. Little teeth inside the boxes will piece the cable as the pieces clip together. Fixtures will light up as they are connected. If lights begin to dim as fixtures are added, begin another line or replace the cable with a heavier (lower number gauge) cable.

Dig holes to start stakes and push them into the ground, then attach riser. Attach other types of fixture by screwing to posts, sinking base in ground or, in the case of aquatic lights, attaching the fixture to the stand and submerging it.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Lighting units
  • Mounting risers and stakes or hardware (depending on model)
  • Transformer-timer ("power pack")
  • Low voltage line cable
  • Connectors for each fixture
  • Hand trowel
  • Wire stripper
  • Wire cutter

Tips

  • Malibu makes a wide variety of fixture types and shapes. Each kit comes with graphic, easy to follow instructions.
  • Although adding a circuit to a household service is a fairly simple matter, outdoor installations require specific materials and construction. Homeowners with little electrical experience will find it more convenient to hire an electrician to do it.
  • Transformers "step down" 120 volt household service to 12 volts for use in low voltage equipment. Power packs also have timers (that work off 120 volt current) to control operation of the lights. Set timers each season as sunset and sunrise times change for added efficient use of power.
  • Most kits come with recommended wire sizes for supply cable. Larger cable has smaller numerical designations; cable for a 300 watt transformer is "12-gauge" cable but the smallest transformer, a 120 watt box with just one or two lights, might require only 18-gauge wire.
  • Landscape lights were an early adaptation of low-voltage lighting for household use. With the advent of bright LED lamps, low voltage lighting is practical for interiors as well.

Warnings

  • Do not exceed the maximum number of lights recommended for each line and each transformer. Voltage decreases as it travels along wire. This "drop" is especially noticeable with low-voltage equipment. Your landscape lighting, like holiday twinkle lights, has a maximum number of lights on each line to brightness begins to decrease along the entire line.
  • Do not install lights near water unless they are rated for aquatic use.

About the Author

 

An avid perennial gardener and old house owner, Laura Reynolds has had careers in teaching and juvenile justice. A retired municipal judgem Reynolds holds a degree in communications from Northern Illinois University. Her six children and stepchildren served as subjects of editorials during her tenure as a local newspaper editor.