Looking for a simple and inexpensive way to upgrade landscape lighting?
Do you have low voltage landscape lighting still using old incandescent bulbs? Are you tired of replacing those bulbs regularly as they burn out? Do you want to save money on your electrical bill?
You could change them to special LED bulbs made for this type of lighting.
Those bulbs though are expensive and hard to find.
Here is an alternative that uses a roll of readily available, inexpensive LED strip light to upgrade landscape lighting to save money and provide better light.
We all want to save money in our gardens. But we do want our gardens to look nice and be inviting at any time, even at night.
Landscape lighting can add a lot to your garden.
- it provides safety when you or visitors walk through your garden
- it provides accent lighting to highlight certain plants or architectural features in your garden
The downside is that it can be very expensive to power those lights if they are still using old incandescent bulbs.
And you have to replace those bulbs regularly as they burn out. That is a maintenance chore you probably don’t have time for.
There is a simpler and less expensive way.
The move is to LEDs for most lighting in the home and in public areas. Landscape lighting is no exception.
There are now replacement LED light bulbs that plug in easily, but these are expensive and in some areas only available from online suppliers. I have found that using inexpensive LED flexible light strips works quite well.
Here are the steps required to replace your lightbulbs with more energy efficient LED strips.
Step 1: Buy a flexible LED light strip
These LED light strips are now available from many suppliers, both online and in brick-and-mortar stores in your local area. You can get various different colours. Here is what to look for:
- Rated at 12 volts – this is what most low-voltage landscape lighting systems use although I would suggest checking your transformer/timer. You can usually find this info on a sticker or imprinted on the plastic cover of the transformer (look on the back).
- Can cut the strip every 3 LED “bulbs” – cut marks should be marked on the strip
- Ideally should be suitable for wet/dry conditions, but not necessary
- Use warm white for a glow similar to an incandescent bulb.
- Use cool white for a more bluish tone which may suit a more modern architecture of house and garden
Here is a link in case you have problems finding these strips locally.
Step 2: Cut the strips to length
The LED light strips have markings every three LEDs where you can cut them and they will still work. I have found that just three LEDs tends to not be that bright.
So use 6 LEDs. In other words cut on every second cut mark. Cut line is marked in red in the photo below.
Step 3: Fold the strip and secure
Remove the paper covering the tape and fold the strip carefully in half. Don’t make too sharp of a bend as that can damage the connectors between the LEDs. You want to leave a bit of overlap on one end to be able to plug the strip in. Note that in the photo below I actually didn’t leave enough overlap which I changed later.
I have found that the tape does not keep the strip folded, so I added a zip tie to hold it together. Avoid placing the zip tie on top of the LEDs (the round yellow dots). Use clear zip ties if you can find them, but as you can see you can use coloured ones if that’s all you have.
Step 4: Prepare the copper connectors
On the overlap you created carefully scrape off the white covering to expose the two copper connectors.
Step 5: Insert the strip and test
Turn on your lights. If your transformer has a light sensor, trick it into thinking it is nighttime by covering it with a wood board or some other thick material.
Remove the top of the light. Usually you need to twist it one way or the other to release some tabs.
Pull out the incadescent bulb.
Insert your LED strip with the expose copper contacts into the prongs that used to hold the bulb. If the LED strip doesn’t light right away, rotate it 180 degrees. It already looks brighter!
You may also need to gently squeeze the prongs with pliers to make them grip the strip more tightly. You may want to turn the power off as you don’t want to short out the prongs accidentally with your pliers (don’t ask me how I know!)
Step 6: Do the rest of the lights
Repeat, installing LED strips in your other lights.
Now enjoy the energy savings, time savings and the stronger light you will get with this easy and relatively inexpensive landscape lighting upgrade. Leave a comment if you try this and let me know how it goes!