Install DIY Lighting

Enjoy the garden year-round by installing DIY lighting to create mood, highlight features and improve access.
 
There are so many different types of garden lighting that all it takes to create ambience after dark is a little imagination.
 
A typical house has a spotlight attached to the fascia to light the yard. While this is ideal for getting clothes off the line after dark, it does little to create atmosphere when entertaining.
 
To make the most of your outdoor spaces first devise a lighting plan, considering options such as where you need illumination for cooking and eating, as well as which garden features you’d like to highlight. There are multiple ways to create a dramatic and effective lighting scheme, and most don’t require the services of a tradie as they can be done completely DIY.
 

Draw up a plan 

First do a sketch of your garden and work out where you’d like the seating.
 
Is there a particular area or piece of equipment that needs extra lighting such as a barbecue or pizza oven? Are there steps that can be a bit tricky to navigate after the sun goes down? 
 
When deciding on feature lighting, look for trees that can be uplit, or attractive areas of lush green or colourful foliage. If there is a sculpture, pond or garden bed that would add atmosphere if illuminated, include it in your plan.
 
TIP Add sensor-activated lights near access doors for home security.   
 

Types of lights 

Know your space and budget before selecting lights for outdoor zones and garden features. 
 
ENERGY-EFFICIENT LED lights use a transformer to convert 240 volt household power to a safer 12 volts, and are great for highlighting garden beds and sculptures.
 
LOW-VOLTAGE HALOGEN lights also use a transformer. They are brighter than LEDs but consume more electricity and are ideal for accent lighting around a deck.
 
SOLAR LIGHTS contain rechargeable batteries that are powered by solar panels. They are not as bright as regular lights but are cheap to run and free of wires, so they are very easy to install. Solar lights are often used for lighting pathways.

SENSOR-ACTIVATED LIGHTS are for areas where you only need light when you’re in the vicinity. Consider a solar sensor activated light, which turns on when it detects movement. These are good for security, driveways or even near the chook shed.
 
240-VOLT HALOGEN LIGHTS are the most powerful and send light the furthest distance, but consume the most electricity of the lot. They also require the expense of a tradesman as they must be installed by an electrician. Halogens are often used for uplighting trees.
 
Pond with underwater lights
Underwater lights can give ponds an enchanted garden feel at night  
 

Easy solar lights

Many solar lights come with an on/off switch and batteries already in position. Some have the solar panels attached to the unit, while others have a solar panel unit that is mounted separately.
 
Once spiked in the ground or installed, the light must remain off for more than 36 hours to give the batteries an initial strong charge.
The output of solar lights may vary and be less bright after cloudy days, but if the battery loses all charge, replacements are available to extend the life of the unit.
 

Lighting ideas

Look around the yard for the most effective areas to highlight for day-to-day atmosphere and illumination,and extend your general lighting plan to easily and economically cater for parties and special occasions.
 

Pond lights

These low-voltage lights can be DIY installed and submerged to highlight water features. Use them to uplight aquatic plants.

 
Water feature in garden with lights Pond lights can be used to highlight water features

Party lights

Multicoloured solar party lights and lantern designs can be strung up in a tree or along a balcony rail to create a festive atmosphere.

Party lights against a fence  Party lights add ambience to celebratory occasions

Table decorations

Get the romantic look of flickering tea-light candles with rechargeable LED lights that can last up to 10 hours per charge. 

outdoor table with lights
Decorate your outdoor table with tea lights for a romantic evening
 

Dealing with moisture

Factor in the elements when  working with lights outside.
 
OUTDOOR BULBS sometimes burst because of moisture or changes in temperature. Turn off power at the main switchboard, using a circuit tester to check.
 
TO REMOVE the bulb, press a cut potato firmly into the remains. Turn it to unscrew the bulb then clean the socket with 0000 steel wool. Another method is to reach into the metal base with needle-nose pliers and open them as fully as possible, twisting to remove the bulb.
 
EXTENSION CORDS for outdoor use are well-insulated and waterproof but the socket is not. It is essential to waterproof the connection between the plug and socket for safety.
 
TO WATERPROOF where the two lines connect, the easiest option is to encase the plug and socket in a box designed to house and safely insulate the connection.
 

Installing low voltage cable and lights 

Step 1. Install transformer

To install the transformer attach the cable, turning the power on to check connections as you go. Choose the position for the light and open the cable connector.

Step 2. Make the connection

Press the cable onto the spiked pins so they show through the top. If the light isn’t working you haven’t made a strong connection, so spike the cables again.

Step 3. Set up the light

Secure the connector lid over the spiked cable. Position the spotlight in the garden, checking it at night to ensure the beam is aimed at the right spot.

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